Crucifixes in public school classrooms do not violate a student's freedom of conscience, a European high court ruled in a verdict welcomed by the Vatican in its campaign to remind the continent of its Christian roots.
The case was brought by a Finnish-born woman living in Italy who objected to the crucifixes in her children's classrooms, arguing they violated the secular principles public schools are supposed to uphold. The debate divided Europe's traditional Catholic and Orthodox countries and their more secular neighbours that observe a strict separation between church and state.
Initially, the Strasbourg, France-based European Court of Human Rights sided with the mother. Italy appealed, supported by more than a dozen countries including the late Pope John Paul II's predominantly Catholic Poland, and won.
Friday's reversal has implications in 47 countries, opening the way for Europeans who want religious symbols in classrooms to petition their governments to allow them.