* * *
— H. Em. Card. Peter Kodwo Appiah TURKSON, Archbishop of Cape Coast, President of the Association to the Episcopal Conference of West Africa” (A.C.E.A.O.) (GHANA)
In this hymn, we profess our faith in the presence of Jesus in the bread of the Eucharist and worship him. While the hymn affirms the presence of Christ in the bread of the Eucharist, it also affirms his hiddenness: concealed by the same Eucharistic bread, which reveals him. Our affirmation of the real presence of Jesus in the bread of the Eucharist is based on another belief that, at the epiclesis during Mass, the bread becomes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ. Thus, in the Eucharist, the bread reveals a reality (the person of Jesus); but, in so doing, the person of Jesus makes the Eucharistic bread a sign of his presence. The Eucharistic presence of Jesus, then, is mediated by the sign of the bread of the Eucharist, and is inseparable from it.
The same may be said about the Scriptures (Bible)! For, the Scriptures too, are inspired (2 Tm 3,16). In the power of the same Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are enabled to express and to reveal Jesus, the Eternal Word of God.
The Scriptures: the words and work of Moses and scribes at shrines and in the courts, the words and writings of prophets, the teachings and writings of priests at shrines and at the temple, the works of sages, the letters of Paul, James and John, the Gospels of the evangelists etc., all these works of men (human beings) have been breathed into (inspired) by the Holy Spirit to become the Word of God. Without losing the traits of the limitations and imperfections of their authors, the limitations of their cultures and worldviews, the limitations of their language etc., these writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit to become the Word of God. Thus, while the Scriptures, by the grace of inspiration and the gift of faith, reveal the person of Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, they, as the works of men, also conceal him. This is the sacramental in character of scriptures. They have the character of a sign, which beckons the reader to go beyond the letter and word to discern in faith the person of Jesus.
The recognition of this has significant implications for our reading of scriptures:
— The truth of scriptures is ultimately the truth of a person, Jesus.
— This truth is both accessible and inaccessible to people. Its access requires faith.
— The search for the meaning and the truth of scriptures cannot be limited to the sign of the word and letter of scriptures.
— Although they have the character of a sign, yet, because scriptures are inspired to mediate the presence of the Word of God, they are unique, irreplaceable, to be respected and taken seriously. This, ultimately, is the reason for the great interest in and the critical study of the sign of the scriptures.[Original text: English]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Anton LEICHTFRIED, Titular Bishop of Rufiniana, Auxiliary Bishop of Sankt Pölten (AUSTRIA)
With reference to Numbers 27 and 37 of the Instrumentum laboris. I ask: How can the “Table of the Word of God” nourish the faithful, now that the liturgical reform has enriched it?
1) Biblical readings in our celebrationsThe texts of Sacred Scripture often seem foreign to many of the faithful. Allow me to make a superficial comparison: like when a fast train goes by in a station. In the same way, the readings of the Sacred Scripture will pass quickly by the ears and eyes of the faithful who cannot get on board and stay on board. Therefore I ask: How seriously do we take Holy Scripture? The answer is: we need to chose carefully the persons for the ministry of reading. The texts of the Holy Scripture must be accurately prepared.
2) The importance of the homily
Fortunately, homilies are a frequent event, thus so is preaching as an interpretation of Scripture. Notwithstanding the “genus literarium”, three tendencies or potential dangers emerge:
a) The homily is only a story told with the words of the Biblical texts, a repetition, or an extension.
b) The homily is only a repetition of daily life , a repetition and extension, with out the light of the Gospel.
c) The homily has nothing to do with the Gospel or with daily life. Using the writings from preaching, word for word, can be useful, but it lacks in personal witness.
Biblical readings during Sunday mass have a special meaning. I would suggest that the least the faithful could do is to read the Gospel ahead of time, even if only for a minute.
Conclusion: The great responsibility and opportunity of the homily: thanks to the homily the faithful should be able to live for a week! We must spend our best efforts for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this reason, we preachers must be well-prepared: with prayer, with exegetical and theological discussion and through daily life lived following the Gospel’s steps.[Original text: German]
— H. Em. Card. George PELL, Archbishop of Sydney (AUSTRALIA)
Bishops are called to clear the way for the Spirit to work effectively when the Word of God encounters individuals and communities. Hence the following suggestions:
1.The formation of young adult lay teams to witness to Christ in youth groups, parishes, schools, and universities.
2.The development of contemporary equivalents of the medieval Mystery Plays to bring the Word of God to the people. The W.Y.D. Ways of the Cross at Sydney and Toronto are two examples: also Oberammergau and “The Passion of the Christ” film.
3.Develop and support online Catholic social networks in cyberspace such as XT3, Christ for the Third Millennium (www.xt3.com), a Catholic “facebook” with almost 40,000 members launched at Sydney W.Y.D. His Holiness Pope Benedict issued a short message to users on the September 8th.
4.The development of a central Institute for Bible Translation so the Bible can be translated more quickly and accurately into local languages in Asia, Africa and Oceania. A collection to help finance the work of translation would be useful.
5.Request the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to produce guidelines on inerrancy in Scripture.[Original text: English]
— H. Em. Card. Angelo SCOLA, Patriarch of Venice (ITALY)
Dei Verbum, 25 exhorts all the faithful “to move voluntarily towards the sacred text through pious reading (“per piam lectionem”)”, linked to prayer: “so that dialogue between God and man may take place”. Pious reading is not merely study, but a personal relationship with the Lord, because “one can read the Bible without faith, but without faith one cannot scrutinize the Word of God” (IL 26a).
