Synod Interventions of 8th General Congregation
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are summaries of the interventions given this morning at the eighth general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is underway in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
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-- H. Em. Card. lain Vinko PULJIĆ, Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Sarajevo, President of the Episcopal Conference (BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA)
I would like to focus on chapter seven: "The Word of God in serving and forming the People of God". In the spirit of the Constitution Lumen Gentium, it has been rightly underlined that "the lay faithful participate in the salvific mission which the Father entrusted to his Son for the salvation of all peoples" (No. 51). With all my heart, I support the thought that "the laity's service, however, calls for different competencies which require a specific biblical formation". Different parish and diocese groups are then listed (the sick, soldiers, prisoners, new movements and associations). In this context the Instrumentum recalls that "catechesis in families, with the deepening of some biblical pages and the preparation of the Sunday liturgy is a privileged way to encounter God who speaks to us". It will be the "family duty to initiate children to Sacred Scriptures through narration of the great biblical stories, especially the life of Jesus, and through prayer, inspired from Psalms or any other revealed book".
Most of our families have a copy of the New Testament at least, and many also have the whole Bible.
In countries who have come out of a socialist regime recently, the Church needs lay faithful that intensely live the Gospel of Christ in the family and in society, and that once again take on their role in the mission of the ecclesial community.
Family preparation for the Day of the Lord can be a real Kairos for them. If any specific movement is approved by ecclesiastical Pastors, or if the Pastors present here experience this positively. I would like to be enriched by their experience.
Therefore, I suggest that the thoughts from no. 51 of the Instrumentum laboris, which already I have mentioned, be formulated in Propositiones at the end of our Assembly and be presented to the Holy Father for the Post-Synodal Exhortation that will come from this Synod.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Emmanuel FÉLÉMOU, Bishop of Kankan (GUINEA)
The Synod of Bishops, consecrated to the reflection on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church, is a great occasion for each of us to strengthen our ties with Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.
In fact, to unveil His Plan of Love and let His final will be known, God spoke to us through His Son. The efficacity of the revealed word of Jesus Christ lies in the divine force that frees peoples, in the knowledge of God, of their imperfections, of their fear and of their errors, of their uncertainties and of their doubts. God's love is perceived by the various African social classes as the accomplishment of their waiting. Thus, in this Revelation, which is fullness, Eschaton of all divine Revelation, the nearness of Jesus Christ and the positive transformation of all cultures through His Word are attractive and convincing characteristics for our people to allow them to purify their culture especially in the vision of God's Will on truth in all its splendor. If the one God is already known in our cultures what was missing was that clarity and perfection in which love is no longer only to be shared with brothers in blood but with all, that clarity and perfection in which we forgive our enemy instead of poisoning him when we want to demonstrate how powerful we are. I do not wish to say that there was no forgiveness, but this reality needed the word of Christ, his knowledge and his example. To give him this unique face.
The Catholic Church in Guinea had manifested special interest for this Synod by having all ecclesial levels participate on the reflections in the LINEAMENTA, the preparatory phase of this work. Also, we wished that each and every pastoral agent: catechist, religious persons, priest, bishop, entering in a family could ask: Have you read a passage from the Bible today and what was the message you wish to live now?
We would also like to insist on the worship of the Holy Scriptures by making welcoming and enthronement ceremonies of the Bible in the Family and in giving it a specific place where every day a passage could be read and meditated on. The youth need to listen to Jesus Christ who speaks to them. And we, as pastors, must accompany them in the Biblical Camps and not leave formation to only one group. We must show them by our actions how this Word lives in the heart of our acts. And say that initiation to the Bible answers our African initiations where we listen to the Teacher. But here, not only do we listen but we live by the example of He who speaks to us, Jesus Christ: visit a sick person who is not only part of my family, forgive my enemy, do good to those who hate me, freely love in a world where everything is done out of self-interest. May the Risen One accompany us on our various paths of the new Emmaus to help us be His witnesses despite the challenges on the way.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph Mitsuaki TAKAMI, P.S.S., Archbishop of Nagasaki (JAPAN)
The Synod concerns itself with many aspects of the Bible and should lead and guide people with a worldwide vision, enlightening them towards understanding the following: the place and the importance of the Bible in the life and the evangelization of the Church; the link. between the Old Testament and the New Testament, discerning the meaning of difficult passages in the Old Testament; a clear explanation of the whole of Sacred Scripture in consideration of the development of revelation. Revelation, the magisterium, faith, the organic relationship between liturgy and Scripture are all areas to be examined. The study of hermeneutics in a suitable way, should be encouraged (Introduction No 5).
In general, we can say that people trying to live a Christian life, have not let the dynamic force of Sacred Scripture come sufficiently alive in their hearts. Lectio Divina alone is not enough. It is important that we understand the Word of God, relating it with our lives, share this with each other and put it in practice along our lives. As we read the word of God and begin to grasp that the Word is indeed at work in the ordinary happenings of daily life we see that this is something to be passed on to others. How do we, in practical terms, do so that Scripture may permeate and animate the Christian life of the faithful? This is a subject that needs to be addressed again and again.
(1) this Assembly should ask the Holy Father "to recommend strongly to all Christians in the whole world to read, to meditate and to share each other the Holy Scripture", in particular, by means of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
(2) There should be published a book of explanation in detail of current methods of Bible sharing with a kind of evaluation, so that people may choose among them according to their conditions of life.
