The right to express the faith

2013-05-17 L’Osservatore Romano

Istanbul, 17. To respect the right of every believer to live their faith freely, and to recognize the role that Christianity has played in the formation of European culture: these are the two requests that Pope Francis, through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, addressed to the civil institutions on the occasion of the seminar on religious freedom, which commenced this morning, Friday, in Istanbul.

The meeting – which aims to commemorate the 1700 years since the Edict of Milan, with which the Emperor Constantine granted freedom to all religions – was organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in collaboration with the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) .
The Popes message was addressed to Cardinal Péter Erdo, CCEE President and Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, sending with it “brotherly greetings to His Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of the city founded by Constantine”, expressing his hope to soon see “the day on which the divisions of the second millennium will be permanently consigned to the past”.

With regard to the theme of the seminar, Pope Francis asks the civil authorities again to “respect everywhere, in the light of Constantine's historic decree, the right of believers to live their religions freely and to publicly express their faith”. At the same time the Pope “calls on all citizens to recognize the role that Christianity has played in forming our culture, and to remain open to the continuous contribution that Christian believers can make in this regard”.

The event began with a greeting from the Orthodox Patriarch of Instanbul, who had returned Thursday night after an intense three days of meetings and moments of prayer in Milan to be present for the celebrations of the anniversary of the Edict of Constantine. While recognizing the present difficulties, the words of Bartholomew were open to hope: the Church “lives”, and “has not disappeared” from public life, but indeed permeates to societies and institutions through “the Gospel of Jesus and the blood of the  martyrs”, even when she “lives, exists and suffers strongly in captivity, even when the Church is persecuted”.