Cardinal Tucci Warns Against "Dictatorship of Minorities"

In Wake of Judge's Decision to Bar Crucifix From School

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ROME, NOV. 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The court-ordered removal of the crucifix from a school because it offended a Muslim is evidence of the West's misinterpretation of the rights of minorities and of the principle of laicism, says a cardinal.



A judge's decision to remove the crucifix from the Antonio Silveri nursery and elementary school in the village of Ofena, at the request of Adel Smith, president of the Union of Muslims of Italy, was made public Oct. 25.

Italian Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli has opened an administrative investigation against Judge Mario Montanaro, since Italian law allows the display of crucifixes in public places.

Analyzing the issue on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Roberto Tucci noted that "in present-day Western democracy a certain tendency is being verified of the dictatorship of minorities."

"Although everyone has the right to be respected, for example, in the area of religious freedom, it suffices that there be a minority that is unhappy about something … [so] that in the name of laicism the voice of many is silenced," he noted Thursday.

This results in the desire "to eliminate symbols that are important for the culture, in addition to the faith, of the majority of those who live in the country."

"It is thought that, in order to respect this minority, the majority must be offended, and I don't think this is democracy," he added.

For Cardinal Tucci, "it is not true that laicism excludes the fact that certain things can be recognized as being in keeping with the sentiments of the majority, which is not just a majority of believers, but a majority of people who recognize a certain type of culture which has constituted our country."

He said that there is so much insistence on individual rights that the rights of intermediary structures of the society, "which are very important," are forgotten.

"The family exists, as do communities of believers, structured in churches, in different confessions, which also have the right to be respected," as they "form part of the people who must be heard in a democracy," the cardinal said.

"That the state, even while respecting the right of religious freedom of all, gives special respect to that which belongs to the historical heritage of our civilization -- Western and Italian -- does not seem to me to be a violation of laicism," Cardinal Tucci stressed.

The cardinal also stressed that in Italy, Muslims have their rights respected, unlike Christians in predominantly Muslim countries.

"We must explain what we believe in, that we have a religious conception which is different from theirs in many aspects, and that we have the right to be respected, just as we respect their religious conceptions," Cardinal Tucci concluded.