Papal Address to Pontifical Biblical Institute
"Continue on Your Way With Renewed Determination"
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on receiving in audience professors, students and staff of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, on the centenary of its foundation.
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Most Reverend Superior-General of the Society of Jesus,
Illustrious Professors and Beloved Students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute
I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of your Institute, desired by my holy predecessor Pius X, in order to establish in the city of Rome a center of specialized studies on sacred Scripture and related disciplines.
I greet with deference Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whom I thank for the courteous words he addressed to me on your behalf. I likewise greet the superior-general, Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, and I am happy to take the opportunity given to me to express my sincere gratitude to the Society of Jesus, which, not without notable effort, deploys financial investments and human resources in the management of the faculty of the Ancient East, the Biblical faculty here in Rome, and the headquarters of the Institute in Jerusalem.
I greet the rector and professors, who have consecrated their life to study and inquiry in constant listening to the Word of God. I greet and thank the staff, employees and workers for their appreciated collaboration, as also the benefactors who have made available and continue to make available the necessary resources for maintaining the structures and activities of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. I greet the former students united spiritually to us at this moment, and I greet you especially, beloved students, who come from every part of the world.
One hundred years have gone by since the birth of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In the course of this century, it has certainly increased interest in the Bible and, thanks to Vatican Council II, especially the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" -- of whose elaboration I was a direct witness, participating as theologian in the discussions that preceded its approval -- there is much greater awareness of the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.
This has fostered in Christian communities a genuine spiritual and pastoral renewal, which above all has affected preaching, catechesis, the study of theology and ecumenical dialogue. Your Pontifical Institute has made its own significant contribution to this renewal with scientific biblical research, the teaching of biblical disciplines and the publication of qualified studies and specialized journals. In the course of the decades several generations of illustrious professors have succeeded one another -- I would like to remember, among others, Cardinal Bea -- who formed more than 7,000 professors of sacred Scripture and promoters of biblical groups, as also many experts now present in an array of ecclesiastical services, in every region of the world.
Let us thank the Lord for this activity of yours that is dedicated to interpreting the biblical texts in the spirit in which they were written (cfr "Dei Verbum," 12), and that opens to dialogue with the other disciplines, and with many cultures and religions. Although it has known moments of difficulty, it has continued in constant fidelity to the magisterium according to the objectives themselves of your institute, which arose in fact "ut in Urbe Roma altiorum studiorum ad Libros sacros pertinentium habeatur centrum, quod efficaciore, quo liceat, modo doctrinam biblicam et studia omnia eidem adiuncta, sensu Ecclesiae catholicae promoveat" (Pius PP. X, Litt. Ap. Vinea electa (May 7, 1909): AAS 1 (1909), 447-448).
Dear friends, the celebration of the centenary is an end, and at the same time a point of reference. Enriched by the experience of the past, continue on your way with renewed determination, aware of the service to the Church required of you, to bring the Bible closer to the life of the People of God, so that it will be able to address in an adequate way the unheard of challenges that modern times pose to the new evangelization. It is the common desire that sacred Scripture become in this secularized world, not only the soul of theology, but also the source of spirituality and vigor of the faith of all believers in Christ.
May the Pontifical Biblical Institute continue, therefore, growing as a high quality ecclesial center of study in the realm of biblical research, making use of modern methodologies and in collaboration with specialists in dogmatic theology and in other theological areas; may it ensure a careful formation in sacred Scripture to future priests so that, making use of the biblical languages and of the various exegetical methodologies, they will be able to have direct access to biblical texts.
In this regard, the already mentioned dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" has stressed the legitimacy and necessity of the historical-critical method, reducing it to three essential elements: attention to literary genres; study of the historical context; examination of what is usually called Sitz im Leben. The conciliar document maintains firm at the same time the theological character of exegesis, indicating the strong points of the theological method in the interpretation of the text. This is so because the foundation on which theological understanding of the Bible rests is the unity of Scripture, and this assumption corresponds, as methodological way, to the analogy of the faith, that is, to the understanding of the individual texts from the whole.
The conciliar text adds a further methodological indication. Scripture being only one thing starting from the one People of God, which has been its bearer throughout history, consequently to read Scripture as a unit means to read it from the Church as from its vital place, and to regard the faith of the Church as the real key to interpretation. If exegesis also wishes to be theology, it must acknowledge that the faith of the Church is that form of "sim-patia" without which the Bible remains as a sealed book: Tradition does not close access to Scripture, but rather opens it; on the other hand, the decisive word in the interpretation of Scripture corresponds to the Church, in her institutional organizations. It is the Church, in fact, which has been entrusted with the task of interpreting authentically the Word of God written and transmitted, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ (cfr "Dei Verbum," 10).
Dear brothers and sisters, while thanking you for your pleasant visit, I encourage you to continue your ecclesial service, in constant adherence to the magisterium of the Church and assure each one of you the support of prayer, imparting to you from my heart, as pledge of divine favors, the apostolic blessing.
[Translation by ZENIT]