Sacred Scripture is the inspired and normative testimony of revelation. The source of the testimony of Scripture is Jesus Christ himself, the faithful witness of the Covenant of God with men. The testimony of the work of salvation of Jesus is at the origin of Scripture. Therefore this can only be adequately understood by the witness. So to be pious, the reading of Scripture has to pass from Witness to witness. The category of witness places the Church in the front line as the subject of pious reading.
This is the road of realism that avoids every fundamentalist and intellectual drift, obstacles in reading that exclude the witness of the Church, where the Word is heard in faith. This understanding of Scripture guarantees the primacy of the personal meeting with Christ, against every reduction of the Word of God to a book.[Original text: Italian]
— H. Em. Card. Stanisław RYŁKO, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (VATICAN CITY)
One of the most precious fruits of Vatican Council II was undoubtedly the wider diffusion of Sacred Scripture and the greater knowledge the people of God acquired of it, according to the theological and pastoral indications provided in the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum.
This also involved the rediscovery of the munus propheticum as a substantial dimension of the identity of the lay faithful (cf Lumen gentium, no. 35).
The rediscovery of the place of the Word of God in the life of the baptized was then especially favored by the ecclesial movements and new communities. In effect, the charisms that the Holy Spirit inspires with such generosity in our age as a timely reply to the challenges that the world hurls at the mission of the Church, have generated pedagogical journeys and paths of Christian initiation centered on the Word of God that is read, meditated on, celebrated and announced (kerygma) and they have proven to be extraordinarily effective. For the many lay people, movements and communities, they have become truly “laboratories of the Word of God” in which we acquire familiarity with Sacred Scripture, we learn to appreciate the Word of God and to live it in the ordinary conditions of lay life at the heart of the world.
Another great sign of hope for the relationship of the baptized with the Word of God comes from the younger generations. The World Youth Days have given and continue to give a notable contribution to the spread of the knowledge of the Word of God among the young. In his message for the WYD 2006, Benedict XVI wrote to the young: “To build your life on Christ, to accept the word with joy and put its teachings into practice: this, young people of the third millennium, should be your program!”[Original text: Italian]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Evarist PINTO, Archbishop of Karachi (PAKISTAN)
The Prophet Amos speaks of the famine of hearing the Word of God (Am 8:11).
Many Catholics today hunger and thirst for the Word of God. In our Country, Pakistan, more than 60% are illiterate and thus are unable to read the Holy Bible, yet they long to hear the Word of God. On the other hand, many people achieve great results in academics but are illiterate with regard to the Word of God. So many of our people including Priests and Consecrated persons are experts in secular subjects but are unable to impart the sublime knowledge of the Bible to the people who hunger and thirst for the Word of God. It is heartening to know that our simple people who struggle with poverty and unemployment hunger for the hope and consolation that the Word of God brings. As the Church offers the Body of Christ from the table of the Eucharist, she offers the Bread of Life from the table of the Word of God (Dei Verbum, No. 21).
We know that it is the primary task of Bishops, Priests and Deacons to teach and instruct the People of God. As Dei Verbum states: bishops have the responsibility to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books (No. 25). Similarly, knowledge of and familiarity with the Word of God is also of prime importance for Priests and Deacons, as collaborators of the Bishop.
The Laity also share the responsibility of bringing the Word to the Faithful. We pay tribute to many Lay Movements and Groups in the Church who have taken up the study and teaching of the Bible. Consecrated persons cannot remain indifferent to the hunger and thirst of our poor and simple people for the Word of God.[Original text: English]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Christo PROYKOV, Titular Bishop of Briula, Apostolic Exarch of Sofia for Catholics of the Slav-Byzantine rite (BULGARIA)
The Lord speaks to man in his own language. Everyone finds themselves in Sacred Scripture.
In Bulgaria after the collapse of the atheist regime in 1989 people feel a genuine hunger for God, they want to know him. The Church does all it can to satisfy this hunger. This is why we expect from this Synod new pointers and plans, an exchange of experiences not only regarding the announcement of the Word of God, but above all on the Word of God in daily life.
We note that the Lectio Divina attracts young people. Christ, the Word of God, is accepted as the center of Revelation and of faith. Often, though, people’s ideas are confused about the relationship between Popular Tradition and Magisterium.
Difficulties are encountered not only because of the lack of knowledge about the Christian faith but because society at all levels has been drawn to consumerism and there truly is a great need to testify about God through a life that conforms to His Word.
The faithful welcome the Word of God with faith, but it is realized that the testimony borne by family life and the spirituality of the person who announces the Word also have an important role.
It is important that the sermon be well connected with the Word of God and explained in a way that is accessible and understandable to everyone. When the faithful understand the Word of God properly, they feel like children of God, full of joy and new hope. An example for all preachers is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who said, “Do whatever he tells you”.[Original text: Italian]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Freddy Antonio de Jesús BRETÓN MARTÍNEZ, Bishop of Baní (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
“For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son…” (Jn 3,16), and he loved his Church so much that in spite of the body which is waiting to be glorified — he built it, as much as the Body of Christ, the Word Incarnate, the Word for the world. On which she feeds and from which she extracts — like the householder — new things as well as old (Mt 13:52) it is the main part of the treasure that the Spirit formed in its breast and that was entrusted. The Scripture is also the heart of the Church and, although it opens to all, it is not allowed to renounce to heart beat of its own theological nature.
