Synod Interventions of 9th General Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2008 ( Here are summaries of the interventions given Friday afternoon at the ninth 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.»

* * *

— H.E. Most. Rev. Cornelius Fontem ESUA, Archbishop of Bamenda (CAMEROON)

The Church in Cameroon, like the other young Churches in Africa has a high rate of growth. There is urgent need to deepen the faith of the neophytes, particularly the youth, who are becoming victims of materialism, secularization and relativism. A number of them have relapsed to the practice of African Traditional Religion because Christianity does not seem to answer all their questions especially in times of crises. Moreover, the African Traditional Religion and the traditional family structures on which this religion is based are collapsing. Some Christians are taking refuge in secret societies, sects and new religious movements, hoping to find in them security and answers to the deeper questions of life.

Fortunately, there is a growing thirst and hunger for the Word of God. It is necessary and urgent to put the Sacred Scriptures into the hands of the faithful so that they can become life for them in their professions, in their families and various life situations as well as the source and inspiration of the life and activities of the Small Christian Communities. There is also the urgency to inculturate the Christian faith and to dialogue with the African Traditional Religion. For an effective inculturation, the Word of God should be deeply rooted in the hearts of the people and become flesh in them. We therefore suggest that:

1. The Bishops’ Conferences and the Dioceses give priority to the Biblical Pastoral Ministry and appoint people to promote and coordinate it at various levels in order that the Word of God may be at the basis of all our pastoral activities.

2. Priests, Religious and the laity be given appropriate formation to become agents of the Biblical Apostolate. A course on the Biblical Pastoral Ministry be introduced in the Seminary curriculum and in Formation Houses to prepare future priests and religious for this ministry.

3. There be general biblical formation of all the faithful, and particularly the youth, not only in specialized institutes but also through regular biblical conferences and Bible Congresses in order to make them more conscious of the importance of the Word of God in their lives.

4. Since the Christian family is the Domestic Church and the place where all education and formation in the faith begins, the Bible be enthroned in every Christian home for reading, prayer, study and veneration. Women be given appropriate biblical formation in order to be able to promote the use of the Word of God in the family.

5. The Bible be translated into the local languages as the first step of inculturation and in order to make the Word of God more accessible to the faithful in their own language. Each Christian should own a Bible, read it and make it a reference document or a «vademecum».

6. As the Apostle Paul says: «Faith comes from hearing» (Rom. 10:17). The peoples of Africa believe strongly in the power of the word, especially the spoken word. Many of them have no access to script media either because it is too expensive or because the majority of them cannot read or write. It is necessary to provide them with the Scriptures in audio-visual form.

7. Greater emphasis be laid on the Word of God in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and of the Sacramentals.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

8. Following the example of the Fathers of the Early Church, Christian formation be centered on the Word of God and the homilies be more biblical in content in order to nourish the faithful with the Word of God.

9. A Biblical Institute be established in Africa in order to promote biblical research in the context of the Church in Africa.

10. Finally, a Pontifical Council be instituted for the promotion of the teaching of Dei Verbum, particularly Chapter Six.

[Original text: English]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Francis DENIAU, Bishop of Nevers (FRANCE)

It is in studying its own mystery that the Church refers to the Jewish people (Nostra aetate 4). It is not an external reality nor is the Jewish-Christian dialogue a kind of interreligious dialogue. It even touches the interior of the Church and the mystery of faith.

Nostra aetate invites us to a Biblical dialogue. Christians have always been tempted to speak about the Jews in the past tense. In speaking about the Jewish people as our elderly brothers, John Paul II sees us as brothers belonging to the same generation. We are «co-heirs» (Jean-Marie Lustiger) of the same inheritance, the Old Testament. We read it differently. For the Jews, through the oral Torah (written in the Talmud, but pursued with many interpretations); for us through the New Testament and the Christian Tradition (without forgetting that for us well oral tradition precedes the written one), in insisting on the unity of the two Testaments, around the figure of Christ Jesus.

The Jewish-pharisaic reading and the Christian reading have developed simultaneously. For us Christians, the Jewish reading, completely different from ours, is not any less possible or legitimate and can teach us a lot (22).

Central points: that our reading of the Old Testament should leave space for the Jewish reading; that our reading of the NT should not create antisemitism; to speak about Jews in the present tense and not in the past tense; to revisit the idea of achievement (PcB 21); to underline the eschatological dimension of expectations common to Jews and Christians, even if they are very different; to be attentive to the universal mission present in the Jewish tradition; even if the «no» of the Jews to Jesus hurts us, we have to try to perceive what the Jews see as faithfulness to God and to their own vocation; to study in depth Romans 9-11; to promote dialogue beyond the specialistic kind, in the parishes and the movements.

