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Synod Interventions of 11th General Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are summaries of the interventions given Saturday afternoon at the 11th general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

* * *

— H.E. Most. Rev. Louis PORTELLA MBUYU, Bishop of Kinkala, President of the Episcopal Conference (CONGO)

In Congo-Brazzaville, a country that has been scarred by a series of internal conflicts, we are noticing an abundance of religious movements that can be classified in two categories: on the one hand, the movements that practice a reading that is liberating even as it recalls elements of traditional religion. These put themselves forward as a counter-reaction to a Christianity that is considered a negation of the African identity. On the other hand, movements, branches of the Pentecostal movement of American origin, characterized by a fundamentalist or even magical reading of the Bible, whose aim is to mobilize people’s consciences about the concrete problems of life in society.

There also are movements that tend towards the esoteric or gnostic, that are characterized by a symbolic and ideological reading of the Bible.

All of this has to be placed in a context of underdevelopment with its baggage of poverty and resignation. Faced with this complex situation, what emerges is the urgent need to help and stimulate the faith ful of Christ in the Congo to read the Word of God, to meditate on it, to pray it inasmuch as it can “recreate” African man who still carries within the consequences of the past. This requires easier access to the Biblical text by means of translations. This is one of the pastoral emergencies of our Church.

On the other hand, this reading of the Word of God has to inspire in the African reader a realization of his responsibilities as regards a society that is waiting to be transformed in all its structures according to the Gospel values.

[Original text: French]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Gregor Maria HANKE, O.S.B., Bishop of Eichstätt (GERMANY)

Instrumentum laboris Chapter 5, no. 34 leads us to reflection on the relationship between the Word of God and the Eucharist. In this context, I go back to the question on how the presence of Christ in the Word of God and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist are in relationship with each other. The different ways the Lord’s presence is in the liturgical celebration cannot be compared or equal as if they were side by side in a static way as to their value. The consequence of this way of thinking would be would be a modalistic understanding of the presence of the Lord, which allows substituting one type of presence for another, for example, the Eucharistic celebration with the liturgy of the Word.

The key should be the correct understanding of what Word of God means. The Word of God does not end with the published Bible nor with the announcement of the Word. In fact, the written Word does not have the same depth as the Word-Logos revealed in the Incarnation. The force of the written and proclaimed Word nourishes itself on the continuous presence in world history of this greater Word-Action. This context makes the letters that make up the Holy Scripture the Word of God that travels with today’s man and opens in him the dialogue of God with man.

However, the Eucharist is the place where the Word of action is made present, with all its history of salvation and eschatology. The Word of God of the Scripture seen as the presence of the Lord, therefore, points all back to the Eucharist The presence of the Lord in the Word requires His presence in the Eucharist. We must reflect on this for our Biblical pastoral ministry.

[Original text: German]

– H. B. Nerses Bedros XIX TARMOUNI, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, Head of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church (LEBANON)

In beginning my intervention, I would like to underline the fact that the origin of the Armenian Church, evangelized by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, can be traced to the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in Armenia in the year 301, according to tradition. At that time, the Armenian alphabet did not exist and Bible readings were proclaimed in Greek or Syriac. The reader then would translate it into Armenian. This did not help in understanding the Word of God by the Armenian neophytes. This led to the idea of inventing an alphabet to translate the Bible in the language of the people.
This was realized thanks to a monk by the name of Mesrob who, encouraged and supported by the supreme Chiefs of the Church and the State, the Catholicos Sahag and the King Vramchapouh, was entrusted with this and invented the Armenian alphabet in 406. The Bible was the first book to be translated, beginning with the Septuagint.

We can assert that ever since the translation of the Bible into Armenian, the Holy Book acquired greater importance in the lives of the Armenian people. Its beneficial effects were felt by bringing a new mentality and a new spirit to the faithful, the intellectuals and society in general.

We can conclude without hesitation that the invention of the Armenian alphabet in the year 406 had no other goal but that of evangelization. This evangelization helped maintain the Christian faith which was often endangered, as in 451 – the Bible had just been translated – and during the centuries to follow. The Word of God is supported by the Church and by the Armenian people during its painful history. It impregnated and animated all of Armenian culture throughout the centuries. The lives of the Armenians were continually penetrated and guided by the Word of God.

May this precious richness, represented by Sacred Scriptures as well as the exemplary lives of our ancestors, stimulate the new generation to turn back to Word of life evermore. This will be the fruit of the conclusions of this Synod.

