The Synod and a Love Letter

Final Message to People of God Approved

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2008 ( The archbishop who prepared the final message of the synod of bishops suggests reading the Bible like a love letter, such that each reader approaches it with the certainty, «It was written for me.»

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi said this today before the definitive reading of the synod’s final message, which was approved by the assembly.

The message begins by «propos[ing] a spiritual journey consisting of four phases» «that will carry us from all eternity and the infinite nature of God to our homes and the streets of our cities.»

Its four sections focus on «The Voice of the Word: Revelation»; «The Face of the Word: Jesus Christ»; «The House of the Word: The Church»; and «The Roads of the Word: The Mission.»

Laced with biblical citations, the message recalls the primary themes that have been constantly looked at by the synodal assembly.

«Our faith is not only centered on a book, but on a history of salvation and, as we will see, on a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, man and history,» it begins by affirming.

The text rises above any division between exegesis and theology, or exegesis and magisterium, asserting that «exegetical knowledge must […] weave itself indissolubly with spiritual and theological tradition so that the divine and human unity of Jesus Christ and Scripture is not broken.»

The message vigorously promotes catechesis and well prepared and delivered homilies, as well as lectio divina.

The final section on the mission urges every baptized person to be a missionary of the Word in his environment, in dialogue with believers of other religions and particularly with the world of culture and art.

A final word is addressed to those «our persecuted brothers and sisters or those who are put to death because of the Word of God and because of the witness they render to the Lord Jesus: As witnesses and martyrs they tell us of ‘the power of the word,’ origin of their faith, of their hope and of their love for God and for men.»

A passionate text

The draft of the message was initially presented by Archbishop Ravasi on Oct. 18. The text immediately brought agreement on two points: It was one of the most beautiful ever prepared by a synod and it was very long.

The archbishop explained today before reading the definitive version that he had received 52 messages from synod fathers asking him to preserve the draft, making small adjustments. The prelates’ notes explained that they want to use the message in writing their pastoral letters, giving retreats to priests and courses to catechists.

Nevertheless, so that the message could be more easily read, the synodal assembly suggested the publication of a shorter version, which was prepared by Archbishop Ravasi in two pages. It is not an official document, but it was distributed by the secretary-general of the synod as the «Summary of the Message to the People of God From the Synod of Bishops.»

«It is a text with passion, with ‘pathos,'» affirmed the archbishop, explaining that this style was chosen because of the genre — a message to the people of God — but also because «the approach to the Word of God should be warm, not just exegetical or theological.»

Before the final reading of the message, the Italian prelate suggested this key for the synod fathers, citing Soren Kierkegaard: «As a lover reads a letter from his beloved, you must read Scripture … the Bible has been written for me.»

The message was welcomed with a round of applause, which ratified the assembly approval.

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Summary of message:

Final message:

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