Catherine of Aragon The powerful case for her canonisation PAGE 8
Archbishop Mennini PAGE 7
A revealing interview with our new nuncio
March 25 2011 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Vatican hails ruling on crucifixes
European Court of Human Rights issues ‘landmark’ decision in defence of religious freedom
BY ANNA ARCO AND CINDY WOODEN
ITALIAN schools do not violate human rights by displaying crucifixes in classrooms, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.
In a long-awaited ruling on the Italian crucifix case, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the Italian government against a ban on crucifixes.
Although it has not been directly involved in the case, the Vatican welcomed the judgment, which was made last Friday.
The Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi described the ruling as “significant and historic” and said it 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”.
He said the court recongised the principle of subsidiarity “with regard to the value of religious symbols within [each country’s] cultural history and national identity, and in terms of the places in which they are displayed”.
He said: “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.”
The court ruled that the Italian government did not violate the rights of Soile Lautsi, an atheist who objected to crucifixes in classrooms, claiming that they violated her right to educate her children
Italian state schools are required to display crucifixes in classrooms following a pre-unification law dating from 1860
according to her religious and philosophical beliefs. The judges argued that while the crucifix was above all a religious object there was no evidence that it might influence pupils and that Lautsi’s “subjective perception” was not enough to establish her rights were being violated. The court ruled that decisions about crucifixes in classrooms in principle fall under the “margin of appreciation” of member states.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who launched Pope Benedict’s Courtyard of the Gentiles for dialogue with atheists and nonbelievers yesterday, said that while a crucifix is a religious symbol to believers, it also is “a sign of civilisation” in the West.
In every culture, he said, people find symbols that express their identity and in losing those symbols “we run the great risk of losing our identity”.
“Having white walls leads to a void, to cultural fragility. You may need to explain what a religious symbol means, but it isn’t right to have to take down your symbols simply to avoid offending someone,” the cardinal said.
Fifteen of the 17 judges of the chamber ruled that there was no violation of Miss Lautsi’s rights in
CNS Photo/Reuters the case, according to the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision overruled a 2009 judgment by a lower chamber of the European Court of Human Rights which ruled in favour of Miss Lautsi. Other European governments, including Poland and Lithuania, supported the Italian government in its appeal to the Grand Chamber.
Neil Addison, a barrister who runs the Thomas More Legal Centre, said the ruling showed that the “court has recognised that it has no right to impose official state secularism throughout Europe”.
He said he was particularly heartened by the judgments made by the Irish judge Ann Power and Giovanni Bonnello, a judge from Malta, which “make it crystal clear that arguments based on freedom of religion cannot be used to remove religion from the public sphere”.
Mr Addison continued: “Decisions by the European Court of Human Rights have to be applied by British courts when interpreting the Human Rights Act and it is to be hoped that this case will mark a change in the attitudes of British courts which in recent cases have all too often assumed that secularism is the only legally acceptable human rights point of view.”
Oona Stannard, the chief executive of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales, also welcomed the ruling.
She said: “Italy has a secularised state school system whereas England and Wales does not and so I would not have expected the judgment to have ramifications for our schools, whatever the outcome of the case. However, I am pleased that the ECHR has recognised that the issues within the case fall within the state’s margin of appreciation and that it has not sought to interfere in the expression of Italy’s religious and cultural history.”
A spokesman for the bishops of England and Wales said they endorsed Fr Lombardi’s statement.
Miss Lautsi began her case against the Italian government in 2002 after her sons, Dataico and Sami Albertin, attended an Italian state school in Abano Terme, where a crucifix was fixed to the wall of the school’s classrooms, following a law of 1860.
New Apostolic Nuncio to Britain seeks dialogue with non-believers
BY STAFF REPORTER
THE NEW Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain has said he wants to further dialogue between Catholics and non-believers.
In an interview with The Catholic Herald, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Holy See’s new Ambassador to the Court of St James, said he hoped “not only to continue the sincere dialogue with the Anglican community but also dialogue with other religions and also non-believers in Great
Britain”. Speaking about the Pope’s message on faith in the public sphere, the nuncio said he believed “Christianity has already a role to play in British society, in dialogue with all sides, all the parties, with the believers and the nonbelievers”.
He said he would try to reach out to British society by visiting cultural institutions such as university groups “in order to establish a friendly dialogue about many of the issues which represent crucial questions and problems for many people”.
Archbishop Mennini, who was the Apostolic Nuncio to Russia and Uzbekistan before being assigned to London, presented his letter of credentials to the Queen at the beginning of the month and is due to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at the beginning of next month.
He is credited for improving the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
His comments came as Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, launched the Courtyard of the Gentiles project to foster dialogue between believers and nonbelievers. Cardinal Ravasi said that believers and non-believers might “stand on different ground, but they must not close themselves in a sacral or secular isolationism”. Interview: Page 7 Leading article: Page 13
Mormons honour Catholic official
BY ED WEST
THE MORMONS have honoured a senior Catholic official for his work in helping families.
Edmund Adamus, the Archdiocese of Westminster ’s director of pastoral affairs, was given the prestigious 2011 Family Values Award, which recognises people who make significant contributions to help and sustain the institution of the family.
Phillip Blond, the founder of the ResPublica think tank and author of Red Tory, also received the award, which is given annually by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mr Adamus was commended for his practical work to promote “marriage as part of Christian living”.
Atheist comedians on ‘cinematic crusade’ BY ED WEST
BRITISH comedians are on a “cinematic crusade” to spread atheism to the United States, according to a leading American Catholic film authority.
The Catholic News Service (CNS) film reviewer said that British comedians such as Ricky Gervais and Simon Pegg were spreading the “widespread atheism of their home country” through films mocking religion. Mr Gervais, a member of the National Secular Society, wrote and directed The Invention of Lying in 2009, which satirised religion. Pegg’s latest film, Paul, is about an alien who lands on earth and “liberates” a Christian couple from their faith by proving there is no God.
CNS classified the film as O, or morally offensive.
Brother Peter Damian My surprising path to monastic life PAGE 8
Christopher Howse How to get the most out of homilies PAGE 9
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