The Italian Almanac


Italian News - February 16

Italy's highest administrative court ruled on Wednesday that crucifixes should remain in the country's classrooms as a symbol of key Italian values. In what could turn into a landmark decision, the 'Council of State' threw out a case brought by a Finnish woman who had asked for the removal of crucifixes in the Padua school attended by her children.

The judges issued a 19-page statement explaining that, as well as being a religious symbol, it was also a symbol of "the values which underlie and inspire our constitution, our way of living together peacefully". They said principles such as tolerance, respect and the rights of individuals, which were now pillars of Italy's secular state, had their origins in Christianity. "In this sense the crucifix can have a highly educational symbolic function, regardless of the religion of the pupils," they added.

Judges also argued that the concept of the secular state, in which the temporal and spiritual dimensions were kept separate, was interpreted and applied in different ways according to a country's history.

Despite its strong Catholic tradition, Catholicism is not Italy's state religion and the separation of Church and State is set down by the postwar Constitution. But crucifixes are still customary in Italy's public buildings. In the case of schools, it is usually councils of teachers and parents who tend to decide whether they want crosses in the classroom.