Vatican "Regrets" European Court Ruling on Crucifix


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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2009 ( The Vatican expressed "astonishment" and "regret" at Tuesday's decision from the European Court of Human Rights that crucifixes in public school classrooms are a violation of freedom.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, gave a brief statement today to Vatican Radio in response to the decision.

"The crucifix has always been a sign of God's offer of love, of union and of welcome for the whole of humanity," the spokesman said. "It is to be regretted that it has come to be considered as a sign of division, of exclusion and of limitation of liberty. It is not this, and it is not so in the common feeling of our people."

The Italian government protested the ruling, having contended that crucifixes -- often hung in Italian public schools -- are national symbol of culture and history.

Father Lombardi echoed this idea.

He called particularly grave "the desire to set aside from the educational world a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture."

The Jesuit added that "religion makes a precious contribution to a person's formation and moral growth, and is an essential component of our civilization. It is mistaken and myopic to want to exclude it from the educational realm."

"It is astonishing then that a European court should intervene weightily in a matter profoundly linked to the historical, cultural and spiritual identity of the Italian people," the Vatican spokesman stated.

Father Lombardi said decisions like this one do not make a person "attracted to love and share ever more the European idea, which as Italian Catholics we have strongly supported since its origins."

"It seems," he suggested, "that there is a desire to ignore the role of Christianity in the formation of European identity, which instead has been and remains essential."