[Original text: French]

— H.E. Most. Rev. György-Miklós JAKUBÍNYI, Archbishop of Alba Iulia, Apostolic Administrator “ad nutum Sanctae Sedit” for Catholics of Armenian Rite residing in Romania (ROMANIA)

Following the changes of 1989, democratic freedoms reappeared. Eighteen “cults” were recognized, including the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches as two separate cults. In Romania at the moment (AP statistics 2008) there are 1,115,000 Roman Catholics in six dioceses: Bucharest along with the suffragans of Iaşi, Oradea of the Latins, Satu Mare,Timişoara and Alba Iulia, archbishopric sui iuris. 771,000 Greek Orthodox in five dioceses/eparchies; the Major Archbishopric of Făgaraş and Alba Iulia (with its seat at Blaj) with the suffragans of Cluj-Gherla, Lugoj, Maramures (with its seat at Baia Mare) and Oradea of the Romanians. 806 Armenian Catholics in a bishopric. All have a diocesan bishop, some also have auxiliaries. The religious orders have reopened their novitiates. Catholic publishers and publications have appeared. In this way, the Bible is becoming available to everyone again.

With the help of the Holy See, the Greek Catholics re-edited the only Romanian Greek-Orthodox Bible compline of Blaj (1796). The Romanian Roman Catholics – the professors of the Theological Institute of Iaşi made a new translation of the New Testament in 2002. Hungarian and German speakers are allowed to import Bibles from Hungary and Germany.

Many parishes have formed circles for the young and for adults for shared Lectio Divina. Future priests are already educated in seminary in the apostolate of the Bible.

Four Transylvanian dioceses with a Hungarian majority formed the Asociaţia Biblică Maghiară din România which is part of the Catholic Bible Association (FBC = Federazione Biblica Cattolica, AMB = Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mitteleuropäischer Bibelwerke). This group organizes the Biblical apostolate with sessions, camps, multipliers for Biblical circles, etc.

I think that these are encouraging signs of a Biblical renewal in the life of the local Church in Romania.

I‘d propose that all dioceses found Biblical Associations, even National Federations, with the scope of promoting the Catholic Biblical Apostolate.

[Original text: Italian]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Juan Abelardo MATA GUEVARA, S.D.B., Bishop of Estelí (NICARAGUA)

The core of the brief story of Jeremiah’s vocation (Jr 1:10-17 et seg) is centered on the Word of Yahweh, whose importance permeates the whole narration, and on God Himself from who the Word comes. In the words that Yahweh pronounces during the encounter and that are aimed directly at the ultimate reality of things, to the ordinating will of God (cf. Gn), Jeremiah is immediately put in his place as a creature. In fact, the expression “before I modeled you” (yazar) formulates the relationship of man’s complete dependence on his Creator. It is God who models not only substance but also existence, being as well as becoming. This appearance expresses itself through a clearly Hebrew verse, to know (yada) which implies an intense volitive connotation. The word means nothing else and could apply to all men.

With respect to this magnificent telocentric of man and his affairs in this world, an evermore anthropocentric vision has developed, interested in the immediate, individual and concrete reality: it speaks of a practical atheism which postulates that man has no need of recourse to God to explain his being in the world, even less that He tells him what he can and cannot do. This “secular” way of conceiving of man, characterized by the absence of a metaphysical reflection on reality and objective ethical norms which emanate from this being, manifests itself in man’s skeptical attitude in both his confrontation with the existence of God and in the possibility of knowing absolute truth. This fact implies two consequences: the first is that a strong interest in phenomenology and that which can be empirically proved is arising, intended as an hermeneutic key for understanding reality. The second is that a mentality is developing in which that which is ethically correct resolves itself in accepting that which collectivism requires.

This requires of us a great intellectual effort, which presents itself as a challenge, according to the words of John Paul II, when he says to us: “We face a great challenge at the end of this millennium to move from phenomenon to foundation, a step as necessary as it is urgent. We cannot stop short at experience alone;”(Faith and Reason, 83). The ethical questions are ever stronger, to use the words of John Paul II, on the shifting sands of widespread scepticism and the lack of confidence in being able to grasp the truth (cf. Faith and Reason ,5)

[Original text: Spanish]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Ignatius SUHARYO HARDJOATMODJO, Archbishop of Semarang (INDONESIA)

Asia is a continent of many religions and cultures marked by degrading poverty and underdevelopment. This is the context for the Church in Asia to reflect on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. FABC has been promoting evangelization always in triple dialogue with the poor,· religions and cultures. Nostra Aetate and other post-conciliar documents, have confirmed the way of dialogue as the characteristic mode of the Church (Ecclesia in Asia, 3).

