Address of Klaus Hartmann, President of the World Union of Freethinkers,
19th February 2000
Dear Friends of freethinking,
Citizens of Rome,
I welcome you in the name of the World Union of Freethinkers to our common rally on the occasion of the 400. Anniversary of the execution of Giordano Bruno.
When the freethinkers from Italy and other countries gather on the Campo dé Fiori in Rome, they do so in order to commemorate a very important man and in order to remind us of a monstrous crime.
We commemorate Giordano Bruno and his epochal merits in philosophy and in the freedom of thinking.
We remember the monstrous crime of the Vatican, which, 400 years ago, brutally murdered this man here on this square.
Yet with this commemoration and remembrance, we direct our gaze at the same time towards the present, towards the conditions and enemies of freethinking today.
With his consistent thinking of the concept of infinity, Giordano Bruno indeed achieved revolutionary progress in the development of a philosophy based on scientific knowledge.
The church has assessed very correctly the danger for its dogma-building and its power.
Bruno’s work at the end the 16th century marks the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. Giordano Bruno possessed extensive philosophical and scientific knowledge.
He knew the works of Epikur, Demokrit and Aristotle, of Averroes, Avicenna and Thomas Aquinas, of Nicolaus of Cues and Erasmus of Rotterdam.
He devoted himself to astronomy and physics, particularly to the works of Copernicus.
Copernicus had already refuted the idea of the earth as the centre of the universe, and had placed the sun there.
Giordano Bruno went beyond this idea by discovering the infinity of the cosmos.
He defined the universe as the infinite material substance in an infinite area as unit and a continuum.
On the basis of this concept of the infinity of the universe, he made the Church’s idea of a heaven over the world collapse and pushed the God who reigns over us from his throne. At the same time, he ridiculed the idea of the strict divine court of justice.
Even more significant in a philosophical sense was the impossibility of the creation of material and it’s indestructability and the idea of the unit, he had won from his concept of infinity.
Refusing causes outside the world, he manifested a scientific philosophy, which explains the developments from inner laws.
Thus he became a pioneer of modern sciences and created the philosophical bases for materialistic and dialectical monism.
Bruno’s findings were and are indispensable and unlosable foundations for further intellectual and historical development.
His thinking had influenced Spinoza, the philosophers of French and German enlightenment, Goethe and Leibnitz, and not least John Toland, for whom in the first time in history the term freethinker was used. And also the philosophies of Friedrich Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach and Karl Marx are built on Bruno’s work.
With all right, Bruno acquired the reputation of a revolutionary who had changed radically and to a lasting extent philosophy as it had been then.
In the 16th Century, the Catholic church did not see itself in a comfortable situation.
The renaissance was fully developed; book printing ha broken the Church’s monopoly over education; the development of craft and trade, the maritime shipping and the geographical discoveries demanded breaking through narrow academic horizons.
After the orthodox churches had justified their independence because of the monopoly claim of the Roman Catholic church, the Protestant and the Calvinist church split off after the Reformation. Opposition religious currents such as Waldenser and Albigenser were pursued as heretics in a bloody way.
The early-civil revolution developed in peasant’s-wars and rebellions.
Against the increasing questioning and endangering of it’s academic, temporal and economic power, the Church created the barbaric instrument of the “Holy Inquisition.”
Throughout nearly the whole of Europe, there was a bloody prosecution of so-called heretics and witches, hundreds of thousands fell victim to this insanity.
Giordano Bruno also suffered this fate.
God’s men ennobled him as a “heretic-prince” in order to put him on the same step as the devil.
Bertrand Russel characterized the action of the Vatican against Bruno with the words: “Like already often before, the servants of the existing felled a wild judgment over someone, who dared to have another opinion, because they feared a revolution”.
Bruno answered the death sentence of the inquisition court unbowed and without fear:
“Probably you speak your judgment to me with more fear, as I receive it”.
Up to his death, Giordano Bruno remained only committed to reason and the truth. He became a martyr of freethinking. That is why still today, all generations of freethinkers rightly see him as their pioneer and model.
The brutal execution of Bruno on this sqare 400 years ago also took place in a so-called “holy year”. In time for the beginning of the spectacle, the Vatican wanted to liquidate “blot”, as they regarded Bruno.
The Vatican even had a new balcony built opposite the square, so that 50 cardinals could so-to-speak enjoy the bloody perverse spectacle from an honorary-platform.
With the execution of Giordano Bruno and with the hundreds of thousands of murders the inquisition was responsible for, the Catholic church has justified its eternal fame: as a sinister, criminal organization.
Whereas one says of people that they become wiser with increasing age, the Church seems to be immune against this development.
When this monument was erected on the Campo dé Fiori in 1889 in honour of Giordano Bruno, the Vatican ran storm against it. Pope Leo XIII., who had praised himself as a “reform-pope”, described Bruno at that time as “insincere, a liar, vicious and intolerant ”and without any importance to science.