(3) A book entitled Sunday Gospel Readings with Lectio Divina Year B: MARK, Advent 2008-Christ the King 2009 written by Monsignor Anthony Abela as a contribution to this Synod will be published also in Japanese before the Advent of this year.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Andrzej Wojciech SUSKI, Bishop of Toruń (POLAND)
I refer to chapter V no. 34 of the Instrumentum laboris, where it is stated that: "Persons in every area of Church life need a better understanding of the liturgy as the privileged place of the Word of God, where the Church is built-up". This assertion is fundamental for what follows.
But it seems necessary to specify which levels of the ecclesial life it regards. The word "community" is mentioned frequently in the document, but "per se" it is ambiguous. It can be understood as the universal ecclesial community, the diocesan community and the parish community as also the religious community or the different communities in the parish and diocese.
From the pastoral point of view, the parish community plays a particular role and I think it should be clearly indicated as being the privileged place, where the Word of God proclaimed to the faithful, meditated on and confronted with the thousands of situations of daily life, initiates the ecclesial community.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae Pope John Paul II affirms that " that the parish community must continue to be the prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis. [...] Whatever one may think, the parish is still a major point of reference for the Christian people, even for the non-practicing." (No. 67).
The parish has also theological motivations. According to the pontifical teaching, the parish is a Eucharistic community, this means that it is a suitable community to celebrate Eucharist, in which is found the living root of its construction and the sacramental bond of its being in full communion with the entire Church. This suitability takes root in the fact that the parish is a faith community and an organic community, in other words made up of ordained ministers and other Christians, in which the parish priest - who represents the diocesan Bishop - is the hierarchical bond with all the particular Church (cf. ChL, 26).
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Ján BABJAK, S.I., Metropolitan Archbishop of Prešov, for the Catholics of Byzantine Rite, President of the Slovakian Church Council (SLOVAKIA)
The Word of God is true and God works in man's life and in that of the whole Church. This is witnessed to in Slovakia, in the Greek Catholic Church, through the persecution experience in the second part of last century together with the actual development of our Church.
Totalitarian power was trying to destroy our Church. Historical events, remote and recent, instead, fully confirm the validity of the words of Jesus Christ: "So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. " (Mt 10:32). God is already fulfilling these words as we witness the development of our Church. We are thankful to the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the fact that, on January 30th of this year, he elevated the Greek Catholic Church which is in Slovakia to metropolitan Church sui iuris with headquarters in Prešov. Thanks to God's grace, we have a sufficient number of vocations for priesthood (the average age of priests in the pastoral service is 41), we have opened formation centers for families and for the youth. These gifts are the fruit of the suffering of our church.
The proclamation of the Word of God in the Greek Catholic Church in Slovakia is helped also by a rich use of the Word of God in the Byzantine liturgy (besides the readings) not only in the widespread use of the psalms but also in paraphrasing the biblical text in the liturgical hymnography. The Word of God is communicated to the faithful also in the form of icons, which are not a mere illustration of the Biblical text, but rather a "window on heaven", through which dialogue between God and man, between man and God takes place.
Despite all the above mentioned activities, listening to the Word of God by the faithful is prevented by the fact that often they are influenced by a strong secular relativism. Another problem is that pre-baptismal catechesis is insufficient in order to enable the parents to educate their children in faith. A particular problem for the reception of the Word of God in the families is the migrations of many faithful for reasons of work, above all of fathers and mothers, to faraway regions or abroad.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Santiago Jaime SILVA RETAMALES, Titular Bishop of Bela, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso (CHILE)
Presentation of three criteria for a Christian reading of the Bible that must be kept in mind in consideration of today's culture.
These criteria are:- The thirsting for God, whereby we need a "Biblical pastoral", meaning a Biblical animation of the pastoral.
The identity of the children of God, disciples of Jesus, temples of the Spirit, whereby we need a growing Biblical spirituality experiencing the love of God.
The condition of "family of God", which is united to recognize its own identity and to celebrate its own condition as children of God, disciples of Jesus, preparing for the mission. Its unity is already a missionary witness.
These criteria must be formulated, criteria that emerge from dialogue with culture, the condition of man today, all at the same time. What has been shown until now is what has been illustrated by the Bible, from the encounter of Jesus with his first disciples, according to Saint John.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H. B. Grégoire III LAHAM, B.S., Patriarch of Antiochia of the Greek-Melkites, Head of the Synod of the Greek-Melkite Church (SYRIA)
The Word of God is the privileged place for the encounter and dialogue between men, that it may become truly a Word for me and a Word for the other; It invites me to encounter God and my brother, it needs an epiclesis, that it may become the Word for the other, for society and for the world, adapted to all the conditions and circumstances of our life.
The Eastern Christian lives his faith, firstly, through the view of the liturgy, centered around the Eucharist or oriented towards it, with an essentially scriptural content. The table of the Word of God and the table of the Eucharist are inseparable. The Word of God is also read, meditated on, preached, celebrated and even written in icons.
During the solemn proclamation of the Gospel, children and those suffering or sick, come and place their heads under the pulpit to ask for the grace they need.
On Easter, the faithful worship the Book of the Gospel and the icon of the Resurrection, then they embrace each other, because the Word of God is the Word of reconciliation.
In episcopal ordination, "the first hierarch places his omophorion over the head of the elected, then takes the venerable Gospel, opens it and places it upside down on the head and neck of the elected", praying to God to fortify "this elected one, believed worthy of wearing the yoke of the Gospel" to spread it.
