Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In an age “like ours marked by relativism in the debate over values and religion as well as in interfaith dialogue,” Benedict XVI reiterated in today’s general audience the alliance between faith and reason with its necessary support in prayer and the link between early Christianity and Greek philosophy against false pagan myths.
In a cold morning with few sunny breaks the Pope spoke to 40,000 people who had gathered in St Peter’s Square. He presented again a “great figure of the early Church,” i.e. St Justin from Nablus, philosopher, martyr and the greatest apologist of the 2nd century, “one of those ancient Christian writers who defended Christianity from the heavy accusations levelled by pagans and Jews;” someone who at the same time had “the missionary vision to propose and present the contents of the faith using a language and mental categories that were understandable to his contemporaries.”
Born in the Holy Land around 100 AD, this is what he did. He was a philosopher “who at the end of his long journey in search for the truth found the Christian faith.”
In Rome he founded a school where he taught the Christian religion for free. Denounced for this, he was beheaded around 165 under the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
Justin, the Pope said, “led an implacable critique of the pagan religion and its myths, seen as diabolic tricks on the path of truth.”
In his Apologies Justin illustrated “the divine project of creation and salvation which is realised in Jesus Christ who is the Logos, the creative Reason,” to which each man is participant. It is the same Logos that manifested itself in the Jews and that was present as ‘seeds of truth’ in Greek philosophy.”
Justin, in other words, “marks the decisive option of the ancient Church for Reason rather than the religion of the pagans which Christians viewed as idolatry.” For this reason, John Paul II in his encyclical Fides et ratio called him a “pioneer of positive engagement with philosophical thinking—albeit with cautious discernment [. . .]. Although he continued to hold Greek philosophy in high esteem after his conversion, Justin claimed with power and clarity that he had found in Christianity ‘the only sure and profitable philosophy.’”
Christianity is therefore “the historical manifestation of Logos in its totality. From that follows [the idea] that all that is beautiful that anyone expressed belongs to us Christians,” said the Pope.
Benedict XVI then cited Tertullian who, inspired by Justin, said that Jesus Christ offered “truth, not custom,” i.e. custom in the modern sense of “cultural” or “contemporary practices” in relation to the pagan religion.
In the debate about the values over religion as in interfaith dialogue,” the Pope said, “we should not forget this lesson, and for this reason I propose again the last words of the mysterious elder that Justin mentions: “Pray above all that the doors of light may be open, because no one can see or understand whether God and His Christ will let him understand or not.”