Addressing the members of the European Parliament on November 25, 2014, Pope Francis used an image suggested by the famous frescoes painted by Raphael in one of the Stanze di Raffaello in the Vatican. The School of Athens consists of a meeting between several pagan philosophers, from Greek antiquity until the time of the highpoint of Muslim scholarship, indicated by the presence of Averroes. The pope stated that Plato, with his finger pointing toward the sky, and Aristotle, with his hand pointing toward the earth, “constitute an image that well describes Europe and its history, formed by the continuous encounter between heaven and earth.”
For most pilgrims contemplating these frescoes located in the heart of Catholic Rome, it now seems normal that the center of Roman Christianity continues to promote the memory of pagans such as Plato, Aristotle, and even Averroes. In the early Christian communities it was not evident that the faith could integrate elements of pagan traditions and be instructed by them. In fact, if Christ brings to completion the revelation begun by the ancient covenant, why should pagans like Aristotle or Muslims like Averroes be heard? Is it not enough to follow Moses, the prophets and apostles whom the Lord has chosen?