Fraternal Delegates at 15th General Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2008 ( Here are summaries of the interventions given by the fraternal delegates Tuesday afternoon at the 15th general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on «The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.»

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— Rev. Archibald Miller MILLOY, Secretary General of «United Bible Societes» (GREAT BRITAIN)

The United Bible Societies (UBS) considers it a great honour to have been invited to attend the Synod as a Special Guest. The United Bible Societies traces theclose collaboration it enjoys with the Catholic Church at parish, national and global level to the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, the fruit of the Second Vatican Council. Dei Verbum gave Catholic Christians the explicit commission to work on Bible translations, and to do so in collaboration with their sisters and brothers of other denominations. Specifically, the call within Dei Verbum that «Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be providedfor all the Christian faithful» has seen the UBS complete 134 translations in collaboration with the Catholic Church over these past 40 years. The Instrumentum Laboris is surely right when it says such ‘easy access’ is a prerequisite for mission today. It is therefore to be regretted that in only 438 of the world’s 7,000 languages is there a translation of the complete Bible. The UBS is currently involved in 646 translation projects world-wide.

During the Synod, the UBS will sign a new Joint Partnership with the Catholic Biblical Federation to give testimony to the growing collaboration that is enjoyed by the two organisations today. Indeed, many, many Catholics are now active members of Bible Societies across the world. The Synod was made aware of a new project, ‘May They Be One’ -launched recently by the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate (ECBA) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the Bible Society in that country.

[Original text: English]

— H. E. MARK [Sergej Golovkov], Bishop of Yegorievsk, Vice-President of the Department for Foreign Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)

As the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church I would like to tell you about my historical experience tied to the theme of the Sacred Scriptures.

From the moment of its conversion to Christianity, in the 10th Century, Russia has received the Holy Scriptures in its own language. Since then, faith in Christ was indissolubly connected to the study of the Bible. The first book printed in Russia was the “Apostle” — a liturgical book containing the Book of Acts and the Letters of the Holy Apostles. With the evolution of the spoken word, even the text in the Slav translation was changed gradually. The Orthodox Church believes that it is important for the Holy Scriptures to be available to all. Reading the Bible in the Church during liturgical functions, however, represents the most valid way of hearing it. Together with the availability of Biblical texts, the main principle for their understanding is achieving the tradition. Orthodox theology does not deny new studies concerning the sacred texts. Despite this, we believe that the interpretation of the Biblical texts is closely connected to explanations left to us by the Fathers of the Church. Faithfulness to tradition is the sure path that helps one from losing oneself in the many opinions. Our Church does not exclude other paths for the encounter between today’s man with the Book of Books. Especially, during the last few years, recordings with readings from the Gospel and from the Psalms have been produced. The same thing has happened with materials for children: these are evangelical texts adapted to children’s understanding and stories on the events in Sacred History.

[Original text: Italian]

— H. E. SILUAN [Ciprian Şpam], Archbishop of Orthodoxa Romena Church of Italy (ITALY)

First of all we would like to express a warm greeting to all the bishops and delegates present at the XII Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church, having arrived from all over the world, united in these days in Rome.

The theme of this Synod is “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”. There is a common concern in our Churches to underline and reassert the role that the Divine Word has in the missionary dynamics at the beginning of the 21st century. In this sense, we would like to let you know with joy, that our Romanian Orthodox Church, through the unanimous voice of its bishops, has declared the year 2008 as the “Jubilee Year of Holy Scripture and of Holy Liturgy”. This underlines the organic and inseparable connection between the Sacred Scripture and the Holy Liturgy, between the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist. The entire liturgical treasures of the Orthodox Church are deeply marked by the words of the Holy Scriptures that penetrate prayer and the hymns the faithful hear during the various celebrations they participate in.