This Holy Synod, where our track is the same as Christ’s Path, would do very well to clarify even more that it is not possible to love authentically the Word without loving the Holy Mother Church with intensity similar to that with which saints love it.[Original text: Spanish]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Guy-Paul NOUJAIM, Titular Bishop of Cesarea of Filippi, Auxiliary Bishop of Joubbé, Sarba and Jounieh of the Maronites (LEBANON)
I chose to speak about two aspects mentioned in the “Instrumentum laboris.”
The first one deals with the need to guide the reading of Holy Scripture with a theological formation, without which as underlined by many fathers, understanding this Scripture could become narrow or deformed. Quick discussion comes about with regards to the theological concept of the “Word” as the name of the Son of God who presents a certain ambiguity to the profane. A text by St. Ephraim the Syrian, addressed to the students of his School of Biblical exegesis and to the people, shows this need to unite reading the Scripture and the faith of the Church.
The second aspect is the obstacle of ideological and political exegesis of the Holy Scripture, in particular the question of the Promised Land of Israel by God in the Bible. Some persons take this literally, even today. Catholic hermeneutics on this must urgently be clarified, so that concerned believers may receive the Bible in its totality and in its truth.[Original text: French]
— H. Em. Card. Renato Raffaele MARTINO, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; President of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (VATICAN CITY)
Cardinal Martino paused to give expression to several requirements concerning the relationship between the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church, a relationship which is essential to the definition of the nature of such doctrine, even if it is in need of investigation and clarification. When the Church addresses man with its social doctrine, it considers him “not only in the light of historical experience, not only with the aid of the many methods of scientific knowledge, but in the first place in the light of the Word revealed by the living God.”.
Faith which springs forth from the Word of God must therefore establish, as is clearly seen in the first chapters of
the Compendium of Social Doctrine, the ever-present and indispensable horizon of social doctrine. The second point indicated regards the relationship between the study of Sacred Scripture and social doctrine, so as to avoid erratic and extreme settings. It must be remembered that both the study of Sacred Scripture as well as of social doctrine, even using conceptual instrumentation and diverse methodologies, are nevertheless a knowing “in faith”.
The Cardinal wished a great and fruitful correlation between the study of Scripture and social doctrine. In Sacred Scripture it is possible to compare the teaching lines of social doctrine, such as the preferential option for the poor, the commitment to the promotion of justice, the principle of universal destination of goods which are clearly of Biblical derivation.[Original text: Italian]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph AKÉ, Bishop of Yamoussoukro (IVORY COAST)
During our exchanges, we have looked critically at our homilies that are faded, that miss their target, that do not keep people awake.
We have suggested courses for the formation regarding homeletics and creating a directory of homilies.
We have linked a good and solid formation of readers to this.
But I believe there is a fundamental element that we must not forget, nor hide and that must be recalled. This element can be found in the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan (Jn 4:1-42).
We cannot ignore the earthshaking and shocking experience of Paul on the road to Damascus; an encounter he repeats three times in the Book of Acts. What exactly happened in the heart of these Samaritans, this Centurion and his companions, in Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles?
In all cases, the message reached its target; the objective was reached and that is what counts.
In my humble opinion, this is the finality of our studies, our discussions, our sharing. To lead our faithful and those who will allow themselves to be touched by our preaching to personally and uniquely experience the encounter with Jesus. They should reach this. “I believe not because I listened to the homily of this Bishop, of this charismatic priest, but because I myself met Jesus”.
How can this be done? Which are the ways and means that could incite and provoke this experience?
Incarnation of the Word requires an encounter. When you have met He who loves you because He is Love, you cannot but listen to Him and apply what He says to you in your own life.[Original text: French]
— H. Em. Card. Jean-Louis TAURAN, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (VATICAN CITY)
The Word has always had a decisive role in the understanding of religious phenomenon. A patrimony of spiritual experiences was created, little by little. It was transmitted and interpreted. Thus, the Sacred Books were born. All the great religions have their own Sacred Books. Islam, in particular, is considered by its adepts as the “Religion of the Book” par excellence.
These books are qualified by the term “sacred” because those reading them consider them as coming from Elsewhere, transmitted by inspired persons and revealing something of the mystery of a visible and invisible world.
From these religions, Christians can learn much, even if Christianity would not be included in the “religions of the Book”. It would be opportune for future priests, religious persons and pastoral agents to be formed in the direct reading of the founding texts of other religions rather than limiting themselves to a commentary on them
But it is just as important to proclaim the Bible to our partners in interreligious dialogue, in particular our hermeneutic approach to the sacred text.
In sharing our respective spiritual patrimonies, without irenism or syncretism, we will be lead to discover that we are all men and women desiring to be taught by God.[Original text: French]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Walmor OLIVEIRA DE AZEVEDO, Archbishop of Belo Horizonte (BRAZIL)
The Fifth Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, reflecting on the challenges of the mission, with particular regard to the exodus of many Catholics from the Church, concludes: “According to our pastoral experience, many times the sincere people who leave our Church do not do so for the reasons that “non-Catholic” groups believe; but fundamentally for that which they experience; not for strictly dogmatic but for pastoral motivations; not for theological but rather for methodological problems within the Church. In reality, many who cross over to other religious groups do not wish to abandon our Church, but they are genuinely searching for God” (DA 225).
In our and in others’ situations, sects truly have an enormous challenge. Various contributions of the Synod Fathers converge upon an understanding which shows itself to be more and more common: the need to have a close connection between the celebrated mystery and the witnessed mystery, between the Word proclaimed and heard and the word heard and made to bear fruit. In fact, the Holy Father speaks of the performance of the Word (cf. Instrumentum Laboris 39).
