Study Reports More Bibles, Less Religious Literacy

Surveyed Catholics in France, Spain and Italy

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ROME, JUNE 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Despite the increasing number of Bibles in circulation, knowledge of the Scriptures and the Church is weak among Catholics in three European countries, reports the Universal Biblical Alliance.



In a three-year study conducted by professor Luca Diotallevi, of the University of Rome Three, some 650 Catholics in Spain, France and Italy revealed low levels of Mass attendance and general religious knowledge.

The study, commissioned by the Universal Biblical Alliance, and carried out by Eurisko, also conducted in-depth interviews with leaders of the Catholic Church in the three countries.

Diotallevi, presenting the report at a press conference on Monday in Rome, said that in the 40 years following the Second Vatican Council, the Bible "entered massively in the families of many Christians, in homes where it had not been kept before. The pity is that in many cases it remains closed, a sacred object instead of a sacred book."

The study revealed that dissemination and knowledge of the Bible text takes place mainly at Sunday Mass, but less than half of all Catholics attend Mass regularly.

Some 49% of Spanish Catholics answered that they fulfill their Sunday obligation, followed by 29% of Italian and 26% of French Catholics.

Of those who attend Sunday Mass, the study said, barely half do outside reading of the Bible.

Some 55% of French Catholics reported that they read the Bible, followed by 52% of Spanish and 42% of Italian Catholics.

Some 21% of the French Catholics answered that they take part in Bible study groups, followed by 17% of Italian and 12% of Spanish Catholics.

Literacy

Diotallevi said that the study showed that "religious knowledge is weak or non-existent."

According to the research some 56% of Spanish Catholics have little religious literacy, followed by 47% of Italian and 44% of French Catholics.

Biblical literacy is lower, with 30% of Italian Catholics demonstrating basic knowledge of the Bible, followed by 22% of Spanish and 21% of French Catholics.

A sample question of the survey, revealed Diotallevi, was to identify what saints were authors of a Gospel.

Some 32% identified St. Peter as an evangelist, and 49% identified St. Paul as being an author of a Gospel.

Sts. Peter and Paul both wrote letters that are included in the New Testament, but the evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

According to those interviewed in the three countries, "the most positive aspect of the Church" is the parish, the Pope is second and lay groups are third, said Diotallevi.

The director of the study said that in general, "there is awareness of the importance of the Bible, but it is necessary to undertake initiatives that promote its dissemination and more profound knowledge of it; it will be more effective if Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox are able to collaborate together."