WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) –Antonio Liquori was up before dawn Sunday morning, spending the last two weeks anticipating the moment he’d get to place the Virgin Mary right back here on West Springfield’s South Boulevard.
“I was really, really happy to bring the Madonna back. Myself, I’ve been so emotional since the day that I took the Madonna off the grass, and i want to thank everybody,” he said, fighting back tears.
Liquori marched alongside his supporters to the island he adopted. The statue has stood there for over a year, right near Liquori’s Pizza Shop.
However, last month, Antonio got a letter from the city saying religious artifacts weren’t allowed to be displayed on public property, and was forced to take it down.
For Antonio and his supporters, the Virgin Mary symbolizes hope.
“I’ve had a lot of surgeries. The Lord and Virgin Mary stuck by me. I have a Virgin Mary in front of my house, and everybody loves it. I’m just heartbroken, and I just want her to stay. That’s why I’m pleading with people to keep her there,” Joan Palermo shared.
“Our son had cancer for 12 1/2 years and thanks to the Virgin Mother that she keeping my son with us,” Liquori added.
Just this week, West Springfield Mayor Greg Neffinger gave Antonio permission to put it back up, after getting backlash from angry community members.
While the statue is back up just temporarily, attorney Travis Searles says that removing her could be a violation of the 1st amendment. “I think it is a violation of Mr. Liquori’s freedom of speech simply because it’s been there for a year, he takes care of his property. I can see both sides,”
Calls to Mayor Neffinger’s office weren’t immediately returned.
Until a final decision is made, Antonio hopes that all who see it view it as a symbol of peace and love.
Town Attorney Simon Brighenti is reviewing the case before the town makes a final decision.