The Edict of Milan – 313 AD – the “birth certificate for religious freedom”

The theme of the 20th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium – “Religion and Human Rights” – was chosen for its timeliness and urgency, and also in acknowledgment of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of the Edict of Milan, the 313 AD agreement between Roman Emperors of East and West that effectively granted religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire, marking what lawyer, politician, and professor Gabrio Lombardi has termed the Initium Libertatis, in effect the “birth certificate for religious freedom.”

In a certain sense, said Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, writing in December 2012, “the very first emergence in history of the two phenomena that today we call ‘religious freedom’ and ‘the secular state’ … two crucial elements of a good organisation of political society” may be traced back to this event….