Synod Interventions of 6th General Congregation
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are summaries of the interventions given this morning at the sixth general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
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Below are summaries of the interventions:
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Benjamin NDIAYE, Bishop of Kaolack (SENEGAL)
[The translation of the French-language summary was not available at the time of publication.]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Benoît Comlan Messan ALOWONOU, Bishop of Kpalimé (TOGO)
In the Instrumentum laboris, it was pointed that the different Biblical groups, which started enthusiastically in the discovery of the Holy Book, progressively dissolved. This raises the question in the Lineamenta: “Why do many Christians feel cold and indifferent to the Bible?”
This question held the attention of the Bishops of Togo.
To understand the reasons for this disinterest on the part of many Christians in Bible reading and studies is necessary for the success of most Biblical initiatives so as to answer the recommendations in Dei Verbum.
In Togo, it was noticed that almost all the parishes with many Christians manifesting a great thirst for the Word of God then lost interest very quickly.
To help the Ordinaries in organizing a Biblical Pastoral, research on the surroundings was conducted by sociologists, priests, religious and lay persons. From this study, reasons for this lack of interest by many Christians towards the Bible can be found.
The first reason, the most important one of all, is that of a lack of pertinence in Bible studies. Bible studies can be of interest to the faithful Christians only if they are effectively “interesting” that is to say pertinent, helping Christians resolve their elementary problems or at least in being a source of actual inspiration for them. How is the Bible useful in everyday life? On the spiritual level, on the economic level, on the political and social levels, etc... Briefly, how is the Bible useful in all these existential situations?
Christians are not informed enough on the importance of the Bible and on teaching programs. Well-formed lay persons can help organize and lead groups.
Financial problems: Time for Biblical studies is considered as lost time. Also, low buying power does not allow buying the often very expensive Catholic Bibles.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Vincent RI PYUNG-HO, Bishop of Jeonju (KOREA)
My chosen topic is preaching. At the outset, I would like to quote Father Lucien Legrand, mep. who wrote an article in the Bulletin "Dei Verbum" (no. 70/71. pp. 9-15) on "Fundamentalism and the Bible". I quote: - As said commonly, Protestants read the Bible; Catholics, if at all, speak about the Bible. They have memorized large portions of it; we cannot quote a verse properly ... (Of course, there are many problematic aspects in their preaching). But at least the Word is part of their mental equipment to face life's problems... Anyway should we not incorporate a certain amount of Bible byhearting in our catechesis? -- . Father L. Legrand continues to write: -- Protestants quote the Bible; Catholics extract abstract themes supposed to be biblical. A typical example of this tendency to reduce the Bible message to abstraction can be seen in a certain type of homily, all too frequent. In his preparation, if any, the preacher reads the Sunday pericope, reduces it to a certain "theme" and goes on developing the theme without any further reference to the Bible text ... Jesus the great storyteller, is made to speak in the tedious tone of poor moralizing or lifeless dissertation ... (In doing so), we reduce the power of the Word to abstract algebra.
I would like to share my personal experience: Since the beginning of my episcopacy in 1990, I have been trying to memorize all the biblical passages of daily mass And most of the time in my preaching, it is enough for me to let the words of God speak by themselves. Then my people understand very well and they are so happy to hear directly the Word of God and the Word of God itself saves the people. As far as I know, this is the way Jesus preached the Word of God. And when we memorize, we understand better why Mary is the model in the way of hearing the Word of God. The Gospel text, "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart"(Lk 2,19) makes us realize that before pondering the Word of God, she learned it by heart, and pondering means that she repeated it in her heart for a long time until the meaning of it becomes clear.
