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Monday, March 21, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2011 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. made the following declaration yesterday afternoon concerning the sentence issued by the "Grande Chambre" of the European Court of Human Rights:

  "This sentence of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the exposition of the crucifix in the classrooms of Italian State schools has been received with satisfaction by the Holy See.

  "It is, in fact, a significant and historic sentence, as shown by the conclusion reached by the Grande Chambre after a detailed appraisal of the matter. The Grande Chambre has, indeed, overturned in all respects a first degree sentence, adopted unanimously by a Chamber of the Court. This sentence led to an appeal by the Italian State, which received an unprecedented degree of support from numerous other European States as well as from many non-governmental organisations, an expression of widespread feeling amongst people.

  "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 civilisation, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution. It is furthermore recognised that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, each country should be guaranteed a margin of appreciation with regard to the value of religious symbols within its cultural history and national identity, and in terms of the places in which they are displayed (as has been demonstrated in these days also by sentences of the supreme courts of several European countries). By contrast, in the name of religious freedom 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. The Court therefore declares that the display of the crucifix is not a form of indoctrination, but rather an expression of the cultural and religious identity of countries with a Christian tradition.

  "This new sentence of the Grande Chambre is also welcome as it effectively contributes to re-establishing trust in the European Court of Human Rights on the part of a large number of Europeans, 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".
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