UPDATE: Uproar after court says no crucifixes in Italian schools
(Photo: A crucifix in a Rome classroom, 3 Nov 2009/Tony Gentile)
Here’s an update from Phil Pullella in Rome:
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms, prompting Vatican anger and sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.
“The ruling of the European court was received in the Vatican with shock and sadness,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, adding that it was “wrong and myopic” to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.
The ruling by the court in Strasbourg, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls — a common sight that is part of every Italian’s life — could disturb children who were not Christians.
“This is an abhorrent ruling,” said Rocco Buttiglione, a former culture minister who helped write papal encyclicals. “It must be rejected with firmness. Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history.”
The Vatican spokesman said it was sad that the crucifix could be considered a symbol of division and said religion offered a vital contribution to the moral formation of people. Members of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government bristled, weighing in with words such as “shameful,” “offensive,” “absurd,” “unacceptable,” and “pagan.”
Here is our earlier item from Strasbourg on the ruling:
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday that Italian schools should remove crucifixes from classroom walls, saying their presence could disturb children who were not Christians. The decision is likely to provoke a controversy in Italy, which is deeply attached to its Roman Catholic roots.
(Photo: Parents in Ofena campaign to keep crucifix in Italian schools, 29 Oct 2003/Alessandro Bianchi)
The case was brought by an Italian national, Soile Lautsi, who complained that her children had to attend a public school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every room. Lautsi said this ran counter to her right to give her children a secular education and the Strasbourg-based court ruled in her favour.
“The presence of the crucifix … could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,” the court said in a written ruling.