Edict of Milan anniversary marked in southern town
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has conducted liturgy at the Church of the Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena in Niš, southern Serbia.Source: Tanjug
The religious ceremony was the central part of the celebrations of 1,700 years since the Edict of Milan, held on Sunday.
Taking part in the liturgy were the patriarchs of Moscow, Jerusalem and Serbia and archbishops of Orthodox churches.
"Today we are celebrating a great historical event that changed the face of the world, an event that divided the time into the pagan and the Christian," Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch Irinej said in the sermon to close the service.
Closing the sermon, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that the great and divine ceremony represents the obligation of the Orthodox Church to re-examine itself so that everyone could get resurrected individually.
He pointed to the persecution of Christians before the Edict of Milan was issued, adding that the Edict is the source from which the principle of religious freedom arose and was proclaimed to the entire world.
The liturgy was attended by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and other Serbian government officials, Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik, representatives of other Christian churches and religious communities.
The liturgy was attended also by a large number of religious followers, and estimates by the Niš police department and the SPC say there were over 15,000 people.
The celebration of the 1,700th Edict of Milan anniversary was rounded off with awarding prominent participants in the religious and political life with the SPC Order of St. Emperor Constantine the Great.
The order was given to all present patriarchs and heads of churches led by Ecumenical Bishop Bartholomew and to representatives of secular and political life, including to the Serbian president, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović (who was not present), the RS president and Serbian Crown Prince Aleksandar.
The Edict of Milan is a piece of legislation that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, which was issued together by Emperors Constantine the Great, who was born in present-day Niš in 272, and Licinius I.