ATHENS, Greece, NOV. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The leader of the Greek Orthodox Church is ready to convoke an extraordinary synod to strategize how to combat a European Court of Human Rights decision that ruled crucifixes in schools are a violation of rights.
“Majorities also have rights,” Ieronymos II said in a statement that L’Osservatore Romano reported today.
His statement responds to the Nov. 3 ruling from the rights court, which decided in favor of a mother who protested the crucifix in her children’s school. The court found that the presence of crucifixes in schools “restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.”
The court did not order crucifixes to be removed, however, and the Italian government is planning an appeal. The government has defended display of the crucifix based on the fact that it is more than a religious symbol and also points to Italy’s social and cultural history.
Ieronymos II said he is prepared to convoke an extraordinary synod next week, to work on a plan of action in the fear that this ruling might constitute a precedent also for Greece. And he appealed to Catholics to counteract this “threat to Christian symbols,” against those judges “who ignore the role of Christianity in the formation of Europe’s identity.”
A rights group in Greece is already seeking to remove religious symbols from Greek courts and schools and to have reference to religion taken out of the oath taken by witnesses in court.
Another coalition pointed to the ruling in Strasbourg, saying that if it applies in Italy, it should apply in all European countries.
Orthodox Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said that he hopes the government will appeal any ruling of a Greek or European court that obliges the removal of religious symbols from the country’s schools, which in the case of Greece, is generally an icon of the face of Christ.
And Bishop Nikolaos of Phthiotis warned that “soon young people will no longer have a symbol that protects them” and that “the idols of soccer and pop are poor substitutes.”