Skip to comments.Pope: Religious freedom often affirmed, not always put into practice
Posted on 06/09/2013 1:41:08 PM PDT by NYer
(Vatican Radio) Religious freedom was among the topics which Pope Francis touched upon Saturday during his meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. In his address to the Italian Head of State, Pope Francis recalled how 2013 marks the 17th centenary of the Edict of Milan, a document which many consider to be the first example of religious freedom being promoted.
In todays world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice, the pope said. It is often threatened, and not infrequently violated. The serious outrages against this fundamental right are a source of serious concern, and need to be confronted at the global level.
Defending religious liberty and making it available for everyone, Pope Francis said, is everyones responsibility. Doing so guarantees the growth and development of the entire community.
Pope Francis then turned his attention to the current global crisis. At this time in history, he said, the world is undergoing a serious and persistent global economic crisis which accentuates economic and social problems, above all placing a burden on the weakest of society.
Some of the main causes for concern, Pope Francis pointed out, include the weakening of family and social ties; decreasing populations; the prevalence of a way of thinking which values profit more than work; insufficient attention given to younger generations and their formation, which jeopardizes a peaceful and secure future for society.
In such a moment of crisis he said, there is therefore an urgent need to foster, especially among young people, a new way of thinking with regard to the responsibility of politics, one where believers and non-believers can work together to promote a society where injustice can be overcome, and each person can contribute to the common good according to his or her dignity, and make the most of his or her abilities.
Even in the civil sphere, what the faith assures us is true: we must never lose hope. How many examples of this have we received from our parents and grandparents, who faced the difficulties of their own life with great courage and a spirit of sacrifice!
This month marks the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. While much debate surrounds the relationship of Church and state in Christian Rome, even key figures like the Emperor Constantine (traditionally considered a saint by both East and West), the Edict of Milan is something that anyone who values liberty, religious liberty in particular, ought to commemorate as a monumental achievement. While a previous edict in 311 had offered some toleration to Christians, who spent almost their first 300 years having to fear for their lives any one of many local outbreaks of persecution that periodically plagued Pagan Rome, the Edict of Milan for the first time granted the Church the same status, including property rights, as other religions. It did not establish Christianity as the state religion (that would not happen until the end of the fourth century). Even then, the history, like all history, is messy. Often different emperors had widely different practical perspectives toward their role (or lack thereof) in religion. As Lord Acton has stated, liberty is the “delicate fruit of a mature civilization,” and that includes religious liberty and Christian Rome. In all cases, it was not a total separation of Church and state, but it was an achievement, a maturation if only for a time, that marked the end of centuries of martyrdom for Christians in the Roman (now Byzantine) empire.
On the other hand, even while commemorating the fruit of liberty in the Edict of Milan, I would be remiss if I did not also call attention to the effect that the conversion of Constantine had on Christians in the Persian empire. Once the Roman emperor was Christian, even if only nominally, Christians in Persia were suspected of being a “fifth pillar” of Rome. When persecution was declining in Rome, a new wave of religious intolerance and persecution broke out in Persia. Christianity has never been free of martyrdom, indeed, even in countries that claimed it as its own.
In commemorating this landmark document, one ought not forget what a “delicate fruit” such liberty is, nor that many, of many different religions, do not enjoy such liberty today. It is something that can only be achieved through the maturation of a society, and then only retained so long as that society does not regress again from maturity to immaturity, from peace to violence. Hopefully, in remembering this edict, and the positive and negative effects that it had, we will esteem anew the good of a free society and pray for those who do not enjoy such freedom, even, like ancient Christians who daily prayed for the very emperors and fellow citizens who were persecuting them, for those who seek to undermine such freedom today.
For those who have not read it, or for those who wish to read it again, the Edict of Milan can be read in full in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History here.
A very timely subject indeed!
Religious liberty is often given lip service by the very people trying to suppress it. Communist nations persecuted people in the name of “freedom of conscience”.
I think in that case, he would be considered validly Baptized (ex opere operato) but hardly be considered a Saint.
But I may be wrong.
Is Constantine considered a saint by the Byzantine Catholics? Anybody know?
And what would be the implications (if any) for the Western Church? Would these canonizations be considered infallible?
Constantine should be listed as a saint.
By whom? Your church? Which is?
According to Catholic Online, Constantine is revered as a Saint by the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox, but not in the West.
Only canonizations that are done the modern way, by Papal decree following an investigation, are considered infallible. Canonizations by acclamation/popular practice, like Constantine’s, are not.