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Religious Freedom Today-Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan: 1700 years later

Istanbul, Turkey, 17-18 May 2013

1700 years have passed since 313 when, through the Milan Edict of Toleration, Emperor Constantine granted freedom of conscience and freedom of worship to all cults, thus putting an end to centuries of persecution against Christians in the Roman Empire. Since then, Christians have enjoyed religious freedom, which has allowed the development of current European society. After 1700 years, to commemorate this historical Edict, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in collaboration with the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, is organising a seminar in Istanbul (17-18 May) on religious freedom in Europe and throughout the world.

At the invitation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, two delegations representing the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church in the European continent will come together in Istanbul. The seminar, which will explore the historical, legal and political aspects of religious freedom, will take place at the Conrad Hotel in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş quarter.

The Ecumenical Patriarch will open the meeting on Friday 17 May. This will be followed by interventions from Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Cardinal Péter Erdő, CCEE President. Subsequently, with the help of international experts, participants will examine the theme of religious freedom from three perspectives: 1) religious freedom from the point of view of the religious communities, with interventions from representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic communities; 2) the reality of religious freedom in the world; and 3) the relationship between religion, politics and society.

The meeting will end on Saturday 18 May with a visit to Hereke, site of Constantine’s death.

“1700 years after the Edict of Milan, Christians are still persecuted and dying throughout the world for their adherence to Christ, while in Europe the acts of intolerance and discrimination against Christians are on the increase,” said Metropolitan Emmanuel of France. He added: “So we thought it appropriate to recall the anniversary of this important Edict for the history of Europe with a seminar, which will enable us to take stock of religious freedom in Europe and the world, in the knowledge that Christianity is a gift for those societies which have welcomed it. In recent years, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, along with the other Orthodox Churches, has been particularly committed to intensifying communion and collaboration with the Catholic Church, especially in Europe through CCEE, for a common witness to the Gospel and the safeguarding of religious freedom in our continent and the world. The martyrdom suffered by so many Christian believers, especially in recent times, is particularly challenging for us and this seminar aims to be manifest our closeness and commitment so that Christians, wherever they may be, may be free everywhere to live and witness to their faith”.

The programme is attached. The meeting is not open to the public. A news release will be issued at the end of the meeting.

Contact details:

Thierry Bonaventura

Tel: +41/ 71/227 6044 – Fax: +41/71/227 6041

Mobile: +41 791280189 –

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