VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of the greeting Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave Monday on the first day of the world Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. Cardinal Levada, one of three delegate presidents of the synod, gave the address in Latin.
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Most Holy Father,
It is in a spirit of faith and Christian joy that we find ourselves united here to celebrate together this XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, called by Your Holiness. We will have the opportunity to debate with each other, but, above all, to come together in collegial communion to listen to the Word of life that God has entrusted to the loving and authoritative care of His Church, so that she may proclaim it with courage and conviction, to people near and far.
We would like to express our gratitude to you for having chosen such an important and delicate theme. We are, in fact, asked to reflect upon “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”. Everyone is aware of the importance of this topic and its centrality in the life of the Church and in our very Christian identity. In fact, the life and mission of the Church are founded on the Word of God, they are nourished by it and express it, since it is the soul of theology, and, at the same time, the inspiration for the whole of Christian existence. This Word of God, intended for all believers, requires special veneration and obedience, so that it may also be welcomed as an urgent call to the full communion of the followers of Christ.
As the dogmatic constitution “Dei Verbum” reminds us there exists an indissoluble unity between Sacred Scripture and Tradition since both flow from the same source: “Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.” (“Dei Verbum,” 9).
Only the living ecclesial tradition allows Sacred Scripture to be understood as the authentic Word of God that acts as guide, rule and law for the life of the Church and the spiritual growth of believers. This involves the rejection of any interpretation that is subjective or purely experiential or the fruit of a unilateral analysis, incapable of embracing the global sense that has guided the Tradition of the whole of God’s people down through the centuries.
It is in this context that the necessity and responsibility of the Magisterium are born, a Magisterium called to be the authentic interpreter of this same Word of God at the service of the whole Christian people and for the salvation of the whole world. And we individual bishops too know well how great our individual responsibilities are as legitimate successors of the Apostles and what is expected of us by today’s society to which we are duty-bound to transmit the truth that we, in turn, have received. The Second Vatican Council teaches that “It devolves on sacred bishops […] to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books” (Dei Verbum, 25).This therefore is a specific duty of the bishops both as hearers of the Word and as servants of the same, in accordance with the munus docendi they were given. In this sense, the synodal organism also constitutes an institution, qualified to promote the truth and unity of the pastoral dialogue within the Mystical Body of Christ.
Your Holiness, in your address to the Members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, you stated “hope that it will help every Christian and every ecclesial and civil community to rediscover the importance of God’s Word in their life” (Speech to the Members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, L’Osservatore Romano, 26 January 2007, 5).
We want to welcome this invitation with humility and responsibility since we know that the final end of divine revelation is the communion of life with the Lord. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the Word of God is alive and active (cf. 4:12) and lights up the path of our earthly pilgrimage towards its full conclusion in the Kingdom of God. Only those who are familiar with the Word of God can become his credible spokesperson and only those who live it in a concrete undertaking of growth can understand what St Paul meant when he wrote to the Christians of Corinth: “I should be in trouble if I failed to do it [preach the Gospel].” (1 Co 9:16). St Paul’s cry still echoes today in the Church with urgency and becomes for all Christians an appeal to serve the Gospel in the whole world.
As we begin the work of this Synodal Assembly, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us turn our gaze to Christ, the light of the world and our only Teacher. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate, intercede on our behalf. Bless us, Holy Father, so that the beauty, purity and truth of the Word of God may reach all men and women of our time through our pastoral charity, our evangelical courage and our joyful responsibility for the Christian message.