I would like to be able to share the Word of God that unites us. Let us not fear the verses of the Koran, and may our Muslim brothers not fear the Gospel or the Torah.
[Original text: French]
-- H. B. Fouad TWAL, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (JERUSALEM)
"Verbum caro hic factum est" (Jn 1:14), this sentence propels us to the threshold of the great Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God in the Holy Land where He chose to come and "he lived among us" (Jn 1:14).
On this Holy Land: "At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his Son" (Heb 1:1-2). Finally, on this Holy Land, the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles who "will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you" (Jn 14:26).For all these reasons, the act of reading, of studying and of meditating on the Word of God, receives a unique value and fertility, when done in the Holy Land, which preserves not only history but also the geography and the topography of salvation.
The Israel-Palestinian conflict creates problems in reading and understanding certain passages of the Bible. Thus, Arab Christians, in general, often find difficulties in reading the Old Testament, not because of the Word of God, but because of the political and ideological interpretations.
Two principles protect us from political and ideological interpretations:
1. To read and interpret the Word of God in the light of Christ. Jesus said: "'Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them" (Mt 5:17). Christ took back and summarized all categories of the Old Testament in Himself, to given them new impulse and mew meaning (He "achieved" them). The Old Testament is read and understood in Him and through Him.
2. The second principle for interpretation is the Church. Any interpretation outside the Church is a dangerous one.
To conclude, I would like to take the occasion of the presence of the Holy Father and of all the Synod Fathers to make an appeal for the Holy Land and ask for more prayer, more solidarity and more pilgrimages to help us be the witnesses of Christ, Messiah, Savior "not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end" (Act 1:8).
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Anthony MUHERIA, Bishop of Embu (KENYA)
Although the Bible is more available, at times the Christian life continues to remain somehow "outside" of Scripture. The strong presence of the evangelicals in Africa, who pride themselves in quoting memorized passages, has led to a tendency to mis-interpret "knowledge of Scripture" as mere "memorization" of a number of passages to quote off-head accompanied by freelance "original" interpretation. (Cf. Instrumentum Laboris no. 29).
We still seem to miss the voice of "The Word" that resonates incisively and with strength. I be1ieve it is now time to create more space and time to "Listen" more attentively to the Scripture. To "listen more" if you wish, as we "read"! For "The Word" to resonate , we need space to listen in silence and meditation! (Cf. Instrumentum Laboris no. 23).
In the Catholic context Scripture is "brought alive" within the Liturgical context:
In its proclamation in the liturgy of the Word and exposition within the Liturgy in the Homily! In the Patristic the "breaking of the Word" was not merely an explanation of the pericope in academic terms, nor a side reference to assist drive home a moral lesson. It is a true entering into the "today" of the "Word", living as a contemporary to the scene or pericope, listening to it as a personal and communal invitation. When the Word is proclaimed with incisiveness the faithful will taste it in the liturgy. Bible sharing will then become a continuation of the partaking of the Word from the "table of the Word". (Cf. Is. 55, 10-11, Sacramentum caritatis no. 45c).
In the Homily, the minister assists the faithful "listen" to the Word, guiding them to a response within their specific situation. This he will do, if he has spent time priests and seminarians the need of including in their spiritual personal program, the traditional daily minutes of Scriptural reading or Lectio Divina!
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Víctor Hugo PALMA PAÚL, Bishop of Escuintla (GUATEMALA)
The Biblical animation of the life and mission of the Church finds today a dismal panorama in the deformation of the Word of God, not only as a consequence of the annulment of the criteria of regula fidei and analogia fidei on the principle of the only Protestant Scripture of Reformation, but in the birth of " a new gnosis" that introduces elements foreign to the essence of Christianity into Biblical interpretation. Beyond the very serious fundamentalism of sects, we are dealing with pseudo-Christian religious functions which, as an expression of cultural and even existential anthropocentrism today, use the Bible to promote ideas for material progress, reinventing oneself, learning about ways to annul pain, etc... Especially in poor or emerging areas of Latin America, the need for an economic global vision, for some, inevitably religious, that helps overcome the conflicts stemming from poverty, administrative corruption, financial frustration, lack of safety in cities, etc... creates a ground fertile for commercialization (marketing) of the so-called "theology of prosperity": a false God, apparently Biblical, but not Christian, that diminishes the horizon of his action in human life to poverty as a "damnation" and to riches as "blessing or prosperity". Biblical and pastoral formation that can unite Bible and Tradition are necessary, to live the encounter with Jesus Christ as a way towards conversion, communion and solidarity (cf. John Paul II Ecclesia in America 12 et se.), privileged above all by the Mystery of the Love of God (cf. Benedict XVI Deus caritas est, 4 et seg.).
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Charles SORENG, S.I., Bishop of Hazaribag (INDIA)
I come from a tribal region in India. There are nearly 1 million 800 thousand tribal Catholics of this mission spread over in different parts of India.
We read in the Letter to the Hebrews: "God has spoken in the past to our ancestors through the prophets, in many different ways, although never completely: but in our times he has spoken definitely through his Son." (Heb. 11:12). In the tribal religion God has manifested himself through nature. It is very easy for them to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of the Supreme Being.
God who is love has spoken through Jesus Christ for the good of every human person. Jesus manifested the Father's love in his deeds of healing and love, teachings and parables. The mission of Jesus was proclamation of the Kingdom which is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14: 17). It included servant leadership .Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples was a great lesson (cf also Mk 10: 42-45).
