Vatican Dismayed by Court Order to Remove Crucifix

( [email protected] ) Oct 29, 2003 11:33 AM EST

A public school in Rome was ordered to remove the crucifixes in the classrooms, sparking dismay within the Vatican, Oct. 27.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, printed a front-page illustration of Jesus juxtaposed with a 1998 comment from Pope John Paul II. "Many things can be removed from us Christians," the pope's quote said. "But the cross as a sign of salvation we will not let them take. We will not allow it to be excluded from public life."

The case, charged by a Muslim, Adel Smith, asked for the removal of a crucifix from his son’s elementary school in Ofena, 90 miles northeast from Rome.

A representative in Italy for the World Muslim League called the ruling “unfortunate.”

"This was an unfortunate ruling brought on by a request from Mr. Adel Smith, who represents himself and another three people at most,” he said.

During the trial, Mr. Smith argued that Italy is a secular country, and that the state and church must be strictly separated.

"The Vatican is one thing, the Republic of Italy is another," said Smith.

The school has one month to either appeal or abide by the court’s ruling.