Lineamenta and Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod mostly refer to Dei Verbum but they need to be complemented by Gaudium et Spes with its call for dialogue with the world. In Asia, proclamation of the Word demands dialogue and inculturation as requirements of the Word Incarnate. The Word of God has to become the Word of life for the poor of Asia.

We have to respond to the structural causes of poverty and marginalization for integral liberation in the light of the Word of God. The beatitudes of the Kingdom, especially concerning the poor in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have to be proclaimed both for the rich challenging their self-sufficiency and for the poor as source of hope for liberation and life.

Biblical revelation stresses God’s love for the poor, namely the widow, the orphan and the stranger. God always works vindication and justice for the poor (Ps 103:6). Jesus our Lord embodied the divine compassion for the poor in his proclamation of God’s reign. God’s preferential option for the poor is the Word of life for the ignored, humiliated and the deprived. The Church must share the Word of God as the Word of hope and life for the poor of Asia.

[Original text: English]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Ricardo Ernesto CENTELLAS GUZMÁN, Titular Bishop of Torri of Ammenia Auxiliary Bishop of Potosí, Auxiliary Bishop of Potosí (BOLIVIA)

Bring “”the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures” (IL 57)

This calling has always been the life and the mission of the Church; however, the fruits that came from this are not enough so that the world can progress according to the criteria of the Kingdom. Today’s reality shows us that the Word of God and ancient and modern cultures are separate and parallel worlds. Two realities that are united intrinsically and progress following two completely different orientations, when they are two arms of the same body, because God speaks with the written Word in the life of persons and events today.

The great pastoral challenge comes from this: to launch, once again, an authentic incarnation of the Word of God with its own face, in a concrete situation that means and involves a project for society in answer to the historical, social and cultural needs of our communities, so that we can better our lives in accordance with the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We cannot continue reading and meditating on the Word without the necessary relationship with cultures and without the consequence of social commitment.

Contextual reading of the Word is a priority, capable of transforming peoples and structures. An interpretation that can promote reading by the poorest and those marginalized, which promotes the birth of communion and community, which allows for the unveiling by cultures of the mysterious presence of God in their history, so that every faithful becomes the enlivened subject of his history and a witness of the experience of God.

Especially in my country, and in other nations of Latin America, reading is necessary, starting from the emerging indigenous cultures that, for centuries, have walked parallel to the process of evangelization. As we pointed out during the Aparecida conference: there are many baptized but few evangelized persons.

Every action, project, group and movement, institution and structure of our Church must renew their true motivations and start once again according to Biblical inspiration. It is urgent to show the world a new way of being Church.

[Original text: Spanish]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Arturo M. BASTES, S.V.D., Bishop of Sorsogon (PHILIPPINES)

1) Biblical courses in the seminary are too intellectual, using the western method of historico-critical exegesis, which bores most seminarians. This academic approach should be complemented with methods that take into account the culture and life situation of the hearers.

2) The members of the Catholic Biblical Federation (found in 129 countries today) have developed techniques in doing biblical pastoral ministry which prove to be effective in transmitting God’s message to contemporary men and women. These creative methodologies must be inc1uded in the official curriculum of the formation programs in theological faculties and houses of formation. An example of such a method appealing to people of today is the “Bibliodrama.”

3) The urgency of developing an Asian way of reading the Bible is felt because of the tremendous challenge the Church is facing in this huge continent where millions of people feel hungry for God’s Word. There are now successful attempts to develop a biblical hermeneutics that take into account the rich culture and history of Asian peoples. There is a pIan to produce an Asian Biblical Commentary that will make use of the historico-critical method of the West and a comparative cultural hermeneutics to render the profound spiritual sense of the biblical text accessible to the Asian souI. The Asian members of the CBF have also decided to establish an Asian Bible Institute, which will hopefully give the desired holistic biblical formation program.

4) This is one way of contributing to the “missio ad extra” in Asia, the majority of whose people have not yet heard of Christ. Through a graduaI process of evangelization presenting Jesus of the Gospels as Teacher, Story Teller, Healer, Miracle Worker, Friend, Consoler – images that are pleasing to Asians – people of Asia may eventually be led by the Spirit to believe in Christ as the Son of God.