It is worth noting that the persons who make up the various sects in our different situations are almost always of Catholic origin. It is enough that they join these sects, and they change the way they act. They assume a praiseworthy moral behavior, leaving behind that which they believe to be unworthy in their new life as believers. Therefore, the Word that they hear becomes performative in their lives, feeds their spirituality and their choice for a witness of the religious values they now internalize.
Why didn’t the performance of the Word touch them while they were Catholics? What have they found in these sects that they did not find before in our communities? An analysis of this question would, obviously, be beyond the scope of our intention in this moment.
Number 22 of Dei Verbum reminds us that the faithful must have free access to Sacred Scripture. This sublime desire cannot but stimulate us to commit ourselves to attain this objective. On the other hand, the fact that all of these people hunger and thirst for God and His Word makes us ask ourselves if we are lacking apostles of the Good News of Christ who are able to go out and meet the needs of these many faithful.
— H. Em. Card. Odilo Pedro SCHERER, Archbishop of São Paulo (BRAZIL)
We live in an age of great human mobility; people travel, visit other countries, make cultural exchanges, look for work and the means to survive. It is impressive how many people presently live outside of their native countries. In many cases they are victims of forced displacement.. I do not intend to speak precisely of the pastoral problem of immigrants, but to mention the fact that this phenomenon also represents a great missionary opportunity for the Church. Therefore, immigrants should not be seen simply as an object of pastoral concern: they are, or can become true missionaries!
It was no different in the past, when many Europeans from different nations emigrated toward North and South America, or toward Africa and Oceania; Catholic families preceded priests and religious persons; they were missionaries and brought their faith with them, giving it expression in a new social and cultural context. And it was no different at the beginning of Christianity; the community of Jerusalem, persecuted after Stephen’s martyrdom, spread to other countries, bringing the Gospel of Christ with it and founding Christian communities (cf.Ac 8:4). We can say with St Paul “God’s message cannot be chained up” but is being spread thanks to the witness of Christ, that those who believe may carry it with them (cf. 2 Tm 2:9).
Faced with what has been stated above, I believe that the Synod may make two particular recommendations:
1) Encourage those who find themselves in situations of migration or traveling to bring the Word of God with them, even the bo
ok of Sacred Scripture, knowing that they carry a priceless wealth which is not limited by geographical or cultural reasons, but is a gift to be lived in the new country and to share with the people who already accept it.
2) To those who receive immigrants at their destination, a positive welcoming attitude toward these brothers is recommended, toward these who come from other nations bringing “the good news” with them in their bags, facilitating their introduction into the local community and the sharing of faith experiences and Christian life which they bring with them.[Original text: Italian]
— H. Em. Card. Seán Baptist BRADY, Archbishop of Armagh, President of the Episcopal Conference (IRELAND)
Participants at a recent Inter-Church meeting in Ireland were invited to wash each other’s feet while they listened to the account of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This strong experiential ritual of ‘inter-communion’ in the Word took them to a new level of personal and ecc1esial commitment.
The contribution of the Protestant tradition to Biblical scholarship has been immense. It may assist the healing of memory to affirm that the emphasis in the Reformation on improving access to the Scriptures was a bonus from which all Christians have benefitted.
Preachers need adequate preparation and ongoing help for their task. lt is to be hoped that exegetes, theologians and liturgists will work together to help Ministers of the Word to say what the Holy Spirit wants the Church to say to the world at this time.
Modern communications technology gives the Church wonderful possibilities to communicate its message to the ends of earth. It is to be hoped that the Synod will come up with practical proposals to enable the Church to take full advantage of this opportunity.
The Word of God is a reality imbued with the presence of God. Like the Eucharist the Word too is viaticum — food for the journey of life, food for the journey of married life. Given the particular challenges which face the family in our time one of the things we could profitably learn from the Protestant tradition is the custom of having a Bible in the home and reading it often as a family.
— H.E. Most. Rev. Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL, S.D.B., Archbishop of Guwahati (INDIA)
Mine is a missionary question: How do we bring the ‘Word’ to those who do not come to church, those who have never heard the Gospel? How do we win listeners in informal contexts as Jesus did, how do we adapt our message to different cultures as Paul did?
How do we bring the ‘Word’ to marketplaces, hospitals, schools, universities, parliaments, the media, sports and athletics: i.e. into the world of commerce, politics, science, bio-ethics, media, art, entertainment; into the most secularized places (Instrumentum Laboris No. 53). I plead that where we are unable to reach ourselves, we do so through others; that we always remain pastorally creative so that where our members cannot reach, our ideas may reach; that we develop the skills and evolve strategies needed to persuade and convince, not refute and reject (IL 57), so that the ‘Word’ becomes a ‘dynamic power in history’ (IL10).
I will go further. The ‘Word’ of God must be brought to situations of conflict, contexts of injustice and of absolute poverty. We do not win a hearing through self-righteous condemnations, truth claims and pretensions to a higher moral ground, but evident human concern, Gospel-inspired commitment to the suffering, attention to various cultural sensitivities. The ‘Word’ reveals its power in actual life-contexts: it challenges unjust societies, it reconciles, it uplifts the poor, it brings peace.
