Vatican City, Feb 13, 2005 / 22:00 pm
The theme of a letter released Saturday from Pope John Paul II to the bishops of France concerned relations between the Church and French civil authorities in the perspective of this year's 100th anniversary of the law of separation between Church and State in France.
The papal letter, addressed to Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, and all the bishops of France, focused on a discussion the Pope had with the bishops during their "ad limina" visits during 2003 and 2004
The Holy Father began the 3200-word document, begins by noting that the 1905 law, "which denounced the 1804 Concordat, was a painful and traumatic event for the Church in France," which ruled that the way of life in France "would be according to the principle of secularity" and "relegating the religious factor to the private sphere and not recognizing a place in society for religious life and the ecclesial institution."
John Paul II noted that, since 1920 "the French government itself has recognized in a certain manner the place for religion in social life."