God gave His only Son as our savior. His Son Jesus Christ so loved humankind that he gave himself in the Eucharist(l Cor. Il: 23-25) for us. Those who eat his body and drink his blood in the Eucharist become blood Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ. The Eucharist reminds us of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus on the cross praying for forgiveness of enemies: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Lk. 23:34).
The Word of God has the power to build community. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, Christians were "faithful to the teaching of the apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of the bread and prayers" (Acts 2:42). Though Christians come from different cultures and languages, the Word of God as the word of faith shapes their communion. The Word of God leads people to live as a Eucharistic communion in witness and service.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Julio César TERÁN DUTARI, S.I., Bishop of Ibarra (ECUADOR)
The "theology of liberation" emerged in Latin America, claiming to be founded on Biblical exegesis, starting from the situation of poverty of the continent and aimed at the many desires for freedom of our people. Rightly so, the Magisterium has drawn attention to the errors and dangers of these texts many times, always encouraging the theologians, so that the Sacred Scripture may enlighten the new paths that the Word of God wishes to follow, in answer to today's hopes and challenges, necessarily resolving the following points:
1. Theological reflection has to be put in the context of its own Christian community, the privileged place to understand the profound meaning of the Scripture, beyond subjective, diminishing and ideological interpretations, this is not a "parallel church" nor church exclusively for the poor, but a particular Church, constituted hierarchically in the Mystery of Christ.
2. This community reading of Scripture should confront the signs of sin and of grace that characterize the globalized world; and, in Latin America, special care must be taken for the poor, having many faces and voices, in the new and lacerating forms of poverty and in the new and hopeful ways of integral liberation, also without forgetting the witness of those who give their lives daily, at times to the point of spilling blood, in the sequela of Jesus, poor and humble of heart (cf. Aparecida Document, 399-405).
3. Therefore, the elaboration of the theological reflection, above all in the Catholic universities, will not have any problems in being articulated with scientific exegesis as well, in conformity with the indications given by the Magisterium, to promote this new missionary spirit, required today by the changing cultural situation of our continent (cf. Aparecida 124, 341, 344).
As at the culmination of the theologians work, the person of the Lord of the Church must always be presented: this historical Jesus who appears in the Gospels and who is the same Christ Risen, truly present in the Church through the Paschal Mystery.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Pablo Virgilio S. DAVID, Titular Bishop of Guardialfiera, Auxiliary Bishop of San Fernando (PHILIPPINES)
The Instrumentum laboris rightly calls attention to the healthy tension between exegesis and theology in the Church. While theology often dwells on the power of the Word of God; we will always need exegesis to remind us as well of the humility of the Word of God. Do we not too often find ourselves speechless when confronted by serious readers of the Bible among our faithful who feel scandalized by Scriptural passages that are full of violence, bigotry, cruelty, duplicity, and all other contradictions that are characteristic of the humanity we share with all other sons and daughters of Adam? And yet we have not cancelled them out from the canon of Scriptures. We have in this canon texts that deny the resurrection and afterlife and texts that affirm them. We have texts that regard Satan as part of the heavenly court with a specific task and texts that present him as a fallen angel. We have texts that declare evil as a consequence of human sin and insist on human culpability and texts that present evil as a disease and human beings as mere victims that can only rely on God's forgiveness. We have texts that emphasize divine grace, and texts that put a prime on human effort.
Ascent and descent, the divine and the human, the sublime and the wretched-these are aspects about the mystery of divine revelation, about God's Word in human words, about the God made flesh, that will always require both the contributions of exegetes and theologians, and above all of the pastors who have to keep us all together in humility and with the proper disposition of listening and self-emptying, keeping our focus on Jesus-the God with a human face- on his power in weakness, on his wisdom in foolishness, on his exaltation through humiliation.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. György UDVARDY, Titular Bishop of Marazane, Auxiliary Bishop of Esztergom-Budapest (HUNGARY)
I refer to Chapter 5 of the Instrumentum laboris.
The catechesis of the Church - both initial and systematic catechesis -other than the liturgy, the deaconry and the life of witness of the community has great possibilities and responsibilities in spreading the Word of God and in giving our lives over to the person, teaching and Church of Jesus Christ. In the catechesis, adapting ourselves and following the nature of the Word of God, we can demonstrate the characteristic of the Word of God: its personal strength, invoking and inviting or interrogating.
The Word of God, though we read it "from the book"- we are hearing a story from millennia ago, marked by the signs of a culture we do not know very well- is spoken "now" and addressed to "me". The Word echoes from the eternal present of God.. God acts "now" through His Holy Spirit. He calls on me now to examine my life, he invites me to rebirth - to conversion- he gives consolation and hope, he frees us and gives a judgment. (cf Is 55:10-11)
Our catechesis is effective if it receives and uses this creative moment. With this moment, we can hope that the knowledge acquired can truly transform a life.
Sometimes, books, auxiliary means and methods used in the religious instruction and catechesis of different age groups use the Holy Scripture-word of God-as a story to illustrate a subject, such as a moral parable, or they present simply as a witness of a fundamental and general existential experience.
Certainly, many books, means, and methods of catechesis could be improved, but every now and then the success depends on the person offering the catechesis -on the pastor, the catechist. He becomes-following the dynamic of the incarnation-the method of the Word of God, offering up his own life to the work of the Spirit of Christ.
It is beautiful to contemplate the story of the disciples in Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), where the Risen Christ appears as teacher, hermeneut-perhaps one can say-as catechist.
