“The Edict of Milan must not be just a past event which led to the recognition of people’s right to freedom of religion and the public dimension of the Christian faith. It is also important today to enable us to appreciate once again the social value religion has always had in Europe. It is a resource capable of creating peace both in hearts and between nations and educating people, not just in freedom of conscience – freedom of religion cannot be reduced to this single right – but in the freedom of everyone to live and contribute to the good of all, individually and in community.”
With these words the presidency of the Council of European Bishops‘ Conferences has written to Mgr Stanislav Hocevar, Archbishop of Belgrade and leader of a regional pilgrimage to Niš held last Friday and Saturday, marking the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.
The pilgrimage, with the participation of hundreds of the faithful from Serbia and many other European nations, was organised by the Archdiocese of Belgrade and promoted by the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius and “in on-going dialogue with the largest Serbian Orthodox Church, with other Churches and religious communities and with the whole of civil society”, as Mgr Hocevar states in his letter of greeting addressed to participants at the event (cf. the event web site in various langauges: http://www.milanedict2013.com/).
The pilgrimage, directed chiefly at young people, is the fruit of a three-year preparation period aimed at seeking a more authentic paradigm of coexistence and relationships between religion / the religions and society at all levels, as well as the re-awakening of a true hope in the future.
The meeting, with the participation of the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, as papal delegate, was in Niš, Constantine the Great’s native city, and thus was “an opportunity for the local community and participants from other European nations to reflect on the benefits which the Christian religion has brought to culture and the entire European continent and the importance of once again living the faith with enthusiasm”, the CCEE Presidency writes.
The letter from the CCEE Presidency concludes with an invitation addressed to young people: “In this sense, we particularly applaud the choice of deciding to address the invitation to commemorate this anniversary to young people especially, so that this event which so marked the history of Europe may not be just a memory learned from history books, but becomes history itself in the life of the current and future generations”.
The signatories of the CCEE Presidency are as follows:
Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and CCEE President
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and CCEE Vice-President
Mgr Józef Michalik, Archbishop of Przemyśl and CCEE Vice-President
Mgr Duarte da Cunha, CCEE General Secretary