Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the CEI, and Mayor Dario Nardella of Florence holding the "Florence Charter." Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the CEI, and Mayor Dario Nardella of Florence holding the "Florence Charter."  (AFP or licensors)

Florence Charter: Church and State together for the Mediterranean

Both Church and civil authorities commit to common values and principles to guide their future journey as the "Florence Charter" was signed on Saturday, at the meeting of Bishops and Mayors of the Mediterranean Forum in Florence, Italy.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

It was a beautiful scene on Saturday afternoon at the Sala Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence! Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops Conference, and Mayor Dario Nardella of Florence signed "The Florence Charter" on the penultimate day of the 5-day meeting of Bishops and Mayors of major cities of the Mediterranean.

The “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace” meeting, held from 23 – 27 February in Florence, Italy, presented an opportunity to continue the conversation from the first meeting in Bari in February 2020, which saw the presence of Pope Francis and 20 bishops from various countries surrounding the Mare Nostrum.

This Florence meeting, the first of its kind in recent memory, brought the mayors of major cities, into an encounter with bishops of countries around the Mediterranean basin. The meeting also comes in the tracks of Giorgio la Pira, the Florentine mayor, who organized and hosted the Conference of the Mayors of Capital Cities in Florence in 1955, amid the cold war.

The Meeting

The meeting in the Tuscan capital which saw the presence of over 120 participants, started on Wednesday, with separate forums - one for the mayors and another for the bishops.

The mayors, for their part, held several sessions on important themes, including health security, culture, care of the environment and cooperation between cities of the Mediterranean.

Concurrently, the Bishops met and discussed the rights and duties of religious communities in the city, and the role of religion and the church, amid state efforts to face the challenges of the Mediterranean region.

On Saturday, the two forums met in joint sessions to dialogue, approve and sign a joint statement, - the Florence Charter - a document illustrating the commitment of the Church and State for the good of the Mediterranean.

Florence Charter

The Florence charter, the delegates note, is the result of values and ideals that the meeting's participants have agreed upon "to inspire them in their future journey, decrease discrimination and violence and open horizons of hope for young generations."

However, the document comes at a time of escalating conflict, with the start of Russian military operations in Ukraine. This, the document notes, causes a “sense of pain” for the bishops and mayors who hope that “the violence and the use of weapons could come to a halt, great suffering to the Ukrainian people be avoided and that negotiations to rebuild peace could start immediately.”

Mediterranean: a shared asset for all humanity

The document acknowledges the diversity of the heritage and traditions of the Mediterranean area as “shared assets for all of humanity” and stresses that all of the Mediterranean’s values, both tangible and intangible, are seen as sources of dialogue and unity between people and should be protected.

It also highlights the Mediterranean as a historical crossroad of European and West Asian cultures - of Northern and Southern hemispheres - which can play a "crucial role in the peace and development of nations through the cooperation between its cities and its religious communities."

In this sense, the Florence Charter is guided by the shared aspiration to put the human person at the center of the international agenda by "pursuing peace, protecting the planet, guaranteeing prosperity, promoting the respect and dignity of the fundamental rights of each individual, also through the promotion of sustainable development goals and the Paris climate agreement.

26 February 2022, 16:52