NIŠ, Serbia / Sun Oct 6, 2013 (Reuters) - Eight Orthodox Christian leaders, dignitaries from other Christian confessions as well as from other faiths, politicians and thousands of others on Sunday celebrated the anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which established toleration for Christianity in the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago. Roman Catholic Pope Francis was not present at the liturgy in the Serbian city of Niš, his absence reflecting centuries-old divisions between the two main Christian denominations, despite moves by both towards reconciliation and dialogue. Instead, the Catholic Church marked the same anniversary at a mass served in Niš last month by papal envoy Angelo Scola, the Cardinal of Milan. The city of Niš, 200 km (125 miles) south of Belgrade, was selected as the venue for the celebration because the emperor Constantine the Great, who proclaimed religious tolerance, was born in the then Roman city of Naissus in 272. Last night, as a part of the celebration, thousands of citizens of Niš and their guests formed a cross with their bodies holding candles, thus sending to the world a message of faith, peace and tolerance.