In this sense, she made her heart into a library of the Word. So, would it not be vital, first, to incorporate a certain amount of Bible byhearting in the formation program of the future and present priests? And second, to establish a concrete directory for a good biblical preaching for them? If we do so, that will be, for the Pastors, putting on the armor of God, especially the only offensive weapon among the 6 of which St. Paul mentions in the letter to the Ephesians(6, 10-18), namely the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Then the Church will surely have a new spring time.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Geraldo LYRIO ROCHA, Archbishop of Mariana, President of the Episcopal Conference (BRAZIL)
Among the various forms of liturgical tradition handed down, the celebration of the Word of God is recommended, to allow faith, communion and commitment of the People of God to grow. The "Sacrosanctum Concilium" says: “Bible services should be encouraged, especially on the vigils of the more solemn feasts, on some weekdays in Advent and Lent, and on Sundays and feast days. They are particularly to be commended in places where no priest is available”.
In many Latin American nations, the lack of ordained ministers, the fragmentation of nuclei of population and the geographic situation of the continent have increased the awareness of the importance of the Celebrations of the Word of God. In Brazil, approximately 70% of ecclesial communities is deprived of the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. It would be ideal if all the ecclesial communities, even the smallest, could celebrate the Sunday Eucharist.
With extraordinary wisdom, Benedict XVI faces this question in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis": “Wherever great distances make it practically impossible to take part in the Sunday Eucharist, it is still important for Christian communities to gather together to praise the Lord and to commemorate the Day set apart for him”.
The celebration of the Word of God becomes a privileged place for the encounter with Jesus Christ, the center and the fullness of all Scripture and every liturgical celebration. In proclaiming the word, Christ continued to speak to His people.
The proclaimed and celebrated Word of God can only bear fruit in the hearts and lives of those receiving it through the Holy Spirit.
Welcoming the Word, prayers of praise, thanks and pleas are manifestations of the Spirit in the heart of the faithful and in the Christian Assembly united around the Word of God.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H. Em. Card. Stanisław DZIWISZ, Archbishop of Kraków (POLAND)
Instrumentum laboris draws attention to a certain paradox when it affirms that: “the faithful’s hunger for the Word of God is not always receiving an adequate response in the preaching of the Church’s Pastors, because of a deficiency in seminary preparation or pastoral practice” (No. 27). We touch here on an important problem for the life and mission of the Church. We believe that the full truth about man’s destiny is contained in the Word of God. The elementary problem lies in the fact that this Word needs fervent witnesses ready to share with others the truth that has changed their lives.
The seminary formation period is a particular time for the preparation of such witnesses. But sometimes it seems that candidates to priesthood treat the texts of the Sacred Scriptures as a object of study without taking into account its spiritual dimension. For them, the Scripture does not become the Word of their life. The force of the Word, capable of changing man, converting him, is not unleashed by the Scripture.
We have to rethink the role of the Word of God in seminary formation and, consequently, in the permanent formation of priests. Different forms of personal and community encounter with the Sacred Scripture have been elaborated in seminaries. I think it is important to share experiences in this field between our seminaries.
The Instrumentum laboris points out this need as it underlines that seminary formation should not only enhance the learning of adequate biblical knowledge but also “a true and proper initiation into biblical spirituality” and “a passionate love for the Word expressed in service to the People of God” (No. 49).
The people of God need priests who are passionate about the Word and service. This is one of the necessary conditions of New Evangelization that was so close to the heart of Pope John Paul II.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Emmanuel LAFONT, Bishop of Cayenne (FRANCE)
The Catholic Biblical Federation is for Bishops a privileged instrument so that the Word is the source and inspiration of all prayer, all evangelization, all homily, all catechesis, of every episcopal document and of every work of charity.
I can testify to the fertility of the Word among the small and the humble. I have a degree in Holy Scripture from the Biblical Institute of Rome, but it was the poor who really opened me up to the force of the Word. They evangelized me: the young people from Ouvrière Chrétienne in France,
the Blacks in Soweto, the Amerindians, the H'mong, the Creoles and the immigrants of French Guyana. For them, I repeat with Christ: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do” (Mt. 11:25-26).
