[JURIST] The Greek Orthodox Church [church website] is urging Europeans to unite in protesting a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] decision [judgment, in French] to ban the crucifix from state schools, according to Thursday reports. The Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Ieronymos of Thebes and Livadia [church profile], has called an emergency meeting [BBC report] of the Holy Synod [church backgrounder] to discuss a plan to stop the ruling [JURIST report], which pertained specifically to the display of crucifixes in Italian schools, from setting a precedent throughout Europe. The Church fears that the Greek arm of human rights group Helsinki Monitor [advocacy website] will succeed in using the ruling to challenge the presence of religious icons in public settings in Greece. The chamber judgment, seen as threat to Christian symbolism, could ally the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, which split more than 1,000 years ago.
The ECHR ruling has been met with harsh criticism [Il Giornale report, in Italian] across Italy, and responses have included suggestions of holding a referendum on the subject. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi derided the ruling, stating that Italy is not bound to adhere to it [JURIST report]. His remarks were made on the same day that the Council of Ministers gave its approval [press release, in Italian] to appeal the decision. Berlusconi went so far as to say [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] that even if Italy loses its appeal, he considers it to be disrespectful and that Italy would not be coerced into upholding it.