This judgment falls back on the pope and hislike.
And in the year 2000? Even if one does not believe it possible – this time, too, the Vatican has tried to have the monument removed during the “holy year”.
Nevertheless, the Vatican is still trying very hard to make its bad reputation be forgotten, through more openness and acknowledgment of blame. Thus, for example, it has opened his archives – with one blemish, however: the documents about Giordano Bruno have disappeared!
Even the authority that was responsible for the death sentence against Bruno – the “holy inquisition” – has still not been dissolved today. It was only renamed “Congregation of Faith” with the German cardinal Josef Ratzinger as the chief inquisitor at the top.
Some prominent victims have been “rehabilitated” in the meantime by the Catholic church. Giordano Bruno cannot expect that. At the 3rd February 2000 Radio Vatican reported: “in the opinion of the papal house-theologian, George Cottiers, the Renaissance intellectual Giordano Bruno, who was executed 400 years ago, will never been rehabilitated.” His very divine reason, mentioned to the Catholic newspaper Avvenire: “Bruno’s thinking has never been Catholic.”
That distinguishes Bruno of course from others, par example from war criminals. The pope does not have to rehabilitate them first, no, he can beatify them first. Thus Karol Woityla, in as late as 1998, beatified the notorious Croatian cardinal Stepinac, who had held his protective hand over the fascist Ustascha regime and over the many priests of his church, who personally ran the extermination camp of Jasenovac, in which hundreds of thousands Serbs, Jews, Sinti and Romanies were slaughtered up to 1944.
We can see through all cosmetics that this Church today is still the same as it stays loyal to itself. Loyal to its criminal traditions and loyal to its solidarity with the mighty of this world, as a breeding ground for reaction.
The scandalous beatification of Stepinac, this friend of the fascists, came at exactly the right time: as a spiritual arming for a new war against the Serbs – the third in this century.
And in the spring of 1999, the Pope indeed called upon us – in general words – to promote peace, but he did not find a single word of condemnation for NATO’s war of aggression against Yugoslavia, which violated all international law.
We do not see any reason to revise our judgment on the role and function of this Catholic church. But we have all reason to take into the visor all other enemies of freethinking, of the freedom and self-determination of the individual.
As an example with the war returning to Europe, we have seen that: nearly all media worked as if they were one. In the disciplines of manipulation, fooling the people and brain-washing, the churches now have a mighty and effective competitor in the monopolistic mass media.
There are only good and evil as in bad western-films. Even in the crusades it was not a question of power and money, but of true belief and God’s wage.
Today, the mighty powers no longer wage war for economic and geo-strategic interests, but for freedom and human rights. And the earth is once again a disk.
It should be blended out of our consciousness that the Nato-war violated and destroyed international law; that more than 2000 civilians lost their lives; that civilian targets were systematically attacked; that nuclear ammunition and cluster-bombs were deployed and that targeted ecological warfare took place;
that all of this is outlawed in international law and is paramount to absolutely clear war crimes.
The powers of the “new world-order ”want unlimited world domination, the control over all raw materials and natural resources. Under “globalization” they want to establish a unipolar world order.
The economic dictatorship is to be established with help of the World Bank, the International Monetary Funds and the World Trade Organization. In a military manner, this dictatorship is to be guaranteed with help of NATO operating world-wide. And to safeguard this, they are aiming for a global dictatorship of opinion, uniformation of thinking through the use of the media.
Freethinkers express their solidarity with all those, who were persecuted because of their commitment against the war; with the French general Pierre Bunel; with those, who have been taken to court in Germany because they had called on soldiers to desert; and with the Italian demonstrators against the war base in Aviano.
The restoration of international law requires complete recompensation for the destruction caused by the Nato aggressors. The war-criminals who lead the Nato states have to be brought to an International Court!
We demand the annulment of all sanctions and in particular the genocidal economic embargoes against Yugoslavia, Cuba and Iraq!
At all times and everywhere the mighty have exploited the prevailing religious differences for their economic, strategic and military goals.
This is what is happening in Northern-Ireland, in the Near East and in Tibet. On the way to creating a unipolar world order; to encircling and weakening Russia; to acquiring the oil and mineral resources at the Caspian sea, Kosovo was a stage and the next is Chechenya.
Like Giordano Bruno, the freethinkers today are committed to logic, truth and reason.
The fight for our ideals is more current than ever. Therefore, we reject all religious or “humanitarian” camouflages of imperialist interests and wars.
Therefore, we say unconditionally and emphatically NO to fascism and war.
Therefore, we fight against the uniformation of thinking, the global economic dictatorship of the “new world order”, we fight against the military dictatorship of NATO.
Therefore, we fight for a new millennium of human rights and the strict separation of church and state.
Therefore, we defend the dignity of walking upright and remain committed to the freedom, progress and emancipation of the mankind.