On Tuesday, April 29, the Acton Institute hosted the conference Faith, State, and the Economy: perspectives from East and West at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. This conference was the first in a five-part international conference series – One and Indivisible? The Relationship Between Religious and Economic Freedom.

The one-night event, moderated by Acton’s Rev. Robert A. Sirico, featured four prominent speakers who offered deeper insight into the question of the relationship between religious freedom and economic liberty. The speakers represented a diversity of global perspectives on the relationship between religious and economic freedom.2014-04-29_0226_REV

Rev. Prof. Martin Rhonheimer of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, located in Rome, presented on Christianity and the Limits of State Power. Rhonheimer discussed the important and inherent link between limited government and a flourishing free market, the historical roots of the free market in Christian civilization, and the danger of Christians who fail to understand the link between Christianity and a free market economy.

Following Rhonheimer, Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Jordan offered his perspectives on Christians and the Challenge of Freedom in the Middle East. Samuel Gregg, the Director of Research at the Acton Institute, followed with an engaging analysis on contemporary issues in his presentation Religious Liberty and Economic Freedom: Intellectual and Practical Paradoxes. Gregg revealed some of the ways that greater economic freedom may lead to greater religious liberty, using the Chinese situation as a case study.

The highlight of the night was the presentation of the keynote speaker Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, on Economic Openness and Religious Repression: The Paradox of China. Zen offered poignant and engaging insight into the current situation in China’s economic openness and climate of religious liberty. He explained how the combination of crony capitalism and the centralization of power and wealth in the hands of the Communist Party of China was a great danger. The centralization of power and lack of economic freedom, according to Zen, has led to the erosion of religious autonomy, particularly among Chinese Christians. Zen’s analysis was certainly eye-opening for many in the room and online.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun

The evening closed with an engaging question and answer session with the audiences both in Rome and online. The event was attended by over 200 people in Rome with an incredibly diverse turnout, including representatives of national embassies to the Holy See, NGO leaders and activists, Catholic and non-Catholic students, and entrepreneurs.

If you found the topics and themes raised during this conference, consider attending –- either in-person or online -– succeeding conferences in the series.

The next conference, Dignitatis Humanae: Preserving Religious Liberty in an Age of Expanding Government, will be held on Nov. 10 in Washington.

If you would like to watch the conference presentations, please click on the image below and it will take you to the video page.

Watch the entire April 29 Rome conference recorded on livestream.

Watch the entire April 29 Rome conference recorded on livestream.