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For the good of the human community

Aug. 31, 2013

Ecclesiastical authority and civil power “are called to cooperate for the integral good of the human community”. The Pope wrote this in a message to Cardinal Koch for the 13th Inter-Christian Symposium taking place in Milan from 28 to 30 August.

It was with great joy that I learned about this inter-Christian Symposium, organized every two years by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality   at the Pontifical  University Antonianum and by the Department of Theology at the Orthodox Faculty of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the aim of which is deepening understanding of the theological and spiritual Traditions of East and West and of cultivating brotherly relations of friendship and scholarship among members of the two academic institutions.

I would like, therefore, to extend my cordial greeting to the organizers, the relators and to all the participants in the 13th edition of this praiseworthy initiative, which is taking place this year in Milan, with the collaboration of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, on the theme: “The life of Christians and civil power — historical questions and current perspectives in East and West”. This subject matter fits well into the framework of the many initiatives organized to commemorate the 17th centenary of the promulgation of the Edict of Constantine, particularly important initiatives took place in Milan, such as such as the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomaios I to the Church of St Ambrose and to the city.

The historical decision, by which religious freedom for Christians was decreed, opened up new ways for spreading the Gospel and contributed greatly  to the birth of European civilization.  The memory of that event offers the present Symposium an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the ways in which the Christian world relates to civil society and the authority that presides over it. These ways have developed in history in very different contexts, with significant diversification in East and West. At the same time, they have retained several fundamental points in common, such as the conviction that civil power finds its limits before the law of God, reserving just space for the autonomy of conscience, with the awareness that ecclesiastical authority and civil power are called to cooperate for the integral good  of the human community. With the hope that the work of this Symposium bear abundant fruit for the progress of historical research and mutual understanding between the different Traditions, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I cordially invoke my Apostolic Blessing upon those who have contributed to the organization of the Conference and on all those who are taking part in it.

Source: Vatican Website



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