Religion and the development of civil society


  • Silvio Ferrari


Religion, Christianity, civil society


Religions offer a peculiar element to the development of civil society, that is, the conviction that man is repository of a truth given by God. This conviction raises the problem of harmonizing truth and liberty. If the central feature of civil society is the free search for the common good through a committed participation in particular experiences, how can this search be shared by those who know they possess the truth? The article answers this question through the examination of the right of religious freedom and the principle of subsidiarity.

Author Biography

Silvio Ferrari

Silvio Ferrari is Professor of Law and Religion, University of Milan and University of Leuven. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of California (Berkeley, 1994 and 2001), the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (London, 1998-99), and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris, Sorbonne, 2004). His publications in English include ‘Islam and European legal systems’, Dartmouth, Ashgate, 2000 (edited together with A. Bradney) and ‘Law and religion in post-Communist Europe’, Leuven, Peeters, 2003 (edited together with W. Cole Durham, Jr. and E. A. Sewell). He has recently completed, together with Felice Dassetto, a report on ‘The legal status of Islam in Europe’ for the European Parliament (2007). His main fields of interest are law and religion in Europe, comparative law of religions (particularly Jewish law, Canon law and Islamic law) and the Vatican policy in the Middle East. He is president of ICLARS (International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies), member of the Advisory Council on Freedom of Religion and Belief of the OSCE-ODIHR and of the Scientific Committee of the Institut européen en sciences des religions (EPHE, Paris).