Italian political leaders have united to condemn a European court ruling that crucifixes displayed in schools are a breach of human rights.

The Italian government, the Vatican and Catholic right wing parties quickly attacked the European Court of Human Rights ruling in response to a case brought by an Italian mother opposed to the hanging of crucifixes on classroom walls.

But even Pierluigi Bersani, head of the main left wing opposition Democratic Party, joined the assault on Wednesday, saying ‘common sense has become a victim of the law’.

The liberal Italy of Values party said the ruling was ‘an erroneous response’.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Michael Moriarty, VEC General Secretary, said that the ruling was an extreme one.

He said that the whole topic of religious logos in schools should be dealt with in a sensible manner.

He said even the pioneer pin had religious significance.

The Strasbourg court found that the right of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs, and childrens' right to freedom of religion, were breached by the crucifix in classrooms.

Crucifixes in classrooms could also be 'disturbing for pupils' from other religions and ethnic minorities, the court found, saying that there was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Italian bishops' conference denounced the court as 'partial and ideological'. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Church reacted 'with astonishment and regret'.

'The crucifix has always been a sign of God's love, unity and hospitality to all humanity. It is unpleasant that it is considered a sign of division, exclusion or a restriction of freedom,' he said.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said the cross was part of Italian tradition.

'No one, and certainly not an ideological European court, will succeed in erasing our identity,' th Education Minister said.

'The presence of the crucifix in classrooms is not a sign of belief in Catholicism, rather it is a symbol of our tradition.'