The correct use of the Bible-in my opinion, therefore-is not fundamentally a methodical question, but a more personal question: my personal relationship with the Word of God.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Charles Maung BO, S.D.B., Archbishop of Yangon (MYANMAR)
The Church in our part of the world proclaims the Gospel amidst heavy restrictions, deprivations and sheer suffering. With Paul, we can say: "in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's (Col 1:24 NRSV) Many of our ethnic groups have their own Bibles, done often with the help of pioneering missionaries.
The Word becomes flesh in different modes in different countries. In the free world, it is through proclamation, public discourse. But in many parts of the world, the Good news mission of the Church confronts suffocating challenges. Its obligation to preach the Good News is challenged by powers of darkness. As we journey through the Pauline year, we are confronted with the same challenges the great apostle of the Word had.
We are a poor church, and our only glory is the 'knowing Christ' and 'sustained by the Word'. The Word plays a major role in the lives of our people. "Diakonia or the service of charity is the vocation of the Church. The Word of God should lead to love of neighbor. (IL 39), We are guided by the words of the Holy Father : Deus Caritas Est "The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word' (22).
The Gospel mandate of 'feeding the hungry, clothing the naked' came forcefully after the recent attack of the deadly cyclone Nargis. Nearly 150,000 people died and 2 million people became refugees in their own land. The nation was in mourning.
With the help of the Lord we have brought life back to many communities. The churches became the refugee camps. In those camps we had a unique liturgy - of breaking the Word through our accompaniment and sharing the bread through assistance. The world became our altar and we broke bread of human fellowship with the shattered masses. The Gospel preached was the food to the hungry that provoked life and the light that we give the last five months.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Vincenzo PAGLIA, Bishop of Terni-Narni-Amelia, President of the Catholic Biblical Federation (ITALY)
It is urgent to have a new Pentecost. We must come out from the Last Supper and preach to the "70 peoples" - to all people of the world - the only Gospel in the various languages. And a challenge is set: there are more than 6000 languages, but the Bible has been entirely translated only into 480 languages, and the New Testament into 1168. This leaves more than 4000 to do. We also have a great financial commitment. And for some languages we could repeat the adventure of being codified with the translation of the Bible. Obviously the challenge is of a pastoral order. The agreement between the Catholic Biblical Federation and the Biblical Society is a small example of communion in the ecumenical field as well. It is necessary that at the Synod a new enthusiasm should emerge for the Scriptures. Blessed John XXIII already stated this. The conditions exist for this enthusiasm to catch people's attention. The inquiry promoted by the Biblical Federation shows the success that the Bible enjoys with everyone. The majority of the interviewees of the sixteen countries of the world where the inquiry took place finds it opportune that the Bible be taught in schools. At the same time though everybody believes that the Bible is difficult to understand and it requires help to be understood. It could be said: data confirm that the Sola Scriptura is not enough. There is a need for guidance. This is the true challenge that faces us.
We need not fear once again placing the Bible in the hands of all, not only the hands of the faithful. Unfortunately, if on the one hand it is true that often the Bible is to be found in homes, rarely do the individual Christian have their own Bible, a personal one. To me, this should be one of the objectives of the Synod. If the Bible, as stated by the Fathers, contains "the letter of God's love to men", why hold back or, worse yet, avoid handing it over? Actually, we have been asked to double the commitment to guide its reading. The people need to learn to pray with the Bible. Unfortunately, the inquiry shows that only a small minority does this. Instead this is exactly what we must do: help our faithful and all those coming to the Biblical text to enter into the mysterious and salvific dialogue that weaves together the entire Scripture. Reading the Bible opens the mind and warms the heart.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Jabulani NXUMALO, O.M.I., Archbishop of Bloemfontein (SOUTH AFRICA)
Up to date experience is this: Small Christian communities and neighbourhood groups, that gather for any task, on a regular basis, but have made it a rule that before any engagement, sometime be devoted to prayerful reading of the Sacred text and break bread of the Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, reflect on the Word and share prayer. These groups or Small Christian communities are energised and actually grow infused with joy and vigour of life for Jesus Christ is present in their midst. (DV 2) This also improves the quality of parochial liturgy celebrations. Therefore, this Synod is not discussing the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church in. the void. While it seeks to intensify the promotion of Scripture in the life of the Church, this session is, at the same time, inspired by what is already happening and growing in the bosom of the Church. There is a conjunctive dialectic in this event, for the Synod Fathers feel stimulated by what is already happening in the field and in turn affirm and encourage the ministers of the Word and further formation to bring to maturity what is already being done in the context of the Mission of the Church. In other words, it is a matter of consolidating what has already been initiated, though still at the incipient stage in many parts of the world, and to stimulate further growth and development of this spiritual and Biblical pastoral enterprise.
Therefore, as part of development of this enterprise, Lectio Divina, the Seven Steps method, and other cognate process methods of reading of Scripture and prayerful reflection should be made accessible to all the members of the Church. (DV 22)This calls for a great investment spiritually, in personnel for this ministry: the clergy, the religious, laity and the youth, following the challenge of Vatican II (DV 24) for there is an ardent desire to make Scripture the soul of the life and the Mission of the Church. Consequently, this is a call to develop vigorously and to establish more centres for Biblical Apostolate and for formation in the methods and art of the reading of Scripture, reflection on the Word and Biblical prayer, and for deepening knowledge of the Scriptures. Those already in existence have proved their worth and should be equipped with dedicated personnel. Finally, and more basic, is the provision of language translations of the Bible in local tongues in order to reach every corner of the earth.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Jesús PÉREZ RODRÍGUEZ, O.F.M., Archbishop of Sucre (BOLIVIA)
It is necessary to highlight the intrinsic, vital and permanent relationships that exist between the Bible and catechesis. In effect, we know well that the use that was made of the Bible in the catechetical work was fragmented, limited and, at certain times exploited. Little by little, we did not go to the source to drink, there where life is born, but stayed downstream. The Sacred Scripture, rather, became merely a support and not the normative and vital source of the same.
