The Pope said this today to 40,000 people who had gathered in St. Peter's Square to participate in the general audience, which he dedicated to the biblical exegete St. Jerome (347-419/420).
The Holy Father said that the Bible was at the center of Jerome's life. The biblical scholar translated what is considered the official text of the Bible in Latin, known as the Vulgate.
The Pontiff recounted that Jerome lived for a time as a hermit in the desert, where he dedicated himself to serious study of, among other things, Greek and Hebrew. "The meditation, the solitude, the contact with the word of God matured his Christian sensibility," he said.
It was later in Rome, however, at the suggestion of Pope Damasus I, that the scholar undertook a new Latin translation of the Bible, basing himself on the original texts of the sacred texts in Greek and Hebrew.
Benedict XVI said of the biblical exegete: "His literary preparation and vast erudition allowed Jerome to revise and translate many Biblical texts: an invaluable service for the Latin Church and for Western culture."
Reflecting on what the Church of today can learn from Jerome, the Pope said, "Above all I think it is this: to love the word of God in sacred Scripture. St. Jerome said, 'To ignore Scripture is to ignore Christ.'
"That is why it is important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the word of God, given to us in sacred Scripture."
Benedict XVI said this dialogue should have a personal and a communal dimension: "It should be truly personal, because God speaks to each of us through sacred Scripture and has a message for each of us. We shouldn't read sacred Scripture as a word from the past, but rather as the word of God addressed even to us, and we must try to understand what the Lord is telling us."
He added: "We must also keep in mind that the word of God is given to us in order to build communion, to unite us in the truth along our way to God.
"Therefore, despite the fact that it is always a personal word, it is also a word that builds community, and that builds the Church itself. Therefore, we should read it in communion with the living Church."
The Pope pointed out that "the privileged place for reading and listening to the word of God is in the liturgy. By celebrating the word and rendering the Body of Christ present in the sacrament, we bring the word into our life and make it alive and present among us."
"We should never forget that the word of God transcends time," said the Holy Father. "Human opinions come and go; what is very modern today will be old tomorrow. But the word of God is the word of eternal life, it carries within itself eternity, which is always valuable. Carrying within ourselves the word of God, we also carry eternal life."
Quoting Jerome, the Pontiff concluded, "Let us seek to learn on earth those truths which will remain ever valid in heaven."