[Original text: French]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Antonio MENEGAZZO, M.C.C.J., Titular Bishop of Mesarfelta, El Obeid (SUDAN)

In Sudan there is a great hunger for the Word of God and this is proven by the large number of Christians that call for the Bible.

Our Christians await from this Assembly help to more easily reach the Word of God: that is to say, making the Bible more accessible to all classes of the population, especially with translations in the various languages of the tribes.

Priests, religious persons are committed to spreading, praying the Bible with groups of faithful and in guiding these groups to the right understanding of the Word of God, however greater effort is required of them.

The Word of God has not penetrated deeply enough in the heart and mind of many of our Christians: they still have not managed to completely change their mentality: their culture has not been purified by the Word of God. Very often they are incapable of finding a solution to their problems and still turn, rather too easily, to the old customs.

Lack of education is rather wide-spread and often God speaks to them in a language they do not understand. Furthermore, the Bible has only been translated into a few of the languages of the many tribes. We expect a greater effort on the part of the Church and Catholic organizations to help with translations and train experts for these translations.

The Word of God is the center of Christian life and therefore should be the center of preparation of the catechumens to Baptism. In Sudan, the majority of catechumens do not know how to read or write: as a result of this to prepare them properly for Baptism, the Catechists must explain the Word to them with posters, drawings and their own words.This poses a great dilemma: poorly prepared Catechists, since they are poorly educated, and catechumens who wish to become disciples of Christ: they learn catechism and the truth of the holy faith by rote, with a poor knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. What is to be done? Can they be baptized? We must not forget that the grace of God also works in these new humble Christians.

We have another great challenge for Justice and Peace, and forgiveness and reconciliation, after 21 years opf civil 3war between the North and South of the country, after so much hatred, injustice and suffering. Even after the peace treaty between North and South, the situation is not at all clear or encouraging. And let us not forget the war in Darfur, which continues with no sign of improvement on the situation. We are convinced that the solution for a peaceful future can only be found in faith in God and to His Word.

Eucharist and Word of God, the binomial that can bring peace and serenity to all hearts: but what can we do when the distances are enormous and the lack of security because of wars and banditry makes contact between priests and the faithful very difficult and dangerous? And the lack of priests is another negative factor. Many Christians can receive the Word of God and the Eucharist only rarely, perhaps a few times a year. What is required is more missionary spirit throughout the clergy and more generosity from the countries rich in clergy to help those who find themselves in serious need.

[Original text: Italian]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Raymondo DAMASCENO ASSIS, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of Latin American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.AM.) (BRAZIL)

Vatican Council II made an affirmation that appears obvious, but is not so in reality, and thus opened up a wide horizon. It affirms that Sacred Scripture, the Word of God written «under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit» (DV 11) is «like the soul of sacred theology» (DV 24), as well as «the support and vigor of the Church and, for the children of the Church, the strength of their faith, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life» (DV 21). This last affirmation took shape during the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held last year in Aparecida, when a change of perspective was proposed, a change that consists of moving from a Biblical pastoralism to «a Biblical animation of the whole of the pastoral» (DA 248).Therefore, such indications have a direct repercussion on the formation of future priests. Priestly formation in today’s world has to place the Word of God at its center as His Holiness Benedict XVI reminded us in his opening speech at Aparecida: «At the start of this new phase the Missionary Church of Latin America and the Caribbean is about to set out on […] a profound knowledge of the Word of God is absolutely indispensable». On that occasion the Pontiff also spoke of the urgent need «to base our missionary efforts and all our lives on the rock that is the Word of God» (DA 247).

In the current context of Latin America and the Caribbean it is necessary and urgent that the formation project and the planning of seminaries, other than privileging an academic formation in the Holy Scriptures, takes greater care to train the young in a solid Biblical spirituality, making creative use of all the means available and paying particular attention to the Lectio Divinis. The challenge is to ensure that the priests of the future, from the start of their formal formation, learn to look at their lives in the mirror of the Word of God and that they attain knowledge of God at the living spring of his Word. With this aim, it is necessary that they learn to be always and profoundly in touch with the Word of God not just for functional motives, in other words for academic o
r pastoral reasons, but with the aim that this constitutive and structural element should forge their plan of life during their initial formation and continue to do so even after they have been ordained. Equally, without ever renouncing the higher level of Biblical studies a future priest has to undertake, we must not forget that his work will take place principally in the ecclesial community. This also renders necessary and urgent a scrupulous preparation to be able to carry out a suitable «Biblical animation of the pastoral», without losing sight of the fact that, by its nature, the gift of the prophetic Word requires ministers who are pedagogues of the faith and who know how to place «at the start» of every Church activity the living and invigorating seed of the Holy Word.

Finally, it is necessary that future priests learn to eat every day of the Bread of the Word and to meet Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. Only in this way will they be able to forge a solid and vigorous spirituality, fed on the Gospel, and thus be able to ensure that the Word of God be really «the spirit of evangelization and the announcement of Jesus to all» (DA 248).

