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French court orders removal of St John Paul II statue

A statue of Pope John Paul II stands outside the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City (AP). Below, a statue by Zurab Tsereteli in Paris

A French court has ordered the removal of a statue of St John Paul II which it said violated the separation of Church and state.

Authorities have been given six months to remove a 29ft (8.7m) statue from the town square in Ploërmel, Brittany.

The sculpture, by Russo-Georgian Zurab Tsereteli, shows the late pope praying underneath an arch topped by a cross. It was intended as a gesture of friendship from Russia to other countries with a Christian heritage.

A court at Rennes said the problem was the location of the statue in the town square. Its dimensions and placement are “ostentatious” in character, the court said, and did not respect a 1905 law concerning the principle of laïcité and the divide of Church and state.

The Ploërmel mayor, Patrick Le Diffon, said he will appeal against the court order, saying that “it wasn’t for the man of the Church but for the man of state that the monument was dedicated in a public square”.