Paul certainly didn’t pick an easy path, as Pope Francis described the great apostle’s visit to Greece. In fact, Paul sought to find an opening between the pagan world and the Christian world.
The Holy Father’s comments came during his November 6, 2019, General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he continued his catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles.
In this episode, Paul landed in Athens, the heart of Greece. Although diminished from its ancient glories it remained a city and center of pagan culture.
“Here the Apostle’s ‘spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols’ (Acts 17:16). However, this ‘impact’ with paganism instead of making him flee, drove him to create a bridge to dialogue with that culture,” the Pope explained.
“Paul chose to become familiar with the city and so he began to frequent the most significant places and persons. He went to the synagogue, symbol of the life of faith; he went to the Square, symbol of the life of the city; and he went to the Areopagus, symbol of political and cultural life. He met with Jews, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, and many others. He met all the people, he did not close himself, he went to talk with all the people.”
Rather than turn away from the city, Paul looked at it “with the eyes of faith”. Pope Francis questioned whether we look at our cities today in that light:
“Do we observe them with indifference, with contempt? Or with faith, which recognizes the children of God in the midst of the anonymous crowds?”
Of course, Paul observed that the people of Athens worshipped an “unknown” God. And he said he could share that God’s identity with them.
“To reveal the identity of the god that the Athenians worship, the Apostles begins from creation, namely, from the biblical faith in the God of revelation, to reach redemption and judgment, namely the Christian message itself,” Francis continued. “Let us also ask the Holy Spirit today to teach us to build bridges with cultures, with those that don’t believe or have a creed different from ours.”