Francis' Message to Symposium on Church-State Relations

"Ecclesiastical authority and the civil power are called to collaborate for the integral good of the human community"

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 1276 hits

The 13th edition of the Inter-Christian Symposium, on the theme “The Life of Christians and the Civil Power. Historical Questions and Present Prospects in the East and West,” was held at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, from August 28-30. It was organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum and the Department of Theology of the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Salonicco, with the collaboration of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. 

Here is a translation of the Message that the Holy Father Francis sent for this initiative to the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch.

The Vatican released the message Friday.

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To Venerable Brother

The Lord Cardinal Kurt Koch

President of the Pontifical Council for 

Promoting Christian Unity

It is with particular joy that I learned of the initiative of the Inter-Christian Symposiums, organized every two years by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum, and the Department of Theology of the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Salonicco, with the objective of furthering knowledge of the theological and spiritual traditions of the East and West, and of cultivating fraternal relations of friendship and study among the members of the two academic institutions. 

Therefore, I wish to address my cordial greeting to the organizers, the rapporteurs and all the participants in the 13th edition of this worthy initiative, held this year at Milan, with the collaboration of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, on the theme “The Life of Christians and the Civil Power: Historical Questions and Present Prospects in the East and West.” 

This issue is well inserted in the framework of the many initiatives intended to commemorate the 17th centenary of the promulgation of the Constantinian Edict, initiatives which have had particular moments of prominence at Milan, such as the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to the Ambrosian Church and the city. 

The historic decision, with which religious liberty for Christians was decreed, opened new paths for the spread of the Gospel and contributed decisively to the birth of European civilization. The anniversary of that event offers the present Symposium the opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the ways in which the Christian world has related to civil society and the authority that presides over it. 

These ways developed in the course of history in contexts that were very different, having significant diversifications in the East and West. At the same time, they kept some common fundamental traits, such as the conviction that civil power has its limit in face of the law of God, the claim of just room for the autonomy of conscience, and the awareness that the ecclesiastical authority and the civil power are called to collaborate for the integral good of the human community.

Hoping that the works of the Symposium will bear abundant fruits for the progress of historical research and mutual knowledge between the different traditions, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I invoke the Apostolic Blessing upon those who have contributed to the organization of the Congress and all those who are taking part in it.

From the Vatican, August 19, 2013

FRANCIS