VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- There is renewed interest in sacred Scripture, but still a long way to go in promoting it, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi affirmed this when he considered the results of a Bible survey carried out by the Catholic Biblical Federation.
In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Ravasi, who is also the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, explains why the survey was taken and what the results indicate.
Q: A short time ago, an investigation on the Bible and the extent to which it is known was presented at the Vatican. Can you describe the motivations and objectives of this study?
Archbishop Ravasi: This investigation was carried out by the Catholic Biblical Federation, an independent institution that has a certain connection with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
This investigation was performed mainly in connection with this year’s synod of bishops that is focused precisely on the Bible.
The investigation was also intended to examine the current situation after more than 40 years since the Second Vatican Council, which marked a rekindling of Bible reading by Catholics.
The Bible was certainly known before that, particularly through the liturgy and catechesis, but not in such a systematic and ongoing manner as later on, especially after such an essential document as the Dogmatic Constitution “Dei Verbum,” the text on divine revelation issued by Vatican II.
Therefore, this was the main purpose: To carry out a test about sensitivity to the Bible in the ecclesial communities of nine countries. To these, another four will be added within a short time, in order to gain an articulated and complete view of the relationship between the word of God and communities.
Q: Tell us something about the results of the investigation.
Archbishop Ravasi: The results have proved very complete, due to the thoroughness of the investigation’s outline and structure, which covered an unimaginable number of elements and took a very broad sampling.
The results are extremely interesting and solid, despite, of course, all the limitations that come with this type of study.
At least two considerations could be drawn from this enormous collection of information.
The first is that, undoubtedly, some countries show a tremendous distance from the sacred text, the Bible, as compared to others.
For example, one issue that could be significant was the question about having read a passagge out of the Bible over the last year.
In the United States, 73% of the population has read a part of the Bible over the last year. This means practically everyone is in the habit of reading it. On the other hand, if we consider Italy, we find that only one quarter has read a passage from the Bible over the last year.
This is an example. The answers are, as you can see, very diverse and, in some countries, there is a long way to go.
Strangely, one of the very last countries is Spain. This is surprising because it is a Catholic country with great traditions; however, it probably marks a kind of break from its past — and it usually appears last in this study.
The second consideration is that, in spite of this, there are undoubtedly many people who feel the wish to return to this text, viewing it not only as a norm of life, as believers obviously do, as a lamp unto the feet on the path of life — to draw a sentence from the Bible itself — but even as a great cultural text.