The Greek Orthodox Church has come out in opposition to a ban on crucifixes in classrooms in Italy.
It wants to see Christians across Europe unite in opposition to the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last week which stated that the presence of crucifixes in the classroom violates religious and educational freedoms.
The head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, echoed the outcry from the Catholic Church in Italy when he said that the EHCR had ignored the role of Christianity in Europe’s history and development, as reported by the BBC. He argued that majorities, not only minorities, had rights.
According to the BBC, the Orthodox Church is to hold an emergency Holy Synod to hash out a plan of action against the ban, which it fears could trigger similar rulings concerning the public display of Christian symbols in other European countries.
Human rights group Helsinki Monitor is already seeking the removal of icons of Jesus Christ from Greek courts and an end to swearing Christian oaths in the witness box. The group also wants to see the removal of Christian symbols from Greek schools.
According to the ECHR, the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly in relation to the right to education and the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Strasbourg-based court said the presence of the crucifix "could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion."
“This could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,” it added.
Italy is to appeal the ruling, arguing that the cross has become much more than a symbol of the Church to the Italian people and is a symbol of Italian and European history and tradition.