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Belgrade: ' From Constantine to the secular and beyond'...

(Vatican Radio) ‘Religion, authority and the state: From Constantine to the secular and beyond’: that’s the title of a conference taking place in the Serbian capital this week organised by the Ecclesiological Investigations network of theologians and ecumenical experts from countries around the globe. Philippa Hitchen is in Belgrade and takes a closer look….
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However much attention you paid to your history classes in school, you’ve most likely come across Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity in the 4th century AD. You may also know he was born not far from here in the modern day southern Serbian city of Nis. And you may even remember that his famous Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom to followers of all faiths, was drawn up in the year 313, exactly 17 centuries ago.
That’s the reason why the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network is holding its four day gathering in the Serbian capital, ending with a field trip to the Roman remains at Viminacium, one of the major military and cultural centres of Constantine’s day.
The encounter brings together cutting edge ecumenists, interfaith experts and theologians exploring both the historical and modern day tensions between church and state. Christian-Muslim dialogue in Africa, religious freedom in the U.S and the complex history of Catholic-Orthodox relations here in the Balkans are just some of the topics to be covered over the next couple of days.
The meeting is being inaugurated by Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej, former bishop of Nis and a man known for his openness to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. His desire to support the search for reconciliation between divided religious communities already strikes to me as a significant step forward, in this part of the world where tensions between believers remain every bit as high as they were back in Emperor Constantine’s day


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