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'Left with pumpkins,' Vatican says

Cross ruling 'takes away our dearest symbols'

04 November, 18:04
'Left with pumpkins,' Vatican says
'Left with pumpkins,' Vatican says

(ANSA) - Vatican City, November 4 - Pumpkins will be more common than crosses in Italian classrooms if a European court ruling is confirmed, the Vatican's top official said Wednesday.

''This Europe of the third millennium only leaves us with Halloween pumpkins and takes away our dearest symbols,'' said the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Bertone, the Vatican's equivalent of an interior minister, said he had not yet spoken to Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday's ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordering Italy to remove crosses from classrooms. ''I'll see (the pope) tomorrow,'' Bertone said.

The Vatican on Tuesday evening condemned the ruling as ''short-sighted'' while the Italian government announced an appeal, saying crosses were an important part of Italian tradition and culture.

Bertone said the Holy See ''appreciated'' the appeal.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said Wednesday that the ECtHR's ''serious act'' showed an ''ideological'' bias that ''sends the wrong message to youngsters''.

European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi said no crosses would be removed.

Unless the Italian appeal is successful, the ruling goes into effect in three months' time.

The ruling was made on a suit from a Finnish-born Italian citizen who had vainly made her case in Italian courts.

The ECtHR ruled parents must be allowed to educate their children as they saw fit and children must also have freedom of religion.

It also said crosses might offend or frighten children brought up in other religions.

Italian Catholic politicians reacted with outrage, saying the court was betraying Europe's Christian roots.

The leader of Italy's largest opposition party, an ex-Communist, said the court should have shown more ''common sense''.

The European Commission said Wednesday it could not comment on the ruling because it came from a non-European Union court.

The Strasbourg-based ECtHR upholds the 1950 Convention on Human Rights for the 47-member Council of Europe.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice is the EU's top court.

The EU's new Lisbon Treaty, set to come into force in January, does not cite Christianity as part of the Union's common heritage despite heavy lobbying from conservatives.

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