A last point. As we recognize a special relationship with Judaism and Islam for historic reasons, can we express closeness to those communities that have values and practices that are close to ours? For example, to Buddhism with its traditions of respect for life, monasticism, renunciation, celibacy, contemplation, silence, to Hinduism which has in addition the concept of ‘sacrifice’, traditions of rituals, rubrics, processions, use of images, holy water, pilgrimages, fasts; to Confucianism with deep attachment to family values, social order, deference to elders (IL 56)? Taken together, they represent more than half of humanity.[Original text: English]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Faustino ARMENDÁRIZ JIMÉNEZ, Bishop of Matamoros (MEXICO)
“God raised this man Jesus to life and of that we are all witnesses” (Ac 2:32) We are also witnesses of Christ, dead and resurrected. On one hand, we find ourselves facing the worrisome challenge of penetrating and aggressive globalization in a culture or subculture alien and hostile to our Catholic Christian tradition. On the other hand, we are faced with another terrible challenge: the rising of various religions that try to respond, in their own ways, to the thirst for God, revealed by our people. These two phenomena are disconcerting and confusing our faithful, shaking and bleeding our Church. “We cannot remain calm waiting passively in our temples…We must urgently rise up and go forth in every direction…”(DA548).
When it refers to the Bishops in the Ministry of the Word, IL n.48 expresses the missionary compromise of we shepherds, a commitment which, like all our life, should be based on the rock of the Word of God.
Proposals: 1st The kerygmatic proclamation, door-to-door and community-to-community (At 9:40) — After the apostles have been together with Jesus, the Lord sent them out to preach (Mk 3:14); we do not wait for them, rather we should go and look for them and turn into reality the parable of the lost sheep, with the difference however that we will look for the other 99, leaving the one we are sure of, that is to say we must be fishers of men rather than keepers of aquariums. 2nd Let us talk about the Word and let the Word speak for itself, because the Word is “God’s strength” as Saint Paul witnesses “my Word…a demonstration of God’s power” (1 Co 2:4). We should be disciples and servants of the Word rather than the possessors of the Word. The Word has the power (dynamis) to return us from the Vatican Hill, just like Moses under Mount Sinai, with a radiant face which illuminates or even better, like Jesus on the Mount Tabor: it was not His face that was illuminated , but He himself was bright and for that He was enlightening. We as shepherds can become “Christ’s letter” for the others (2 Co 3:3). It is the Holy Spirit who calls, enlightens, urges and lights up the passion for the mission because He Himself is the true protagonist of the mission.[Original text: Spanish]
— Rev. Father Joseph William TOBIN, C.SS.R., Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
My point of departure is n. 52 of the Instrumentum Laboris, which indicates some expectations the Church holds for members of the consecrated life. This way of discipleship might also serve this Synod by providing one example that could be proposed to the People of God to illustrate the sort of “obedience of faith” (Rom. 13:26) that “is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which a person commits his or her whole self freely to God” (Dei Verbum, 5). This radical obedience, which is required of every believer, is lived in a public way by consecrated persons. I will touch on three aspects of this response: consecrated life as obedience to the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, obedience to the Word which speaks through the signs of times and places and obedience which is learned through suffering.[Original text: English]
— H. Em. Card. Agostino VALLINI, Vicar General at his Holiness for the Diocese of Rome (ITALY)
The pastor’s action is decisive so that the greatest number possible of men and women , baptized and not, can encounter the God that speaks to their life. Only a lived certitude of the centrality of the Word of God by priests (and by the other ministers of t
he Word) can make this same certitude enter the lives of the faithful, in a gradual way. For this:
Great attention should be placed on the Biblical formation of the candidates to the priesthood.
The formation of theological faculties should be integrated with formative paths of the seminaries that promote a more spiritual approach to the Word of God for life. There is no lack of positive initiatives regarding this (A knowledgeable reading of Sacred Scripture and Lection divina, etc.), however, we should provide greater formative space for the study of the Word of God, enriched by the knowledge of the Fathers, and led by spiritual guides that know how to lead the future priests in acquiring a solid Biblical spirituality.
The centrality of the Word of God in the pastoral ministry is felt more today than in the past. However, we can still feel the difficulty of following “new ways” pertaining to a pastoral ministry that, above all, takes care of the faithful from a sacramental point of view. Positive proof of this exists, but we are far from reaching the spread and practiced certitude at the service of the Word as central in the ordinary pastoral ministry of the ecclesial community.
The Synod should greatly encourage the weekly practice of commented and prayed reading of the Word of God in every parish and and ecclesial community, under the guidance of the parish priest, in the form of Lectio divina or in other forms considered more suitable to the context. This fundamental commitment should be foreseen in the diocesan pastoral plans, while also offering available support notes and itineraries for the preparation, not only cultural, of pastoral workers willing , under the guidance of the parish priest, to lead groups in listening to the Word of God and to be held everywhere, even in homes.[Original text: Italian]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Freddy Jesús FUENMAYOR SUÁREZ, Bishop of Los Teques (VENEZUELA)
This Synod on the Word of God emphasizes that the “word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit” (DV 9), on Sacred Scripture in the life and the mission of the Church and her evangelizing mission. That is to say, the purpose of this assembly by treating the Word of God is “eminently pastoral and missionary” (Instrumentum Laboris 4), such as indicated in Instrumentum Laboris (IL) in n. 3, without neglecting the need of studying the doctrinal reasons: Word of God, a living Tradition, Sacred Scripture, function of the Magisterium
I want to refer to n. 53, and specifically to the first paragraph which starts with a quotation from DV 22: the “faithful must have easy access to the Sacred Scripture”, informing moreover that it “today is an indispensable requirement for the mission”.
