The Vatican has welcomed the European Court of Human Rights' decision to overturn a ruling that would have banned the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools.
Following the March 18 ruling,Vatican Spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi stated that the court's decision to allow the crosses to remain “has been received with satisfaction by the Holy See.”
He hailed the “historic and significant sentence” as a sign of reconciliation between the court and those who viewed its initial ruling by a lower chamber as a serious error.
“This new sentence of the Grande Chamber,” he said, “effectively contributes to re-establishing trust in the European Court of Human Rights on the part of a large number of Europeans.”
“It is thus acknowledged, at an authoritative and international juridical level, that the culture and rights of man should not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilization, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution.”
The Vatican spokesman noted that many citizens were “convinced of the vital role played by Christian values in their history, and in the construction of European unity and its culture of rights and freedom.”
He recalled that the Italian state's appeal against the crucifix ban had received “an unprecedented degree of support from numerous other European States as well as from many non-governmental organizations.” He described the outpouring of support as “an expression of widespread feeling” among Europeans.
The new ruling overturns a lower chamber's 2009 judgment, which declared that the crosses violated students' human rights and constituted religious discrimination. The case began when an Italian mother of two non-Catholic students complained about the crosses in public schools.
In its new ruling, the court said the crucifix had not given rise to intolerance or religious indoctrination of non-Catholic students, and had not interfered with their education.
Fr. Lombardi noted that many contemporary attempts to prevent religious discrimination, actually serve to limit individual and collective religious freedom.
“In the name of religious freedom,” he observed, “there is a paradoxical tendency to limit or indeed even to deny this freedom, with the result of excluding every expression of it from public spaces.”
“Thus this very freedom itself is violated, obscuring specific and legitimate identities.”