Slovak euros will hang on to halos: ministry

Eurozone member Slovakia will keep the halos on new two-euro ($2.55) coins featuring the nation's patron saints, Cyril and Methodius, following a heated debate in Brussels, its finance ministry said Friday.

The European Commission said last month that commemorative euro coins would have to drop the halos and double cross symbol owing to complaints from some member states that they violate the principle of religious neutrality.

"The Finance Ministry welcomes the approval of the draft coin with halos and double cross by the Council of the European Union," it said in a press release.

Slovakia initially agreed to remove the religious symbols but after complaints from the local Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and politicians it decided to insist on the original version.

The coins are to be issued next year to mark the 1,150th anniversary of arrival of the Byzantine brothers in what was then Great Moravia, to spread Christianity among Slavs and translate the Bible to Old Slavonic.

Cyril and Methodius also persuaded the Pope Adrian II to approve the use of Old Slavonic in liturgy, bringing the religion closer to the people.

In the 2011 census, 62 percent of Slovakia's 5.4 million people said they were Roman Catholics, while 5.9 percent declared themselves Protestants.

The double cross symbol is also featured in Slovakia's coat of arms.

A eurozone member since 2009, Slovakia is expected to post the 17-nation bloc's strongest growth this year with a 2.6 percent expansion in output, while the economy of the currency union as a whole is tipped to contract by 0.4 percent.

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