With this feeling I would like to make a comment which involves the part of the world I come from: Latin America. The affirmation of the Dei Verbum on the place of the Word of God in the life and in the mission of the Church, had a strong echo. The welcome of the Constitution Dei Verbum was demonstrated about three years after the finalization of Second Vatican Council in the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Medellin (Colombia) in 1968, and after in the General Conferences of Puebla (Mexico, 1979) Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic 1992), and Aparecida (Brazil 2007). The increase in number of the basic communities, the reflection of the Christian groups on its life and the compromise for justice, evangelization and mission, offered a good opportunity for the Word of God to be transmitted by the Bible, finding an important place in the pastoral of the Church and in the lives of Christians and communities.
Spurred by the teachings of the Latin American Bishops, concentrated throughout these forty years after the Second Vatican Council, an important development to the biblical pastoral calling produced abundant fruits, through encounters, workshops, spreading of the practice of the Lectio divina, the increase in interesting experiences of the Word by the delegates and other pastoral activities in many places. The systematic and organic realization of the Latin American Episcopal Conference, CELAM, during the last few years through the Pastoral Biblical Center, as well as the International Catholic Bible Federation and other organizations, without forgetting the worthwhile and constant collaboration of the United Biblical Societies, that place us in an interesting ecumenical perspective, needs to be emphasized. All these efforts have made it so that the Bible progressively became better known and more lived in Latin America by encouraging the encounter with Jesus Christ and communion and love.[Original text: Spanish]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Fulgence MUTEBA MUGALU, Bishop of Kilwa-Kasenga (CONGO R.)
My intervention refers to Numbers 48 and 53 of the Instrumentum Laboris along with the other numbers that deal with the communication of the truth and the use of the media in the announcement of the Word of God. The aim of this intervention is to highlight the performative, active and living character of the Word of God. This has a double foundation. Firstly, it is founded on the fact that Jesus proclaimed the message of salvation with authority and competence (Mt 7:29). The Apostles, and later the Fathers of the Church, did the same. Secondly, we have to agree with Pope John Paul II that “the first Areopagus of the modern age is the world of communications…” Like the Inter mirifica, I recommend the good use of social communications of the Word of God.
I’d like to insist on the fact that, in order to reach today’s men and women better, the proclamation of the Word of God should be composed finding equilibrium with the media culture. This does not mean simply using these media, something that seems evident and already underway in many areas today, but acquiring a healthy media culture on the path of proclaiming the Word of God. This means accepting Inter mirifica and writing a new page in communications, in relationship with the nature of the Word to be proclaimed and is respectful both of the dignity and the freedom of those who are listening.
I propose, on the one hand, that those who are entrusted with proclaiming the Word face the challenges of an efficacious communication and that this represent a chapter of the Biblical apostolate. On the other hand, it seems urgent to me that we need to exorcize the fear of the media that characterizes many pastoral workers and inaugurate what the Pope, rightly, calls “media-ethics”. For me, the time has come when it is no longer enough to say with St Paul, “I should be in trouble if I failed to preach the Bible,” but “I should be in trouble if I failed to preach the Bible in a way that is efficacious.”[Original text: French]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Diarmuid MARTIN, Archbishop of Dublin (IRELAND)
Numerous interventions have spoken about the complex cultural situation within which people today encounter the proclamation of the word of God. I speak as Bishop of a diocese where in recent years a climate of secularisation has made dramatic and rapid inroads into a culture which, until not very long ago, was marked by a strong presence of belief. There are still elements of an underlying traditional religious culture, but unfortunately for many the scriptures are in reality unexplored, almost alien territory.
Often I think of the Gospel account in Mark 6 of the visit by Jesus to his own town where his townsfolk, despite all the factual information they possessed about Jesus and his family, remained trapped in a mindset which made them unable to come to an understanding of his message and his true identity, to the point where Jesus could not work any miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Many of our contemporaries have from their earlier catechesis some knowledge of Jesus but may never have had the experience of a real encounter with him. In the face of a secularized climate, this superficial rem
nant of their religious knowledge, like that of Jesus’ townsfolk, may even become an obstacle to their developing a deeper faith.
But the episode in Mark 6 does not end with the rejection of Jesus by his own and his inability to work miracles for them. Significantly, Jesus encounters some sick people and cures them. The faith of these sick persons is placed in sharp contrast to that of his own townspeople.
In the Gospels we note that the proclamation of the Good News by Jesus was accompanied on so many occasions by his caring for the sick and his restoration of those whose lives were troubled and distressed. The proclamation of the Word and the exercise of concrete charity belong together: there is a certain sense in which the scriptures can only be understood through a sort of hermeneutic of charity.
Our pastoral responses to expanding access to the Word of God have to be differentiated.
Reading has become more and more a middle class past-time. The poorer, while in no way illiterate, read little more than the sports pages of newspapers. New ways — visual rather than verbal, experiential rather than purely intellectual — have therefore to be found to introduce them once again to a culture of the word.[Original text: English]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Stanisław GĄDECKI, Archbishop of Poznań (POLAND)
In Number 55 of the Instrumentum Laboris, titled “The Word of God: Source of Dialogue between Christians and Jews”, we read: “Special attention is given to the Jewish people. Christians and Jews are both children of Abraham, grounded in the same Covenant, because God, who is always faithful to his promises, has not revoked the first Covenant (cf. Rm 9:4; 11:29). Nevertheless, that which is not touched upon in this number is the question of the uniqueness and salvific universality of Jesus Christ before the Hebrew people.
