Vatican City, 16 May 2013 (VIS) – The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is visiting Milan, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, signed by Constantine and Licinius, respectively the emperors of the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire, in 313. The treaty granted freedom of worship to Christians throughout the Roman Empire, putting an end to religious persecution.

For his visit, Pope Francis, yesterday afternoon, sent a message—through Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., to Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, with greetings to the Patriarch, the participants in the commemoration, as well as to the entire city, “for the importance given to the memory of the historic decision that, decreeing religious freedom for Christians, opened new paths to the Gospel and decisively contributed to the birth of European civilization.”

In the text, the Holy Father expresses the desire that, “today as then, the common witness of Christians of the East and West, sustained by the Spirit of the Risen One, will agree to the spread of the message of salvation in Europe and the entire world and that, thanks to the foresight of civil authorities, the right to publicly express one’s faith will be respected everywhere, and that the contribution that Christianity continues to offer to culture and society in our time will be accepted without prejudice.”

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