[Original text: English]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Javier Augusto DEL RÍO ALBA, Archbishop of Arequipa (PERU)

The Mission of the New Evangelization, which Christ has entrusted to us as a Church, in this third millennium, requires that we retrieve and distribute the conscience with some elements that sometimes during certain periods of Christianity we take for granted and, in some cases, we may have forgotten. Allow me to state briefly some of them:

1. The Church is a depositary of the Revealed Truth. Gospel is not an additional offer, among many that can be found in the post-modern.

2. The Word of God is efficient and has in itself “dynamism”, the power to regenerate the human being and make out of it a “new creation”(1 P 1:2; Jm 1:18; Jn 1:12-13)

3. The Kerygma is, first of all, a “word of salvation” able to break, for those who receive it, the chains of servitude of the idols and bring the desire of participating in the Life that God offers.4. The Christina Incarnation, whether it is pre- or post-baptism, is a suitable tool for preparing the divine life in believer.

5. The permanent formation inside a small community has the advantage of facilitating the Christian faithful’s vision of the “incarnated” Word of God in its Mystical Body that is the Church.
6. Centrality of the Sacred Scriptures in life and the Ministry of the Bishops and priests, so that we can be “men of the Word”.

I think that these elements and others that can be added, are being recuperated by the new movements and small communities, made by the Holy Spirit round the Second Vatican Council. With this feeling I may I propose that this Holy Synod must take up the invitation that our dear Holy Father made to the pastors several months ago, by telling us to receive these new ecclesiastical realities with love.

Finally, I also think that it is necessary to review, in the light of Pastores dabo vobis, the formation that it is being given in our seminaries, so that greater importance may be given to silence of prayer and the lectio divina, and that there be a still larger unity between the academic dimension and the spiritual in the preparation of our future pastors.

[Original text: Spanish]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph Prathan SRIDARUNSIL, S.D.B., Bishop of Surat Thani (THAILAND)

The Catholic Church in Thailand lives its life. in Christ, through the Eucharist and Scripture.

And so the Church has a life-giving mission to be a shining light of Faith and Hope in Thai society. The Thai Church as a small group amidst other faiths and religions is deeply aware of our role of being leaven in the dough in Thai society.

We realize that the Word of God has to affect our lives through study, meditation, prayer, and we have to put the Word of God into practice. The Thai Church has decided to promote the Word of God in its life and mission in the following ways:

1. The disposition of listening to the Word is extremely important. Basic Ecclesial Communities in Thai Church use the Word of God as the core of their existence which includes lectio divina.

2. The Church in Thailand stresses the importance of Biblical studies in our seminaries, houses of religious formation, and in the formation of the laity, and helps them to know and love the Word of God, and live it and thus to share their experiences of the Word with others.

3. The Church in Thailand fully desires the Word of God to be at the heart of all catechetics and thus to lay a solid foundation of faith and Christian maturity of Christians for their mission of witness in Thai society.

4. The Thai Church using modern technology in its efforts to fulfill the three goals mentioned above will try to communicate the Word of God as the way, the truth and the life for all the faithful and people of other faiths, with emphasis on the Word as the Good News to the poor (Lk 4: 18).

[Original text: English]

– H.E. Most. Rev. Friedhelm HOFMANN, Bishop of Würzburg (GERMANY)

So many important things have already been said about the exegesis of the Word of God and on preaching in the liturgy. However, how can we reach those persons who do not come to Church?

A few possibilities have been mentioned. Starting from Chapter Seven of the Instrumentum laboris, “the Word of God in serving and forming the People of God”, I would like to introduce another aspect, Christian culture.

God’s revelation is not limited to the Word of God in the Bible. It can also be found in nature and in culture. Of course, the highest and most intense revelation by God is the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ. This is what needs to be explained.

Jesus Himself often transmits His message by means of parables. In these parables, the central affirmation is, so to speak, personified, or rather, placed in a complex context that, through imagery, calls upon man in his entirety.

The Word of God has been incultured in the most diverse cultures. It has an impact on art. In Europe, we are looking at an impressive cultural Christian history, almost 2000 years. Extraordinary architecture, works of figurative art, music and literature, all have been born of faith and embraced the witness of faith. Now, we must make this renewed faith speak.

During the Middle Ages, the Biblia pauperum was known, it explained parts of the history of salvation visually to those who could not read. Today, Christian culture must be explained because many persons no longer understand this language and no longer dedicate themselves directly to the Holy Scripture. Through a contemporary illustration of our Christian culture where we can explain within our evangelization, we can once again incite curiosity towards the Word of God by modern man.