The no to the Christian Mission in Relationship to the Hebrews
On one hand, we know well the exposition of Dominus Iesus, which declares that the grace of God –which, according to our faith, is the grace of Jesus Christ — is available to all. Consequently, the Church believes that Judaism, that is the faithful response of the Hebrew people to God’s irrevocable Covenant, is for it a source of salvation, because God is faithful to His promises.Such a mission, in the strict sense, cannot be used in speaking of the Hebrews, who believe in a one and true God. As a result, no Catholic organization for the mission to the Hebrew people exists.
The Uniqueness and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ
On the other hand, it must be said that many Catholics do not know how to reconcile the no to the Christian mission in relationship to the Hebrews with the witness from apostolic times, which clearly show that the presence of the apostolic mission was directed precisely to the Hebrews.
In the New Testament, the universal salvific will of God is closely connected to the unique mediation of Christ: “[God] wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and humanity, himself a human being, Christ Jesus, who offered himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tm 2:4-6).
It was in the awareness of the one universal gift of salvation offered by the Father through Jesus Christ in the Spirit (cf. Ep 1:3-14), that the first Christians turned to the Jewish people, showing them the fulfillment of salvation that went beyond the Law, they confronted the pagan world of their time, which inspired to salvation through a plurality of saviors. (Dominus Iesus, 13).[Original text: Italian]
— H. B. Card. Nasrallah Pierre SFEIR, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Head of the Synod of the Maronite Church (LEBANON)
I refer to No. 56 of the “Instrumentum laboris” which deals with religious dialogue, and in particular relationships between Christians and Muslims. This relationship between the followers of these two religions goes back to the History of Lebanon, even to the beginning of Islam, that is to say to the beginning of the seventh century.
We find in the “Instrumentum laboris”: “the Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humankind”.
The same document quotes the encounter of Assisi which took place in 1986, and the Holy Father Benedict XVI says regarding this: “We would like to find the ways to reconciliation and learn how to live with mutual respect for each one’s identity”.
Lebanon is characterized by this Islamic-Christian conviviality since the appearance of Islam, despite some difficulties that touched upon their common history. These last years, for the past forty years, this Islamic-Christian conviviality has become even more difficult because of external interference which has complicated things even more.
We do not wish to speak about politics, we are just stating a fact. That is, the situation of the Christians in Lebanon becomes more critical and more difficult. Their numbers are decreasing more every year. For the past forty years, over one million Lebanese people, Muslims as well as Christians, have left the country to go and live in other Western countries. If emigration continues on this path, we could ask, without appearing to be pessimistic, how many Christians will be left in this Christian Orient where Christ was born, lived and died on the Cross to save humankind.
Despite everything, we cannot despair. When we have faith, by this same fact, we must have hope. Thank God, we have faith and hope, since we continue to have intercessions in heaven.[Original text: French]
— H. Em. Card. Godfried DANNEELS, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, President of the Episcopal Conference (BELGIUM)
The obstacles found in the proclamation of the Word are many: difficulties in communication, secularized culture and environment, resistance and ignorance by the listeners. But perhaps the greatest obstacle is in the heart of the evangelist himself: his lack of self-confidence and his ignorance about the laws in announcing the Gospel, which are different to those of the world. Jesus answers this in Mk 4 with three parables and a comparison taken from daily life.
The Parable of the Sower. Despite all the obstacles (thorns, beaten paths, rocks) on the field to be sown, somewhere there is always some good earth that will bear fruit. Therefore sow: there will always be a harvest, but you don’t necessarily know where. Jesus says, But sow.
The Parable of Grain that grows spontaneously. All peasants throw the seeds on the earth, then go to sleep. During the night, he does not go to check if the seed has sprouted. Because “by itself the seed produces its fruit”, Jesus said. The success does not depend on worrying about what we are doing, nor on our urge for verification. Sow, says Jesus without worries and with a lot of patience: the harvest will come.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed. The smallest of seeds produces the largest tree and all the birds in the skies can place their nests there. In the Kingdom of God, there is no proportionality between investment and result as is the case in the banking world of men. Sow, said Jesus, even if the seed seems so small.
The lamp on the candelabra. If you have lit a lamp, do not put it under your bed. Let it shine for all of us. This is a simple human and divine logic. Who begins something must continue, says Jesus. This is logic itself.
However, some brothers and sisters cannot see the simple natural light of the lamp: they are blind and vision impaired. Think about them also, says Jesus. Ensure easy access to the Word of God to them as well. Through other technical means.[Original text: French]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Patrick Daniel KOROMA, Bishop of Kenema (SIERRA LEONE)
I am here representing the Bishops’ Conference of Sierra Leone and the Gambia. We tried to lo
ok at all three parts of the Instrumentum Laboris.
With regards to the first part: The mystery of God who speaks to us, especially Chapter II. The Bible as the inspired Word of God and its truth. We simply noted that the following familiar statement is no longer true — that Catholics have a low level of appreciation of the Bible.
Our focus was mainly on Part 2: the Word of God in the life of the Church; the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments; and the Word of God made flesh, who came among us and continues to be heard in the proclamation of the word, made visible in the celebration of the sacraments and other services and seen in the lives of the faithful people.
The Bible is the principal means by which we seek God’s direction in the diverse circumstances of our lives, the determining guide for our lives, what God is asking of us and what God is calling us to be.
In our two countries we looked at two ways our people familiarize themselves with the Word of God:
1) in the liturgical celebrations
2) in the small Christian communities and prayer groups. It is here the Word of God is interpreted, the bible transformed from letter to spirit, from past record to present event, giving new meaning and leading to action.
