Following the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit France, the French member organizations of IHEU have reaffirmed the principles of secularism. The Pope’s visit is planned for the end of May 2008, at the invitation of the Bishops’ Conference of France. The visit is aimed at “celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous in the cave of Lourdes”.
The 1905 French law of Separation of Churches and State guarantees freedom of conscience and safeguards free exercise of worship. The freedom of movement of people and ideas is also inalienable.
The 1905 law provides that “the Republic does not recognize, nor salary nor subsidize any worship”. Consequently, religious events that accompany the Pope’s visit should not receive any public funding. The expenses inherent in the travel and accommodation of an international public VIP are quite another matter.
However, for the international, European and French secularist movement, this visit is based on the ambiguity concerning the Pope’s status, at the same time the Head of the State of the Vatican as well as a religious leader.
Even beyond the Pope’s visit, we believe it is important to reaffirm those principles. In this purpose, the French Member Organizations of IHEU propose that all the secularist associations organize jointly an international secularist initiative in Paris, on Sunday, June 1, 2008, on the following demands:
– Against any public funding of religious events!
– For secularism in Europe!
– For the Separation of States and Religions!
– Fédération nationale de la Libre Pensée française
– Ligue française de l’Enseignement
– Union Rationaliste
– Mouvement Europe et Laïcité (CAEDEL)