As a professional of the Word of God, the catechist has to know Sacred Scripture, to know how to translate the mystery of salvation, contained therein, in an accessible and understandable language that helps to teach the faith of his own community in the context in which this lives and thus will be able to provide creative replies to the appeals of God that arrive through the challenges presented by global reality. That is why the Bolivian Conference considers it a challenge to adapt the Biblical language to the needs and languages of today, to the modern world.
The community catechesis, in its practice, has to provide some keys of reading that could help them, on the one hand, to respect the sacred text, and, on the other, to correctly interpret it for the life of the persons and peoples.
In the primary relationship between the Bible and catechesis, the Bible has to be understood and accepted as a source and not as a mere educational resource or a simple support to contents.
It is very important to distinguish between catechesis in general and Biblical catechesis in particular. It is necessary that the Biblical text reaches all, starting with children. The Bolivian Church is unable to do this. For this reason, it asks the Churches with greater economic means to help those with less means to buy the Scared Scripture.
At the same time, we believe that we could declare a World Day of the Bible, as there are already some countries who already hold not just a day of the Bible but even a month of the Bible.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Musie GHEBREGHIORGHIS, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop of Emdeber (ETHIOPIA)
As it is for all Christian churches, for the Eritrean-Ethiopian tradition the Bible is "the inspired Word", "the Word of God". One of the Biblical witnesses invoked in support of this affirmation is the passage from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says: "All scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be upright. This is how someone who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work."
The sacred authors are enlightened, rather "inhabited" by the Holy Spirit. All the books of the Bible which are considered canonical by other Christian churches are such also for the Eritrean-Ethiopian Church which, moreover, possesses the greatest number of inspired books: 81 books, 46 in the Old and 35 in the New Testament. In the Eritrean-Ethiopian tradition, the concept of canons is flexible and tends to include, rather than exclude. The inspiration which gave life to the sacred books is conceived of as a dynamic process which continues within the community of believers. The vast patrimony of the Christian tradition is rightly considered as irradiation, many texts as seeds of the Word of God. This is why certain Biblical texts present in the canons of the Eritrean-Ethiopian Church are described as awald (sons, progeny [of the Bible]).
The Eritrean-Ethiopian tradition views the translation of Biblical texts from their original languages to geez and their interpretation as two sisters, two sides of the same coin. The same Spirit which illuminated the sacred author also guides the heart and mind of the interpreter who, with faith, searches for the mystery enclosed in the word. The commentaries known as andemta have above all an everlasting pedagogical value. The first step, the fundamental step, is the learning of the Word. One reads the geez text and translates it into modern language seeking to include the various shades of meaning of the original. Grammatical analysis follows the lectio, and a discussion of the eventual questions of textual criticism. The first key to its understanding is to be found within the Bible. Explaining the Bible with Bible itself is one of the fundamental elements of Eritrean-Ethiopian hermeneutics. Furthermore, the Fathers of the Church are a source which interpreters embrace completely .
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Miguel Angel SEBASTIÁN MARTÍNEZ, M.C.C.I., Bishop of Lai (CHAD)
I speak on behalf of the Episcopal Conference of Chad. This country, in the center of Africa, has only been evangelized for a few years. Our Church, Family of God in Chad, opted, as per the wish of the Synod for Africa, for ecclesial base communities. These communities are nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist. During the weekly meetings, one reads the Word, pray and look for what Christians must do to change all the things in their lives that do not conform to the Gospel. The Christians meet on Sundays, but many of them only for the celebration of the Word, because we do not have enough priests. In our country, we live very conflictual social and political situations, above all due to an unending war, lasting over forty years. We are convinced that the Word of God is a word of Peace, a word that announces Peace and calls for Peace, calls for forgiveness, reconciliation and justice. Listening and the prayer of the Word of God are essential to the life and the mission of our Church. This is a challenge for us all!
The Word of God enlightens us and encourages us to commit ourselves for the promotion of men and women in Chad. Our country is an impoverished country, despite our natural riches, because of this we commit to integral human development. We take on this task with our Protestant brothers as well. We have another challenge to face, spreading the Word of God, because of the high rate of illiteracy, the lack of Bibles translated in the local languages and the cost of Bibles. We commit ourselves to the Biblical Apostolate.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph Mukasa ZUZA, Bishop of Mzuzu (MALAWI)
On behalf of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), I would like to say that most of our small Christian Communities (SCC) depend and live on the Word of God since they have the Eucharist once a month and some may have the Eucharist once in three months or more. They live on the Word of God.
It is therefore important for us to form the different agents of evangelization as well as our Christians in Lectio Divina and sharing the Word. We do appreciate the example of Mary, Our Mother in listening, pondering and living the Word of God (Luke 2, 19).