Finally, as evangelizing communities, we looked at Part 3 that the Word of God is central in the work of evangelization, that the bible should be at the heart of our evangelizing work.[Original text: English]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Evaristus Thatho BITSOANE, Bishop of Qacha’s Nek, President of the Episcopal Conference (LESOTHO)
A very small number of our youth from Lesotho participated at the World Youth Days in Cologne and Sydney. Their experiences from testimony of other young people from other Catholic countries of the world has convinced them that the Word of God has an answer for many of their problems in life.
Popular Television and Radio programs fail to give them meaningful and lasting solutions to their problems. After interacting with other young people from all over the world, they realize that real love and concern for others, as opposed to self-centeredness, is the only thing that gives them lasting joy. They are aware that most of their sad situations is a direct result of selfishness. They have learned that the only way to change society is to be guided by the Word of God. A good number of these young people are now prepared to go to different parts of the country to share their experiences with other young people.
Unfortunately the Conference, because of lack of funds, is unable to keep the Bible Apostolate Department active. The Conference has however launched a campaign to raise funds in the country. If this campaign is successful, the Conference can again run programs that will help young people to solve their own problems basing themselves on the Word of God.
I am convinced that only young people can help each other and testimony from those who have experienced God’s love in the Word of God can help others. Young people are the future leaders of our countries and if they are guided by the Word of God they can help our countries to avoid disasters in the future.
The Holy Father has given us an example of these World Youth Days. It is not possible for many young people from our poor countries to participate in these World Youth Days, but I think it is possible to organize on a Diocesan or national level something similar to World Youth Days where young people can celebrate together the power and joy of the Word of God.[Original text: English]
— H.E. Most. Rev. Antony DEVOTTA, Bishop of Tiruchirapalli (INDIA)
I believe our Laity who are our greatest treasure is the hope of the Church in the globalised world not only in their specific role for the renewal of the temporal order (AG 2) but also in our efforts to understand and interpret the Word of God relevantly. Anointed by the Holy Spirit the Whole Church receives His assistance not only to be preserved from error in matters concerning faith and morals (LG 2) but also, I am confident, in the process of our common understanding and interpreting the Word of God, more or less similar to “sensus fidei”. God not only speaks in the Bible he also listens. He listens and responds as manifested in Old Testament, specially in the Psalms. If so, why can not we, the leaders of the Church listen to the laity, specially the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.
To benefit from the quality involvement of the Laity, the Church Leadership should consider as its top urgent priority to enlighten and empower the Laity through well planned Pastoral Biblical Catechesis especially through Small Christian Communities and in other movements and associations where they will be inserted into a “Bible Culture”. Funds should be allocated, as much as they are earmarked for the formation of the seminarians.
“Bible Culture” means that the day-to-day life of the people be exposed and captured by the explosive, dynamic and creative power of God (Is 6:8; Jer 20:7; Ez 3:3). That challenges and confronts the individuals and communities to cut (Acts 2: 37) their hearts with two edged sword (Hb 4:12). In India this means, individuals and communities are to be converted from all forms of divisions, of caste, language and rites, as well as every form of superiority in their relationship with other religions and traditions. Thus will emerge a common witness of the Church in its mission to be a sign and instrument of God’s Kingdom of justice, peace and love. India needs more witnesses than teachers, and if it respects teachers it is because they are witnesses (pope Paul VI).[Original text: English]
— H. Em. Card. Ivan DIAS, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (VATICAN CITY)
The Word of God is intimately connected with the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is indispensable for the two important thrusts of evangelization: inculturation and interreligious dialogue.
Inculturation would entail expressing the Gospel in local cultures, but also — and above all — it would consist in evangelizing the cultures themselves from within. This is valid for all cultures — for those in mission lands, but also where traditional Christian cultures have been infected with the pernicious viruses of secularism, spiritual indifference and relativism. These viruses seek to efface any reference to God or to things supernatural, and to supplant them with mundane values and behavior patterns which purposely ignore the transcendental and the divine. Far from satisfying the deep yearnings of the human heart, they foster a culture of death, be it physical or moral, spiritual or psychological, to which two vital institutions of the human society — the family and the youth — are particularly vulnerable. By perusing and assimilating the Word of God regularly Christians can grow in “the mind of Christ” which is the only antidote to the aforementioned viruses and can transform characters and cultures from within, elevating them from the natural to the supernatural, from the human to the divine.
The Word of God is invaluable also with regards to interreligious dialogue. God, the Father of all humankind, wants all His children to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth. His Holy Spirit works even outside the confines of the Church, and leaves “seeds of the Word” — “semina Verbi”, as the Second Vatican Council put it — even in non-Christian religions, giving us the challenge to appreciate “whatever is pure, just, noble and honorable” (Phil 4:8) in them, and to make those seeds to blossom in the sacred Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This echoes Jesus’ words that He came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to bring them to fulfillment, and is exactly what happened when God sent the Apostle Peter to the Roman centurion Cornelius and bade him not to call unclean what God had purified, or when the Apostle Paul preached about the “unknown God” in the Areopagus of Athens.
These two great Apostles Peter and Paul lie buried here in Rome. When the Christian pilgrims visited their tombs in the first centuries, they prayed for a singular grace: to have the faith of Peter and the heart of Paul (“fides Petri et cor Pauli”). May an assiduous perusal of the Word of God fill the Church with these sentiments, so necessary for the proclamation of the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the unique and universal Savior of all humankind.[Original text: English]