In the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the British Ambassador to Lebanon H.E. Hugo Shorter, and Lebanese politicians H.E. Selim Sayegh, H.E. Abdallah Bou Habib, and Elie Khoury in addition to other international speakers, the Benedict XVI Chair and NDU’s FLPS co-sponsored an international conference on Thomas More’s Utopia, commemorating the 500th year anniversary of the seminal book Utopia.
In the year 2000, the Catholic Church took the well-meditated decision of proclaiming Saint Thomas More as the patron saint of politicians and statesmen. As Saint Pope John Paul II stated, “The life and martyrdom of Saint Thomas More have been the source of a message which spans the centuries and which speaks to people everywhere of the inalienable dignity of the human conscience. Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity.” The life of Saint Thomas More clearly illustrates a fundamental truth of political ethics, the very ethics that the world today lacks.
Scholars from many disciplines came together from around the world to re-examine the significance of this monumental work by a monumental man. Participants reflected on the value of the book and the ideals it presents in today’s context. Very few books continue to attract interest after a century and even fewer after five centuries. Thomas More’s 1516 masterpiece Utopia is one such book. Not only More the man is a ‘man for all seasons’ but his masterpiece Utopia is also a book for all seasons, for all disciplines, and thus far, for half a millennia. There is something in it for literally everyone, for the economist, for the businessman, for the sociologist, for the literary man, for the scholar, for the monk, for the priest, for the statesman, for the general, for the poet, for the philosopher, for the king, for the worker, for the comedian, for the lawyer, for the diplomat, and most importantly, for the lover. One gets the feeling while reading Utopia that More himself has firsthand experience in each of these areas. And one easily forgets while reading this carefully crafted book that it was written five hundred years ago. It is not mere hyperbole to claim that it very well could have been written just yesterday.