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Antons JUSTS, Bishop of Jelgava (LETTONIA)
In my address I refer to the number 28 of the Instrumentum Laboris: the word speeds on (cf. 2. Thess 3:1) and descends as a fruitful rain from heaven (cf. Is 55:10-11). In my presentation I like to ta1k about the martyrs of twenty century and in particular those in my country Latvia These are the priests, men and women who died by proclaiming the Word of God.
I remember our Latvian priest, Viktors, who during the Soviet regime in Latvia was arrested for possessing the Holy Bible. In the eyes of the Soviet agents the Holy Scriptures were an antirevolutionary book. The agents threw the Holy Scriptures on the floor and ordered the priest to step on it. The priest refused and instead knelt down and kissed the book. For this gesture the priest was condemned to l0 years of the hard labor in Siberia. l0 years later when the priest returned to his parish and celebrated the Holy Mass, he read the Gospel. Then he lifted up the lectionary and said: "The Word of God"! The people cried and thanked God. They did not dare to applaud him, because that would be understood as another provocation.
In Latvia during the Soviet era no religious books, no Holy Scriptures, no catechisms were allowed to be printed. The reasoning was, if there is no printed Word of God, there will be no religion. Our Latvian people did what the first century Christians did: they learnt the passages of the Holy Scriptures by heart. Still today in Latvia there is an oral tradition alive. We stand on the shou1ders of our martyrs to proclaim the Word of God. Our grandchildren remember their grandfathers and grandmothers, who died for their faith and they like to be, in their turn, the "HEROS" of faith.
In Latvia we proclaim the living Word of God! We go in the processions and on the pilgrimages, we sing songs and we pray and say: "This is the Word of God", for which our grandparents died. In Latvia when the Holy Mass is only one hour long, the people say it' s on1y a worm for the real encounter with God in Sacrament and His Word.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Néstor Rafael HERRERA HEREDIA, Bishop of Machala (ECUADOR)
If the Word of God is the source of life for the Church and the soul of its evangelization action, Pastoral Biblical work becomes important and necessary, which implies:
1. Making the Word of God, the Bible, available to all
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Divine Revelation says that the faithful should be able to easily access the Sacred Scriptures and the Word of God should be available to all at all times (DV 22). Thank God today, as at the beginning of the Church, the Bible is translated in several languages that makes it accessible to all. The New Evangelization is done with and starting from the Bible. In Latin America the Bible is widely spread in the communities, groups and in the apostolic movements, especially through catechesis.
2. Reading the Bible in daily life
The principle aim of pastoral Biblical work is not only to proclaim the Bible by reading it, but to interpret life with its help. Christian communities, groups and movements acquainted with the knowledge of the Bible are sure that through it God speaks to them directly and they consider it written for the individual.
3. Reading the Bible in the light of faith
Reading the Bible for the faithful is the exercise of faith. In fact, the Bible should be read in a prayer environment in a way that the Spirit can clarify its sense and reveal the reality through which the Lord speaks to us. A privileged way is the Lectio Divina that, with its four moments: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation, enhances the personal encounter with Christ (A 249).
4. As a transforming force
The Christian community takes the Word of God seriously. It does not read it only to understand it, but to try to put it into practice. The people search in the Bible for a sense to life and they find it because they are sure that it is God Himself who speaks to them. Reading the Bible leads to conversion because it is an authoritative book, inspired by God and that requires obedience.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Eugène Lambert Adrian RIXEN, Bishop of Goiás (BRAZIL)
One of the great achievements of the Biblical path in our country was that the Bible is the privileged book of catechesis, which does not accomplish its mission until the faithful have discovered the importance of having the Word of God in their hands and living by it. Without a doubt, through the transformation and movement it inspires, the Bible, in Brazil, is the most widely read book, loved and lived by the faithful. Between us, a catechetical project that does not use the Bible as its foundation is unacceptable.
In our country, catechesis has the Holy Scripture as its first source, read, explained and prayed in the context of the Tradition and the Magisterium, giving the starting point, the foundation and the norm of what is proclaimed to the faithful so that they may missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, fervent dynamic and prophets. And one of the characteristics of catechesis, between us, is that it is the work by which the faithful discover the way God acts today, here and again, in the place where he put us to witness His love and His liberating action.
It is important here to read what the bishops present at the Second Latin American Episcopal Conference in Medellin said (1968): "In catechesis, the Holy Scripture must be taken as the main source read in the context of life in the light of the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church, transmitting, beyond all this, the symbol of faith; therefore importance will be given to the Biblical Apostolate in spreading the Word of God, forming Biblical groups" (cf. Medellin).
In Santo Domingo in 1992, the importance of the Bible in catechesis was recalled: "New Evangelization must emphasize a kerygmatic and missionary catechesis. It is necessary for the vitality of the ecclesial community to have more catechists and pastoral agents. In possession of a more solid knowledge of the Bible, forming its reading, in the light of the Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church and to enlighten from the Word of God, its own personal, community and social reality" (SD 49).
The Fifth Conference in 2007, forcefully confirms a Biblical, kerygmatic, missionary and mystagogical catechesis. It recalls the importance of starting with the kerygma, guided by the Word of God who approaches the person of Jesus Christ, leading to conversions and to commitment to an ecclesial community where sacramental practice and service can mature (cf. DA 288). Catechesis must be mystagogical, that is to say have an experimental, liturgical. Celebrative and bending characteristic (cf. DA 289). It also underlines: "Christian initiation gives the possibility of a gradual apprenticeship in the knowledge, the love and the path in the following of Christ" (DA 291).
