The European Court of Human Rights handed down its decision Tuesday, ruling in favor of a Finnish immigrant to Italy who said the crosses violated her religious freedom and that of her children.
The Vatican issued a statement late Tuesday and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state, made an even stronger comment Wednesday, ANSA, the Italian news agency, said. Bertone said he had not yet discussed the issue with Pope Benedict XVI.
''This Europe of the third millennium only leaves us with Halloween pumpkins and takes away our dearest symbols,'' Bertone said.
The Italian government has said it will appeal the decision, which is set to take effect in three months. Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said the decision "sends the wrong message to youngsters."
Under current practice, local government agencies can place crosses and crucifixes in public buildings and schools but do not have to.