Cardinals Outraged by Court Ruling Against the Public Display of Crucifixes

( [email protected] ) Oct 30, 2003 09:20 AM EST

Rome -- A court ruling in Italy to remove crucifixes in public schools set off a firestorm of criticism, Oct. 26.

"This is an outrageous decision that should be overturned as quickly as possible," Labor Minister Roberto Maroni said Sunday. "It is unacceptable that one judge should cancel out millennia of history."

"How can anyone order the removal from classrooms of a symbol of the basic values of our country?" asked Cardinal Ersilio Tonini. "This ruling offends the majority of Italians."

The verdict, made on behalf of a complaint from Adel Smith, a Muslim activists who was against having crucifixes in his sons’ schools, ruled that the crosses be removed by November 9.

The crucifixes "show the state's unequivocal will to place Catholicism at the center of the universe," the judge wrote, adding that this was being done in public schools "without the slightest regard for the role of other religions in human development."

Mr. Smith , defended the ruling by saying, "Italy is not the Vatican.”

"I have no fight with the crucifix," he said. "I have simply been granted a constitutional right that religious symbols should not be on display in the classroom where my children study."

In 1920, while Italy was under Fascist rule, it adopted two laws stating that schools must display crucifixes. The Justice Minister Roberto Castelli said he would order an inquiry into whether the decision conformed to Italian law, threatening penalties if it did not.