As stated in the Lineamenta, we must recall the ministry of the Word in pastoral preaching, in catechesis and in all forms of Christian education. The liturgical homily must retain a privileged place in the celebration, be nourished in a healthy way and reinvigorated in a holy way by the Word of the Scripture (cf. Lineamenta, no. 23)
It is necessary to underline the importance of the prayed reading of the Bible on the personal and community level and to promote a catechesis that is an initiation to the Holy Spirit that enlivens catechetical programs and its own catechisms, preaching and popular piety (cf. Instrumentum laboris, no 32).
In all integral catechesis, the following must always be united in an inseparable way: knowledge of the Word of God, celebration of the faith in the sacraments and the profession of faith in daily life (cf. 1977 Synod, Message to the People of God, no. 11).
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Patrick Altham KELLY, Archbishop of Liverpool (GREAT BRITAIN)
Dialogue with Jews and with Muslims
The nature of dialogue in other disciplines
The implications of convictions rooted in specific events in the fidelity of Jews, Christians, Muslims.
The New Testament as both a witness to one Person and specific events yet bearing witness in such a way that dialogue is essential for fidelity to that foundational text and so, perhaps, despite bearing as witness to Someone and specific events, not an obstacle a priori, to dialogue with Jews and Muslims.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Paolo PEZZI, F.S.C.B., Archbishop of God Mother's in Moscow (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
In this historical moment, the Word of God cannot be separated from the event of Jesus Christ. He is the Logos (Word), the Father's communication, His face (cf. Col 1,15). At the same time, we cannot forget that the words and deeds of Jesus were handed down through the work and suggestion (inspiration) of the Holy Spirit Himself. His life was transmitted and such transmission continues until our days. In this sense the words of Benedict XVI, at the beginning of his encyclical letter on charity are decisive: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction".
In present relativism, which leans to level off any differences, so that all words are valid and none is more valid than the other, where all is reduced to a game of opinions, the Biblical word must incarnate itself in the beauty of its witnesses, if it wants to draw the world towards the truth. In Instrumentum Laboris (48), it is cleverly pointed out that "Making the Word of God and the Sacred Scriptures the soul of his pastoral activity, the bishop is capable of bringing the faithful to encounter Christ" [...] "so that, through their own experience, the faithful will see that the words of Jesus are spirit and life (cf. Jn 6:63) [...]".
The announcement of the Word of God, should therefore have as its scope making persons, so to speak, that they are in the presence of the living Person: be witnesses of the Person of Jesus Christ, the Logos became flesh. Or according to Saint Paul's splendid words: it should be " a clear picture of Jesus Christ crucified, right in front of your eyes". The Word of God is a source of an evermore deep and authentic knowledge of Christ, of "the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ" (2 Co 4:6). Such glory of Christ kindles a fire in us, becomes a desire to witness Him.It is said in Instrumentum Laboris (54) that "listening to the Word of God is a priority for our ecumenical commitment". It is necessary to renew among Christians the tension towards the person of Christ Himself, the desire to understand and know more deeply His mystery. Through the encounter with the Word made flesh, made possible by the Spirit, we rediscover communion with Him: it is the force of the Spirit of the Risen Christ that attracts the scattered people towards His only body.
[Original text: Italian]
-- Rev. Father Antonio PERNIA, S.V.D., Superior General of the Society of the Divine Word
In reference to Part III of the Instrumentum Laboris, I endorse the point that is being made in this section, namely, the centrality of the Word of God in the mission of the Church. And I wish to do so by offering a re-formulation of the title of this section and say "the Word of God IS the mission of the Church".
This idea is based on Vatican II's assertion regarding the Trinitarian origin of mission (AG 1-2, 9). The vision here is of the Triune God as communion and dialogue between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This inner communion or dialogue overflows into - or better, embraces - creation and history. Mission, then, is the Triune God' s ongoing dialogue with. the world and with humanity, a dialogue that invites and draws humanity into full communion with the Divine community. The primary agent of God' s ongoing dialogue with the world is the Word of God himself Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is God's Word to humanity. He is God's ongoing dialogue with the world. The Divine Logos is God's dia-logus with the world. The Church exists in order to collaborate with God' s ongoing dialogue with the world. The Word of God is the reason of its being, the sustenance of its life, the heart of its activity.
Thus, seen under the lens of the Word of God, the mission of the Church needs to be understood in terms of dialogue. For the Gospel we proclaim is God's invitation to dialogue. We need, therefore, to regard the different groups of people with whom we seek te share the Gospel (IL 42) as "dialogue partners". Dialogue, however, implies that evangelization is not a one-way activity but a two-way exchange of gifts between the missionary and the people. Consequently the missionary must be ready to evangelize and be evangelized, to speak and to listen, to give and receive. Vatican II' s document, Dei Verbum, puts this nicely by saying "Dei Verbum audiens et proclamans": listening to the Word of God and proclaiming it (DV l). The missionary Church proclaims the Word of God, but also listens to it - as it is revealed in Sacred Scriptures, but also in ''the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men [and women] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted" (GS 1).
Consecrated men and women, especially the missionaries who are engaged in mission at the frontiers of our faith and the margins of society, can be the "hearing aid" of the Church, as they endeavor to listen to the Word of God revea1ed particularly in the lives of people, in the searching of faith-seekers, in the cultural and religious traditions of peoples of other faiths, in the aspirations of the poor and marginalized.. As such, the consecrated life can contribute to making the Church a community that not only proclaims but also listens - "Dei Verbum audiens et proclamans".
[Original text: English]