Bible Lovers Not Defined by Denomination, Politics

Survey Presented in Vatican as Lead Up to Synod

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2008 ( There is no longer diversity among various Christian traditions regarding a relationship with Scripture, according to a survey presented in the Vatican.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, presented today in the Vatican press office the results of a study on the reading of Scripture in nine countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Russia.

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Italy, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation, and Luca Diotallevi, coordinator of the research group and professor of sociology at the University of Roma Tre, joined the archbishop in the presentation.

Bishop Paglia explained that the Catholic Biblical Federation undertook the survey with a view to the upcoming October synod on “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church.”

He said the federation survey took into account various Christian traditions and aimed “to acquire concrete information on Christians’ relationship with Scripture.”

The survey, Bishop Paglia explained, “confirmed in full the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral intuition to exhort the faithful to rediscover Scripture as the primary source of spiritual life.”

It also reaffirmed, he said, “the bond that exists between the Bible and the Eucharist,” because “the majority of those interviewed indicated the Sunday celebration as the place in which they habitually listen to the Word of God.”

Ecumenical role

The Italian prelate said the role of the Bible in ecumenical dialogue is key.

The survey found that “Scripture remains the most effective ‘place’ Christians have to progress together along the path of unity. […] The answers also showed that there no longer exists that diversity among the various Christian traditions — a diversity evident in the past — concerning their relationship with Scripture,” Bishop Paglia noted.

Another factor to emerge was “the considerable expectations that the men and women of our time have toward holy Scripture,” which “is considered with great respect by everyone,” he said.

Among Christians, the bishop explained, “it is widely held that the Bible contains the word of God, that it is an inspired work capable of giving meaning to life, and that it has far greater authority than other ecclesial manifestations,” although the values it contains “are difficult to put into practice.”

Bishop Paglia thus concluded that one of the great challenges shown forth by the survey is Scripture-based preaching, which should “constitute an authoritative appeal to believers and to all those who seek.”

Avoiding extremes

The prelate further noted how “listening to Scriptures favors the cohesion of listeners.”

“Indeed, listening to the Word of God truly ‘makes’ the Church,” he explained. Hence “reading Scripture in the company of the Church” makes it possible to avoid “the two most dangerous obstacles: a fundamentalist reading […] and an individualist pseudo-psychological reading that leads readers to reflect themselves in the pages.”

The prelate concluded his remarks by highlighting the need “to find space for the ‘schools of the word,’ the ‘schools of the Gospel,’ and the ‘schools of reading and listening to the Bible.’ […] It is in this perspective that we must see ‘lectio divina,’ the oldest and riches method of listening to Scripture,” which must be given “new spaces and new forms until it becomes the habitual way of approaching the word of God in our Christian communities.”

Broad majorities

Diotallevi explained that some 13,000 interviews had been completed during the course of the survey, which he described as “the most systematic scientific undertaking yet attempted to compare, on an international scale, levels and forms of familiarity with the Scriptures of Christian tradition among the adult population.”

The survey was promoted by the Catholic Biblical Federation and by GFK-Eurisko.

“The Bible in the areas we examined is not the text of a minority but an important point of reference, present — in different degrees and ways — in the life and culture of broad majorities of the population,” he said. “It may be affirmed that between a third and a quarter of adults in the countries examined have read a Bible passage at least once in the last 12 months.”

Diotallevi noted the existence of “a gap dividing the Anglo-Saxon world from central and eastern Europe.” In the former, “the sensation of the closeness of God is anything but extinct and the practice of prayer is anything but marginal. A very large majority of people look to the Bible as a source of truth, as the source of a message that has to do with life,” he said.

More than 50% of those interviewed in Russia, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany were in favor of having the Bible studied in schools

The survey also showed that “the practice of reading the Bible depends statistically on participation in events and groups that already adopt this practice, more than on shared religious beliefs,” the professor noted. “Reading the Bible in no way echoes political polarization between ‘right’ and ‘left.'”

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