[Original text: Spanish]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Lucio Andrice MUANDULA, Bishop of Xai-Xai (MOZAMBIQUE)

Recalling the accurate plea by John Paul II to humanity: «Peoples everywhere, open the doors to Christ! His Gospel in no way detracts from man’s freedom, from the respect that is owed to every culture and to whatever is good in each religion» (RM 3) and considering that «the Synod intends to treat the topic of the Word with which ‘the invisible God (cf. Col 1:15, 1 Tim 1:17), out of the abundance of his love, speaks to men as friends (cf. Ex. 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and lives among them (cf. Bar 3:38), so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself’ (DV 2)» [Cf. Instrumentum laboris, no.4], it would seem that the greatest contribution this Synodal Assembly could offer the Church is that of recuperating the relevance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

Not all the faithful know the Word of God and it is urgent to begin and encourage more frequent reading and meditation on the Bible. Listening to the Word of God in the Eucharistic celebration, in fact, is not enough to satisfy what the Dei Verbum recommends: «Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful» (DV 22).

Therefore, the entire Church needs to commit to a Biblical pastoral ministry together, developed so that every single Christian family, apart from having the Word of God translated in their language, may touch upon the most elementary meaning, to transmit to their children, from generation to generation, the true content of the Saving Word of God, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh.

[Original text: Italian]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Ramzi GARMOU, Archbishop of Teheran of the Chaldeans, President of the Episcopal Conference Patriarcal Administrator of Ahwaz the Chaldeans (IRAN)

The whole Bible, from the Book of Genesis to Revelation, tells us that faithfulness to the Word of God leads to persecution. The first persecuted person, par excellence, is Jesus Himself, who suffered persecution from the first days of His birth to His death on the Cross. According to the Gospel, persecution is considered as the most eloquent sign of faithfulness to the Word of God. The growth of the Church and her own path in evangelizing people is the fruit of the persecution she was subjected to in all places and in all times. Jesus, in the Gospel, speaks very clearly about persecution (Lk 21:12-19). Let us pray to the Holy Spirit so that He may give the Church of the third millennium, in this Pauline year, the grace and joy of a true experience of persecution for its faithfulness to the Word of God.

[Original text: French]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Fidèle AGBATCHI, Archbishop of Parakou (BENIN)

Happily, the Holy Synod holds firmly to the strict identification of the Word of God with the Person of Jesus Christ, in such a way that what is said about the Word is also stated about the cycle of the Incarnate Word. On this basis, the cycle of the Word, in the different phases knowledgeable in his encounter with human culture, could be summarized as follows:

– When the Word is made flesh, he enters into human culture, he is incultured. This being done he acts on free decision, based on Love which leads us to God’s salvation. Therefore, inculturation does not only base itself on a specific practice tied to the apostolate or to liturgy, but above all to a loving initiative of God to save the fallen man from sin. The very first to achieve Inculturation in its most perfect form is therefore Jesus Christ, inculturation personified.

– In inculturating the Word incultures, He who is non-culture accepts adhering to one – which is tainted by sin – and be submitted to its influence.

– In inculturating, the Word inculturates. Human culture is influenced by the Word, which comes with it. The Word proposes and impresses its divine influence, which presupposes that culture is open to welcome this influence and to gain something of the divinity.

In this whole process, the Word decultures. Like the grape-picker prunes the vine, the Word means to tear away those elements in culture that do not conform to its image. This is what Yahweh achieves when he tells Israel to never again say on his world: «The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; the children’s teeth are set on edge.» This is the same battle Jesus Christ fights in trying to eradicate sin and its consequences from culture. This battle, Jesus takes it even as far as the destruction of the Temple which he proposes rebuilding at the end of three days. And like the Temple of His Body arises from the tomb, thus decultured culture acquires the promise of life through the Resurrection of Christ.

This complex Paschal adventure is where the process of inculturation takes place, which must be simultaneously and adequately discerned in all its phases, to avoid the risks of regrettable drifting during the practice.

As Incarnation is the future of the world, thus Inculturation is the future of all forms of apostolate, be it Biblical, kerygmatic or sacramental. In this sense, I would like to advance these proposals:

-that the kerygma today be covered with the same eschatological color as at the beginnings of the Church. The future of faith is in heaven, but heaven is already on earth with salvation in Jesus Christ. This should be taught and lived.

-That the method of inculturation be inscribed in a straight line with the movement unfettered by the Word in Incarnation, he whom we have called Inculturation personified.

