The five-day conference began Wednesday at the Monastery of Bose, in Italy. This year's theme is "The Word of God in the Spiritual Life."
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, expressed the Holy Father's good wishes in a telegram sent to the conference in his name.
The telegram speaks of the participants "drawing from the richness of sacred Scripture, loved both in the East and in the West."
The event gathered leading biblical scholars and some of the most authoritative exponents of the various Orthodox Churches.
Its theme concentrates on an "essential unity of sacred Scripture and exegesis in the Spirit, the Word of God and spiritual life, in forms and ways different in East and West, but converging on the pneumatic reality of Scripture," a statement from the monastery explained.
It will cover three principal points: biblical hermeneutics in the Church fathers; the ecclesial dimension of the Word of God; and the reality of Scripture in the life of the faithful, including in monasticism.
In addition to the papal message, various representatives of the Orthodox Churches sent greetings to the conference.
Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople reflected: "When we consider the spiritual struggle of the Christian faithful, we normally think about the difficult feats of fasting and prayer; or else we imagine the seemingly inaccessible virtues and passionately aggressive vices. Yet, none of these spiritual principles and elements makes sense or produce results without the fundamental principles espoused by and expounded in the Holy Scriptures.
"The Church Fathers and desert hermits were certainly aware of this truth and were careful to include and incorporate the Word of God in every aspect of their spiritual discipline and daily life. Their influential writings, just as the spiritual and liturgical literature of the early Church, are solidly based on the Bible. Even when the Bible is not explicitly mentioned, it is definitely taken for granted -- like the air that all the saints and ascetics breathe."
For his part, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kyrill I, reminded that the Church "lives and breathes from the Word of God not only because the reading of the Old and New Testaments are essential elements of liturgical celebration, but also because ecclesial prayer itself is bathed by the divine Word, which instructs for salvation, which is obtained through faith in Christ Jesus."
Kryill I added that "only in the power of the Holy Spirit does Scripture open our minds to understanding of the heavenly laws, medicate the soul and renew man's heart."
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