Pope Francis' Address to Italian Biblical Assocation

“It is necessary, naturally, that the exegete himself be able to perceive the divine Word in the texts, and this is possible only if his spiritual life is fervid, rich in dialogue with the Lord.”

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At 12:30 this afternoon, the Holy Father Francis received in audience – in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Vatican Palace — the Italian Biblical Association, at the end of the 43rd National Biblical Week, held in Rome from September 8-12 at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, on the theme: “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord? (Psalm 106:2). Models of God’s Intervention in History.”

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address, in the course of the meeting, to those present.

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THE HOLY FATHER’S ADDRESS

Dear Friends,

I meet with you at the end of the National Biblical Week, promoted by the Italian Biblical Association. Your meeting opens the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican Council II. We must be grateful for the openings that, as fruit of a long effort of research, the Council has offered us, as well as the abundance and ease of access to Sacred Scripture. A Christian needs it today more than ever, solicited as he is by opposite cultural lures. In order to shine, and not be suffocated, faith must be constantly nourished by the Word of God.

I express my esteem and gratitude to you for the precious work you carry out in your ministry of docents and scholars of the Bible. Moreover, this meeting offers me the opportunity to confirm, in continuity with the Magisterium of the Church, the importance of biblical exegesis for the People of God. We can recall what the Pontifical Biblical Commission stated: “Biblical exegesis – I quote – fulfils an indispensable task in the Church and in the world. To fail to make use of it in understanding the Bible would be an illusion and would demonstrate a lack of respect for the inspired Scripture […] Since the time of the Old Testament, to speak to men and to women God has exploited all the possibilities of human language. True respect for the inspired Scripture calls for exerting all necessary efforts, to be able to understand well the meaning. Certainly, it is not possible that every Christian carry out personally researches of all sorts that make it possible to understand the biblical texts better. This task is entrusted to the exegetes, responsible in this sector for the good of all” (The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, April 15, 1993, Conclusion).

In fact when meeting the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, on the occasion of the presentation of the Document just mentioned, Saint John Paul II reminded that “to respect the coherence of the faith of the Church and of the inspiration of Scripture, Catholic exegesis must be careful not to concern itself with the human aspects of the biblical texts. It must also and above all help Christian people to perceive more clearly the Word of God in these texts, to receive it better, to live fully in communion with God” (L’Osservatore Romano, April 25, 1993, p. 9). To this end it is necessary, naturally, that the exegete himself be able to perceive the divine Word in the texts, and this is possible only if his spiritual life is fervid, rich in dialogue with the Lord; otherwise exegetical research remains incomplete, it loses sight of its main objective.

There is a very effective expression in the Conclusion of the Document: “Catholic exegesis does not have the right to be like a course of water that loses itself in hypercritical analysis.”

Therefore, beyond academic competence, required of the Catholic exegete is also and above all the faith, received and shared with all the believing people, which in its totality cannot be mistaken. I refer again to Saint John Paul II’s words: “To arrive at a fully valid interpretation of the inspired words of the Holy Spirit, we must ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit; therefore, it is necessary to pray, to pray much, to ask in prayer for the inner light of the Spirit and to received this light with docility, to ask for love, which alone makes one capable of understanding God’s language, which is love (1 John 4:8.16)” (L’Osservatore Romano, April 25, 1993, p. 9).

The model is the Virgin Mary, of whom Saint Luke says that she meditated in her heart the words and events regarding her Son Jesus (cf. 2:19). May Our Lady teach us to receive fully the Word of God, not only through intellectual research, but in our whole life.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you again, I bless you and your work and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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