“The ruling of the European court was received in the Vatican with shock and sadness,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, adding that it was “wrong and myopic” to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.

The ruling by the court in Strasbourg, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls — a common sight that is part of every Italian’s life — could disturb children who were not Christians…

“This is an abhorrent ruling,” said Rocco Buttiglione, a former culture minister who helped write papal encyclicals.

“It must be rejected with firmness. Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history,” he said.