Take down the cross...

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That can be sung to the same tune as "Lift high the cross," but the meaning is considerably different. It's the song many public schools in Italy will be singing if a new European court ruling against religious symbols in public school classrooms goes into effect.

The Italian government and the Vatican both expressed disappointment in the ruling, the end of a case brought eight years ago by an Italian mother, according to Reuters. Laws dating from the 1920s Fascist regimes require Italian public schools to display crucifixes. 

Pope Benedict, in his visit to the U.S. last April, spoke approvingly of the U.S. system of church/state separation, but I'm not sure he really understands what it means. Europe's churches have been established for centuries, and a real chruch-state separation will mean things like removing religious symbols from government buildings. (You can read our Sounding Board on church-state separation here; the results will be published in the December issue of U.S. Catholic.)

I'm not sure the effect this kind of ruling will have, but it is sure to infuriate those who, whether they practice Catholicism or not, see it as part of the culture they want to pass to their children.