His All-Holiness was in Serbia from October 4-9, 2013, for the Edict of Milan 1700th anniversary celebrations organized by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Serbia. Accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch were Metropolitans John of Pergamon and Emmanuel of France, as well as Archimandrite Bartholomew Samaras, Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod, Grand Archdeacon Maximos Vgenopoulos, and Mr. Symeon Frantzelas.
Keynote Address by Ecumenical Patriarch at the Official Opening of the Seminar on the 1700th Anniversary since the Edict of Milan
We glorify the risen Christ and express our gratitude to all of you as delegates of the holy Orthodox Churches and to our venerable brother First-Hierarchs for your participation in this celebration, which is a tribute of honor to the divinely-crowned Emperor Constantine, who is truly one of very few Great Saints – for “whoever among you wishes to be great must be servant of all” (Matt. 20:26-27), according to the scripture. He was the first to grant freedom to the Church and to the world, the first to put an end to the ruthless persecutions against the Church.
This year marks the 1700th anniversary since the issue of the Edict of Milan about religious freedom. Therefore, we are communicating to the Church in all places and times in order to address a message of hope, love, peace and optimism from the most holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne in as much as the Church is the continual presence of God.
Some 1,700 years have passed since Emperor Constantine granted Christians the right to believe in God, yet “the persecution of Christians has not ceased;” thus, “the Church of Christ will never cease to generate martyrs” until God “enlightens everyone, so that they understand that peace, reconciliation, tolerance, meekness, and mercy can only have a positive effect on human society in general, especially in terms of deeds and words.”
The visit of the Orthodox Primate to Milan was organized on the occasion of the 1,700 years since the Edict of Milan, which established the freedom of religion in the Roman Empire and put an end to the persecution of Christians.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in conjunction with the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE), is commemorating the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan by hosting a conference devoted to religious freedom.