On the Word and Words

«The Bible Should Not be Robbed of Its Divine Element»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square. His greeting came after the celebration of Mass to close the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

With the Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of St. Peter, the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops has drawn to a close. It had the theme «The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.» Every synodal assembly is a strong experience of ecclesial communion, but this one even more so because at the center of the attention was placed that which enlightens and guides the Church: the Word of God, which is Christ in person.

And we have lived each day in a religious listening, marking all the grace and beauty of being his disciples and servants. According to the original meaning of the word «church,» we have experienced the joy of being convoked by the Word, and especially in the liturgy, we have found each other from within it on the journey, as in our promised land, which gives us a foretaste of the Kingdom of heaven.

One aspect that has been considered is the relationship between the Word and words, that is, between the Divine Word, and the Scripture that expresses it. As the Second Vatican Council teaches in the constitution «Dei Verbum» (No. 12), a good biblical exegesis requires both the historical-critical method and the theological one, because sacred Scripture is the Word of God in human words. This implies that every text should be read keeping in mind the unity of all Scripture, the living tradition of the Church and the light of faith. If it is true that the Bible is also a literary work, even more, the great code of universal culture, it is also true that it should not be robbed of its divine element, but rather should be read in the same Spirit in which it was written. Scientific exegesis and lectio divina are, therefore, both necessary and complementary for seeking, through the literal meaning, the spiritual one, which God wants to communicate to us today.

At the end of the synodal assembly, the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches have raised a call, which I make my own, to bring the attention of the international community, of religious leaders and of all men and women of good will, to the tragedy that is being lived in the countries of the East, where Christians are victims of intolerance and cruel violence, slain, threatened, and forced to abandon their homes and wander in search of refuge. I am thinking especially in this moment of Iraq and India.

I am sure that the ancient and noble populations of these nations have learned, over the course of centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contribution that the small, but qualified and hardworking Christian minorities give to the growth of the common homeland. They do not ask for privileges, but only want to continue living in their nation with their countrymen, as they have always done. I ask the respective civil and religious authorities not to spare any effort so that legality and civil coexistence are again re-established and honest and loyal citizens can know that they can count on adequate protection from the institutions of the state. I also hope that the civil and religious leaders of all countries, aware of their roles as guides and reference points for the people, make significant and explicit gestures of friendship and consideration for Christian minorities or those of other religions, and that they make of the defense of their legitimate rights a question of honor.

I am also happy to announce here with you what I have just announced in holy Mass: In October of next year, the II Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa will take place in Rome. Before this, if God allows it, in the month of March, it is my intention to travel to Africa, first visiting Cameroon, where I will give the bishops of the continent the «instrumentum laboris» of the synod, and then to Angola, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country.

I entrust the suffering mentioned earlier, as well as the hopes that all of us carry in our hearts, particularly the expectation of the synod of Africa, to Most Holy Mary.

[Translation by ZENIT] [After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus, including neocatechumenal communities from England. As the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God concludes I invite you all to deepen your knowledge of God’s word which vivifies our life and mission as Christians. Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of the heart of our faith: love of God and of neighbour. May your time here in Rome inspire you to live ever more fully God’s commandment of love, courageously bearing witness to the way of Christ. Upon you and your families, I invoke God’s abundant blessings of peace and joy!

© Copyright 2008 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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