Even in today’s culture, however, one must search for the traces of faith and bring them back to their use as bridge. If it is true that artists are the sismographers of their time, then it would be good to take advantage of this and involve them in the proclamation of the Word of God.

[Original text: German]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Guido PLANTE, P.M.E., Bishop of Choluteca (HONDURAS)

The Second Vatican Council invited us to promote the celebrations of the Word of God on Sundays and feast days “They are particularly to be commended in places where no priest is available; when this is so, a deacon or some other person authorized by the bishop should preside over the celebration” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 35/4). In March 1966, few months after the proclamation of the Constitution on Liturgy , Mons. Marcelo Gérin, Bishop of Choluteca, Honduras, prepared and sent 17 peasants to celebrate Holy Week in isolated communities without a priest. The inhabitants enthusiasm was so great that they requested celebrations each Sunday. This gave rise to the Delegates of the Word of God.
Today, we have more than 10.000 Delegates in Honduras and in nearby countries.

These Delegates are more than a mere Sunday celebrants and they are more than mere readers: they are real promoters of Christian communities. In addition, they work for free. The word of God has shown itself to be, from the beginning, as an embryo of authentic ecclesial community. A communion and participating Church was strengthened which permitted the flowering of many pastoral initiatives: youth groups, catechists, housewives’ clubs, etc. The Word of God was considered as the best yeast for a social Christian development and for an integral liberation. The community members while deepening the Word feel encouraged to promote human rights and to help the victims of poverty, corruption and violence. I think that the affirmations of No. 30 of the working document on “the Word of God in charity service” could be more incisive.

In addition, in Honduras, the Sunday celebrations of the Word did not draw away the faithful from Eucharist, they rather guided them to live it better. With time, the Word of God engendered hunger for the Eucharistic bread. In some rural communities where the Word is celebrated, the parish priest authorized the Eucharistic Reserve in the local hermitage and the Bishop designated an extraordinary communion minister. A new zeal was noted. Maybe, in other regions, the celebration of the Word without a priest may weaken the endeavors of pastoral vocational work in favor of ministerial priesthood. On the contrary, in Honduras, it was a source of priestly vocations. In my diocese of Choluteca, for example, all young priests were Delegates of the Word.

[Original text: Spanish]

— H.E. Most. Rev. Zbigniew KIERNIKOWSKI, Bishop of Siedlce (POLAND)

Modern man, not having heard the Word, often stands in front of it dumbstruck. In Mark’s Gospel, we have the scene of Jesus who opens the ears and loosens the tongue with the gesture (almost a rite) of Ephphatha (Mk 7:24).

Kerygma is a very important moment. If however kerygma is not followed by a true formation in listening to the Word in the bosom of the community of faith, there is a risk of falling into the various moralisms, or flowing into different types of fanaticism or other sorts of subjective interpretation.

It is necessary to remember that man , after the sin (conditio peccatoris) needs help to be able to listen and let himself be formed . If this help is not forthcoming, man flees his reality, like Adam in the Garden, because he is afraid of getting involved and taken over by the Word of the Gospel which proposes a “new life” to him, putting him in the position where he has to abandon himself to follow Jesus, the risen Crucified in which the Sermon of the Mount is achieved.

The discourse of the Mountain is very attractive. But if man finds himself facing this message on his own, understanding it only as a commandment and not as an image or promise of the new man, he will be frightened. The truths, “How blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who are persecuted; offer no resistance to the wicked; love your enemies” (Mt 5) will seem unrealistic to him.
It is not unusual — even though the first hearing takes place — if this conception of the Word doesn’t commence in a way that is appropriate, it aborts, it divorces, it betrays, the conception is perceived as uncomfortable and dangerous.

The only person capable of welcoming the Word is Mary — the Immaculate. She, insofar as she is the Immaculate one — could welcome the Word, conceive it, store it in her heart and lead it to fruition, to be born as the New Man, the New Adam. She is the figure and the Mother of the listening that becomes fruitful in all who hear.
The approach used in the neocatechumenal journey is based on initial kerygma and followed by a serious process of initiation under the guidance of the Church (bishops, parish priests and catechists) carried out in small communities and with all the necessary stages of Christian initiation. In this way, the catechumenate has the initiate follow an itinerary that teaches him to refer the Word to his own life.

[Original text: Italian]

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