Even the readings done during the different offices go back to a considerable number of words inspired by God through the mouths of the prophets and the Apostles, as well as the books of Wisdom and the Psalms. In the first place, among the books of Holy Scripture most used by our traditional worship, the pericope taken from the letters of Saint Paul the Apostle can be found. We believe that the missionary zeal of Saint Paul can inspire us in today’s European secularized context and prayer will be of great help in our missionary activities. In conclusion, congratulating you for having chosen to debate on such an inspired theme, we would like to express our wish that the works of the XII Assembly of the Synod of Bishops bear abundant spiritual and pastoral fruits for all those participating.

[Original text: Italian]

— H. E. ARMASH [Hagop Nalbandian], First Bishop of Damascus (SYRIA)

The Word of God in Armenia had already been proclaimed in the First Century by the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who after their missionary action died as martyrs. The proclamation of the Word of God in the following three centuries bore fruit, to the extent that, in 301, Armenia proclaimed Christianity as its state religion, the first nation in the world to do so.
Over the centuries, Sacred Scripture and the exegesis of the Word characterized the doctrine and the theology of the Armenian Church. The Word of God has become, in fact, the true content of the lives of Armenians, accompanying them during the persecutions. I would like to mention just one example of the more recent past. How could we have survived the genocide if we did not believe in the force of the Word, giver of life? Faith in the Word made flesh, in his Crucifixion and above all in his Resurrection, giver of life, gave us the strength to overcome the genocide. The Armenian people, through its martyrdom, bore a witness which today still forges the Christian identity of each Armenian. The Word of God has been and is the source of hope and survival.

What is the situation of the proclamation of the Word of God in Armenia today?

Armenia is a post-Soviet country. What the situation during the Soviet era was is well-known. After the fall of the Soviet Union, today in Armenia, there is a spiritual awakening and a deep interest in listening to the Word of God. The number of Bible groups and persons who attend Church are increasing. This new attraction of listening more to the Word can, according to me, be explained in three points:

1. Learning and knowing the Bible and participating in the Eucharist and in prayer, one can find one’s roots. It is our ancestors’ faith, the faith of our grandparents and parents.

2. Professing Christianity, one feels part of the wider world, a member of the greater community of the Church of Christ.

3. The desire to read the Bible, understand it, study it… Because for 70 years, we were lied to and now we wish to finally learn the truth.

The daily situation leads us to hearing the Word. The possibility to listen to the Word comes in many forms and types. The Word of God can be experienced and listened to even outside of Mass. The Proclamation of the Word must be aimed, so as to enter into the he
art and the soul of the persons. The Word must have a ,meaning that guides the Christian. The situations in life help us look for the Word, then as servants of the Church and proclaimers of the Word we must turn to the listeners and the faithful, to learn to know about their situations and experiences of life. Their situations of life and their expectations must supply the key to open their hearts. The message of salvation must be an answer to their needs and afflictions.
This, today, is the invitation to hear the Word of God.

[Original text: German]

— H. E. Rev. Nicholas Thomas WRIGHT, Bishop of Durham, Anglican Church (GREAT BRITAIN)

1. We face the same challenges as you: not only secularism and relativism, but also postmodernity. Uncertainy here breeds anxiety: (a) the Bible might tell us unwelcome things; (b) its message might be stifled.

2. A fourfold reading of scripture as the love of God: heart (Lectio Divina, liturgical reading); mind (historical/critical study); soul (church life, tradition, teaching) and strength (mission, kingdom of God). These must be balanced.

3. In particular, we need fresh mission-oriented engagement with our own culture. Paragraph 57 of the Instrumentum Laboris implies that Paul’s engagement merely purifies and elevates what is there in the culture. But Paul also confronts pagan idolatry, and so must we. In particular, we must engage critically with the tools and methods of historical/critical scholarship themselves.

4. The climax of the Canon is Jesus Christ, especially his cross and resurrection. These events are not only salvific. They provide a hermeneutical principle, related to the Jewish tradition of ‘critique from within’.

5. Mary as model: Fiat (mind); Magnificat (strength); Conservabat (heart) – but also Stabat, waiting patiently in the soul, the tradition and expectation of the church, for the new, unexpected and perhaps unwelcome, but yet saving, revelation.

[Original text: English]
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