Auditors at 16th General Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2008 ( Here are summaries of the interventions given by the auditors Wednesday morning at the sixteenth 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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— Dr. Hanna-Barbara GERL-FALKOVITZ, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Comparative History of Religions at the Technical Insitute of Dresden (GERMANY)

1. For some important European thinkers a new era of Enlightenment is beginning: reason itself can be misleading if it isn’t connected to an orientation. The Biblical promises such as Resurrection, forgiveness, the Passion of God, the performing language of the sacraments (transubstantiation of the bread and wine), life as participation in original life and incarnation have returned today to being a part of intellectual thinking. It would be useful for the Church to use trustingly this new “general climate” for new teaching for the discourse on reason and on faith. Even in the “old Europe”, we are entering a new post-ideological dynamic. Philosophy could perhaps, in synergy, once again fill the sails of even the theological “sails” of the Church.

2. Practical realization: a “prayer group for atheists” could be created. The simple common reading of the Gospel is enough (at the beginning) to interest those who have never read it. It is not our words that convince, but the Word itself. “The Word breaks the words” (Origen). What few think today, tomorrow could reach many. Let us bring the Word to universities also. Dominus illuminatio nostras can be read at the entrance to Oxford University: the Lord is our light. The wrong alternative between secularism or faith must be broken. After the disappointments of the great ideologies it is time for the criteria of truth..

[Original text: German]

— Rev. Ari Luis DO VALE RIBEIRO, Professor of Theology at the Diocesan Seminary, Santo Amaro (BRAZIL)

The research on the “historical Jesus” which will always clarify the “Christ of the faith” is healthy, as, insomuch as it draws on the historic nucleus of the canonical Gospels, it attests to the historicity of the same. Such an approach is one of the valid syntheses operated by the so-called New Quest, an exegetic and Christological school which, following the Second World War, overcame the division between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of the faith”.

This division, harmful to the Christian faith, seems to have been revived in several exegetic studies aligned with the so-called Third Quest, begun in the last quarter of the 20th century. This is a School with legitimate aspirations, which proposes to carry out the historical reading of Jesus, starting with his Palestinian background. At the same time, one has the impression that certain exegetic studies of the School give the same value to apocryphal texts and the Holy Scripture, not bearing in mind the fact that they are simply secondary sources for exegesis, but especially they do not keep in mind, with the historical claim, the ideology of those who wrote them, whether they were agnostics or not. It seems to be a return to the claims of the liberal schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, with results similar to the current ones, including the negation of the divinity of Christ.

The equalization of the canonic texts with those apocryphal seems not to consider the theological dimension of the canon of the Scripture and of its analogy with the incarnation of the divine Word., a fact with grave implications for the Christian Faith.

The apocryphal texts may provide valid elements for historical knowledge and of literature contemporary to the primitive Church, but being secondary sources, because they have been distilled by the theological and ideological guidelines of the groups which have elaborated them, they compromise the faith in Jesus Christ, completely God and completely man.

Therefore, the use of the apocryphal in the exegesis of biblical texts without due criteria can compromise faith in Jesus, completely God and completely man and the faith in Scriptures as the Word of God. We suggest that the Biblical Pontifical Commission, together with the International Theological Commission draw up a document which provides rules governing the use of the apocryphal in the exegesis of biblical texts, without compromising the inspired character of the biblical texts, and above all, without compromising the Salvific message that they contain. Furthermore, we suggest, resumption of the teaching of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s Sancta Mater Ecclesia of 1964 (EB 644-659), which offers a happy solution to the question of the historical character of the Gospels as asserted by the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum (n.19).

[Original text: Italian]

— Mr. Ricardo GRZONA, President of the Foundation Ramon Pane in Hounduras; Catholic Consultant for the United Bible Societies (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA)

From the vision of the catechesis we understand that the topic on the Bible the “WHAT” is very clear. Catechists hope that this Synod, which offers specific tracks for the “how” will carry on this task. We would like to ask if it could be possible to maintain a specific line, thinking, above all of this great majority of people who live in the culture of the media and that yet all the time read less. To think about supporting all the initiatives which are being made concerning new means of communication.

We have noticed that in catechesis they teach more how to recite prayers than how to pray properly as a response to God who communicates himself with his Word. However, there is much road to cover with this topic of prayer and it is necessary that all our structures starting from catechesis, be a real school of prayer.

I refer to n°38 of Instrumentum Laboris, Lectio Divina: in Latin America we have widely experienced that many young people are incapable of reading a book, are fascinated when they are introduced to the method of Lectio Divina. This cannot be an ordinary proposal, isolated from the rest of ecclesiastic life, but on the contrary, a proposal to direct all the forms and structures of our Church, so that the latter leads a coherent life in concrete terms, following Christ and his Gospel. However, we run the risk of not reaching a deep reading according to the tradition of the Church and personal interpretations can be numerous and run the risk of betraying the Tradition. For this reason, I suggest to the Synodal Fathers that they propose an International Congress on the Lectio Divina which, directed by the Magisterium, can lead to an ever greater comprehension of the practice of prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures.

I would like to finish by quoting the Instrumentum Laboris n° 38 which at the end asserts: «This secularized world, which needs contemplative, attentive, critical and courageous people who, at times, must make totally new, untried choices.” Let us pray to God that we may achieve this.

[Original text: Spanish]
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