Did Constantine’s victory under the sign of the Cross lead to persecution of the Jews?

As Claire Sotinel, Professor of Roman History at the University Paris-Est Cherethites, will explain during her presentation at the international conference “Constantine the Great: The Roots of Europe,” to be held in the Vatican from 18 to 21 April: all Constantine did was open a Christian church in Jerusalem, which at the time was not Jewish, but pagan.

But the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, disagrees. “The conversion of Constantine changed everything,” the spiritual leader of the oldest Jewish community in Europe told Vatican Insider. “That event has had a decisive impact on history, and is closely related to the persecution of the Jews.” The conversion of Constantine, he added, “has divided history into ‘before’ and ‘after,’ causing such turmoil that Emperor Julian’s unsuccessful attempt to remedy it earned him the title of ‘the Apostate.’ It goes against all historical evidence to deny it.”

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Editor’s note: The seminal event for the Jews was the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which was followed up by many years of wars and rebellions, leaving what remained of the Holy Land under the occupation of pagans, rather than Jews.

But it was the persecution of Christians by the Jews which ultimately contributed most to the separation of the two faiths, since that (along with the grace of God) is what caused St. Peter and St. Paul to journey to Rome, in the first place.

All this happened more than two centuries before Constantine.

The Rabbi does have a point, though. Once Christianity became the “official” faith of the Roman Empire … Judaism … along with many of the Roman’s favorite pagan cults … would soon and forever more … be cast as obsolete and essentially apostate religions.

Decisive victory at the Milvian Bridge was a major boon to the Catholic Church

Constantine’s decisive victory at the Milvian Bridge, he remarked came at a time when “the era of imperial persecution against Christians was about to come to an end, giving way to the evangelization of the entire empire and molding the profile of western Europe and the Balkans; a Europe which gave rise to the values of human dignity, distinction and cooperation between religion and the state, and freedom of conscience, religion and worship.”

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Eusebius’ first hand historical account

Icon of the Madonna by St. Luke, believed to accurately depict face of Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Luke painted this Icon of Mary (about the year 60 AD) while she was staying with St. John the Apostle. According to tradition, when St. Luke “wrote” the Icon, he accurately rendered the Blessed Virgin’s authentic facial features.

The Icon was written directly onto a three foot by five foot cedar plank, believed to be part of a table that Jesus had originally hand crafted during his time in Nazareth. When Mary went to stay with St. John, in Ephesus (a town located in southwestern Turkey) the table evidently made the trip, as well.

Lost for over 200 years, the Icon was discovered by St. Helena (mother of Emperor Constantine) in Jerusalem, buried near the True Cross, on or about the year 326 AD.

The title of the Icon is Salus Populi Romani (“Protectoress of the Roman People”). It is the only major Icon attributed to Saint Luke (who is also the writer of  the Gospel bearing his name, “the Acts of the Apostles” and most of St. Paul’s epistles.)

St. Luke is also believed to have been a physician (medical doctor).

Tradition and history informs us that St. Luke’s Icon has resided in St. Mary Major Basilica, Rome, for about 1,700 years.

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