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Polish bishops slam European Court school crucifix ban

Warsaw — Roman Catholic bishops in Poland have slammed a ban by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on crucifixes in Italian schools, a move which could have repercussions in their devout country.

The Polish Episcopate "expressed its protest against the verdict of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg concerning the symbol of the cross," according to a statement published last week by Poland’s KAI Catholic information agency.

Bishops also said they opposed "gestures of hostility which took place toward this symbol in Poland at this time."

Earlier this month, the ECHR ruled the presence of a crucifix in a school violated the principle of freedom of religion and the right of parents to educate their children.

Opinion polls showed that a majority of Italians disagreed with the ECHR crucifix ban.

It was also criticised in Poland where some 90 percent of the country’s 38 million citizens declare themselves Roman Catholic, although the country’s post-communist left welcomed it.

Polish bishops also said the crucifix is "not only a sacred symbol for Christians but also an important element of European cultural identity, present in the national symbols of many countries and organisations."

Polish conservatives in the European Parliament have said they were preparing a resolution to "defend the cross", while British conservatives have said they would support the move in parliamentary debates ahead of Christmas, according to MEP Tadeusz Cymanski.