The poor are profoundly receptive to the Word of God, and the Church should always read it with them close at hand. I ask that this Synod demonstrates great confidence in the way the humble people and lay persons in general welcome the Word. My greatest fear is not that they make a mistake when they read the Bible, but that they don’t read it, and that we may prevent them, by imposing too many precautions, from becoming lovers of the Word.
I would like to see a profound renewal of the way in which priests are formed, so that they become not only experts in the Bible, but also intimate with and lovers of the Word, and anxious to present it to those in their pastoral care. The training of priests and Bishops should allow us to say of them what Teresa of Avila said of the Apostle Paul: “When he opens his mouth, it is always Jesus who comes out!”
[Original text: French]
-- H. Em. Card. Polycarp PENGO, Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, President of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conférence of Africa and Madagascar (S.C.E.A.M.) (TANZANIA)
I am making this brief intervention in the name of the Symposium of the Episcopa1 Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and in my own name.
The intervention is on No. 40 of the Instrumentum Laboris, in particular on the statement, "...the apparent division between exegetical research and theological formulation needs to be overcome and lead to reciproca1 collaboration."
There is an appalling phenomenon covering a great part of the African Continent: namely the exodus of the Catholic faithfu1 who abandon the Church to join Pentecostal Sects. One reason for that is the reality of a "division between exegetical research and theological formulation," that is, the lack of reciproca1 collaboration between the two sciences. The outcome of this situation is the violation of the truth of the Sacred Text as well as Spiritua1 confusion (Cf. Instr. Lab. No. 29). This reality invites biblical and theological scientists to collaborate more closely.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Ronald Peter FABBRO, C.S.B., Bishop of London (CANADA)
The dioceses of Canada realize that to renew parish life we need to foster a prayerful listening to the Word of God in the Scriptures. Our people are hungering for God. A great obstacle to developing a living relationship with Christ, however, is formalism, which characterizes much parochial life. We need to teach our people proven methods of becoming one with Christ, such as the traditional practice of lectio divina, which enable them to meditate on the Scriptures personally and within a faith community -.in a spirit of prayer.
It is incumbent on bishops to find ways to support parishes, to break through the formalism that cripples many of our people and to lead all of them, through the power of the Spirit, into a living, personal relationship with the Risen Lord.
[Original text: English]
-- Rev. Father Josep María ABELLA BATLLE, C.M.F., Superior General of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
I will discuss the report “Word of God-Community” echoing the rich experience of many Christian communities which are experimenting in how the Word read, prayed and shared in the community, leading them to consolidate their faith, deepening fraternal relationships and committing with greater boldness and generosity in the mission. The Word impregnates the community. The community helps so that the Word impregnates the life of each of its members.
We religious have walked together in these communities and from them we have received very important motivations to embrace the Word in our lives and in our communities.
The Synod must support and promote the path of these communities concerning the Word. The Christian community is “school of the Word” because it helps embrace the Word in life.
This facilitates a more faithful comprehension of the message of Scripture through the guidance of animators and communal study. In the light of the Word one learns to discover other things within the Plan of God and to see reality with the eyes and the heart of the Father.
Elaborated by the Word, the community consolidates its experience of fraternity and in this way it converts for the world the annunciation of the new relationship that emerges within the persons and the people when the Word enlightens the path and the Kingdom reigns in our hearts. The voice of poor reaches the community with challenging honesty, which requires that the Word is read in the painful context of the present world. In the communal reading the members of the community find themselves being “servants of the Word” in the exercise of mutual mediation that they achieve so that the Word may truly be incarnate in life of every man and in the history of the people.
Starting from this experience we can better understand our mission.
We perceive ourselves as “servants of the Word” with a vocation of service to the dialogue of God with humanity. We own nothing. We form a part of those called to this dialogue of life through which we are accompanied by the experiencing of the Father’s love. Scripture offers the keys to become part of this dialogue and the grammar for reading and understanding the message. We are then “servants of the dialogue with God with humanity” This consciousness marks our lives and places us as community and as Church, in a dynamic of service which makes our witness and our own words more humble, but paradoxically more believable and powerful.
[Original text: Spanish]