[Original text: French]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Dionisio LACHOVICZ, O.S.B.M., Titular Bishop of Egnazia, Bishop of curia of Kyiv-Halyč (UKRAINE)

The first observation concerns the unity of the Word with both Baptism and the Eucharist:

Instrumentum laboris states that «Christians have two realities in common: the Word of God and Baptism» (No. 54). This should be studied, because otherwise it might appear to be a half-unity, since, in number 35, it is stated that an intimate unity between the Word and Eucharist also exists, with the support of quotations from Church Tradition: «Corpus Christi intelligitur etiam Scriptura Dei», or in the words of Saint Jerome: «It is, indeed, true food and true beverage the Word of God that is attained from the knowledge of the Scriptures». The Second Vatican Council also affirms that the Word and Eucharist form «one single act of worship» (SC 56).

To sum up, the intimate unity between the Word and Baptism, as between the Word and the Eucharist, is affirmed.

In these terms, it becomes difficult to understand, from the point of view of Ecumenism, why the Eucharist cannot be celebrated with the Orthodox (for example), while we can celebrate the sacrament of the Word of God with them and we also have Baptism in common. If this unity between the Word, Baptism and Eucharist exists, why deny Eucharistic com

On the other hand, with the same logic of unity, but in reverse, as was said by the Orthodox Archbishop (Agostino di Lviv, from the Theological Commission of the Patriarchate of Moscow), when Eucharistic communion does not exist, the Word cannot be celebrated together nor can we pray the «Our Father» together with Catholics. Thus with this logic, from the Orthodox point of view Catholic Baptism cannot be accepted as valid, as affirmed sometimes during ecumenical encounters. Nor is it possible to call each other «brothers».

A second observation concerning «Ecumenism and the Word of God»:

How can we read and comment on the Word of God with other Confessions, for example, the text «May they all be one» (Jn 17: 20), when we cannot incarnate this Word? The Word becomes sterile. When you are not able or you do not want to incarnate this Word, then why read it? Pope Benedict XVI says this, that the world awaits «a response to listening to the Word» (Inst. 54).

We have a feeling that everything that is said about ecumenism is being said for others, for a «third» party, absent at the time it was said. As if this Word could make a miracle but we remain the same.

An example, in the Ukraine we prepared an ecumenical translation of the Bible, with the collaboration of the Orthodox and the Protestants, but we cannot pray or celebrate together with them.

And the third observation:

It seems to me also that we are running the risk of exploiting the Word of God. This could become an «instrument» of discussion, of study, of dialogue, of encounter, even of common prayer, it remains superficial, without the strength to change, it does not lead to the common mystery of the celebration of the Word, it does not become flesh-sarx, that is to say does not become incarnate in the person’s life and in that of one’s own Church. One could learn the whole Bible by heart, discuss it competently, but remain outside of it, without nourishing one’s self with it, without being incorporated in Christ, without being baptized in Christ.

Perhaps this detachment between the Word and life is the real impediment to Christian unity. The Churches prefer the words, but do not give to the Word of God the necessary witness. Maybe the Word is too «canonized», sterilized, which creates an obstacle to the diaconia, the koinonia and also the martiria.

Therefore, we have to be responsible before the Word of God. No doubt, a lot is said about the responsibility of bringing the Word to others, about preaching the Word, but perhaps less is said about the responsibility of the person who preaches it, about their own Church and the Churches responsibility to the Word of God. How can one then understand the saying that the Word of God is read in the Church, with the Church and, for the Church? Maybe Saint Paul’s warning should be taken more seriously: «When someone is under instruction in doctrine, he should give his teacher a share in all his possessions. Don’t delude yourself: God is not to be fooled» (Ga 6: 6s).

[Original text: Italian]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Berhaneyesus Demerew SOURAPHIEL, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba, President of the Episcopal Conference, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church (ETHIOPIA)

1) The Word of God was the source of Ethiopic Literature. The Bible was translated into Ethiopic between the 4th and the 6th century AD.

2) Some books are preserved in their entirety only in Classical Ethiopic and parts of the Ethiopian Biblical Canon are precious for biblical scholarship;
The Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees are important works for understanding the context of Second Temple Judaism, Qumran and the origins of Christianity. They are also significant for the study of apocalyptic literature.

3) The Ethiopian Bible society is doing a lot for the translation of the Bible in local and regional languages (inc1uding cassettes, CDs, a device called «Proclaimer» which works even with solar energy);

The Board Members of the Bible Society are 24: 8 from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 8 from the Catholic Church and 8 from the Evangelical Church. This is a good example for Ecumenical cooperation. The President of the Board, at the moment, is Catholic.

4) There is a project of a Catholic edition of the Bible in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia (close to the New Revised Standard Version and the Jerusalem Bible) which needs urgent funding.

5) Biblical Course by Distance Learning: organized by the archdiocese of Addis Abeba. About 3500 faithful from Addis and outside Addis are attending this course. The Archdiocese is also offering a yearly biblical course every Saturday at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady, Addis Abeba.

[Original text: English]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation