Synod of Bishops on the Scriptures
Benedict XVI's Homily at Synod's Inaugural Mass
"When God Speaks, He Always Seeks a Response"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2008 .- Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of
the homily Benedict XVI delivered Sunday at the inaugural Mass of the 12th
Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held at the Basilica of
St. Paul Outside the Walls. The synod will be held at the Vatican through
Oct. 26. The theme is "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the
* * *
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The first reading, taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, like the page
from the Gospel according to Matthew, proposed a suggestive allegorical image
of the Sacred Scripture to our liturgical assembly: the image of the vineyard,
which we have already heard about during the past Sundays. The initial pericope
of the Evangelical story refers to the “canticle of the vineyard” that we
find in Isaiah. This is a canticle placed in the autumnal context of harvest:
a small masterpiece of Jewish poetry, which must have been very familiar
to those who listened to Jesus and from which, as from other references by
the Prophets (Cf. Hos 10:1; Jr 2:21; Ez 17:3-10; 19:10-14; Psa 79:9-17),
we learn that the vineyard was Israel. To His vineyard, to His chosen people,
God maintained the same care as that of a faithful husband for his wife (Cf.
Ez 16:1-14, Eph 5:25-33).
The image of the vineyard, together with the one of marriage, therefore describes
the divine project of salvation, and is seen as a moving allegory of the
Covenant of God with His people. In the Gospel, Jesus takes up the canticle
of Isaiah, but adapts it to those listening to Him and to the new hour of
the history of salvation. The accent is no longer placed on the vineyard
but on the tenants, to whom the “servants” of the owner ask for the rent
in his name. The servants are mistreated though and even killed. How can
we not think of the events of the chosen people and to the fate awaiting
the prophets sent by God? At the end, the owner of the vineyard makes a last
attempt: he sends his son, convinced that they will at least listen to him.
However the contrary occurs: the tenants kill him because he is the son,
the heir, convinced that they can then easily come into possession of the
vineyard. Therefore, faced with a jump in quality with respect to the accusation
of violating social justice, which emerges from the canticle of Isaiah. Here
we can clearly see how contempt for the order given by the owner is changed
into scorn for him: this is not simple disobedience to a divine precept,
this is the true and actual rejection of God: there appears the mystery of
What is denounced in the evangelical page calls upon our way of thinking
and acting. It speaks not only of the “hour” of Christ, of the mystery of
the Cross in that moment, but also of the presence of the Cross at all times.
In a special way, it calls upon the people who have received the proclamation
of the Gospel. If we look at history, we are forced to notice the frequent
coldness and rebellion of incoherent Christians. Because of this, God, while
never shirking in his promise of salvation, often had to turn towards punishment.
In this context, it becomes spontaneous to return to the first proclamation
of the Gospel, from which the initial flourishing Christian communities emerged,
which then disappeared and are only remembered today in history books. Could
this same thing not happen in our day and age? Today, nations once rich in
faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and
destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are those that,
having decided that “God is dead”, declare themselves “god”, believing themselves
to be the only creator of their own fate, the absolute owner of the world.
Ridding himself of God and not awaiting His salvation, Man believes he can
do as he likes and be the only judge of himself and his actions. But is man
truly more happy if he removes God from his life, if he declares God “dead”?
When men proclaim themselves absolute owners of themselves and the only masters
of creation, are they really going to be able to construct a society where
freedom, justice and peace reign? Is it not more likely - as demonstrated
by news headlines every day - that the arbitrary rule of power, selfish interests,
injustice and exploitation, and violence in all its forms will extend their
grip? Man’s final destination, in the end, is to find himself more alone
and society more divided and confused.
But there is a promise in the words of Jesus: the vineyard will not be destroyed.
While the landowner abandons the unfaithful tenants to their fate, he does
not abandon his vineyard and he entrusts it to his faithful tenants. What
this demonstrates is that, if in some areas faith weakens to the point of
vanishing, there will always be other peoples ready to embrace it. This is
why Jesus, as he quotes Psalm 117 : “The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone” (v. 22), assures us that his death will not represent
the defeat of God. Having been killed, he will not remain in the tomb, but
rather that which appears to be a total defeat will mark the start of a definitive
victory. His dreadful passion and death on the cross will be followed by
the glory of the Resurrection. The vineyard will therefore continue to produce
grapes and will be leased by the landowner “to other tenants who will deliver
the produce to him at the proper time” (Mt 21:41).
The image of the vineyard with its moral, doctrinal and spiritual implications,
will reappear in the speech at the Last Supper when, taking his leave of
the Apostles, the Lord will say: “I am the true vine and my Father is the
vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every
branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more” (Jn 15:1-2).Setting
out from the Easter event, the history of salvation will experience a major
turning point, and the protagonists will be those “other tenants” who, planted
as the chosen seeds in Christ, the true vine, will bear fruits that are abundant
in eternal life (cf Opening Prayer). We too are among these “tenants”, grafted
in Christ who Himself wished to become the “true vine”. Let us pray that
the Lord, who Himself gives us His blood in the Eucharist, will help us to
“bear fruit” for life eternal and for this our time.
The consolatory message we gather from these Biblical texts is the certainty
that evil and death will not have the last word, but it will be Christ who
wins in the end. Always! The Church will never tire of proclaiming this Good
News, as is happening today, in this basilica dedicated to the Apostle to
the Gentiles who was the first to spread the Gospel in vast tracts of Asia
Minor and Europe. We will renew this message in a meaningful way during the
XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which has as its theme
“The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”. I would like
at this point to greet all of you cordially, Venerable Synodal Fathers, and
all of you who are taking part in this meeting as experts, auditors and special
guests. Furthermore, I am delighted to welcome the fraternal delegates of
other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. We should all recognize the great
work that has been carried out by the General Secretary and his assistants
in these last few months, as well as wishing them all the best for their
efforts in the coming weeks.
When God speaks, he always seeks a response; His saving action requires human
cooperation; His love awaits correspondence. What should never happen, dear
brothers and sisters, is what biblical text narrates when speaking of the
vineyard: “He expected it to yield fine grapes: wild grapes were all it yielded”
(cf. Is 5:2)
Only the Word of God can change the depth of the heart of man, and so it
is important that with it both individual believers and the community enter
into an ever-growing intimacy. The Synodal Assembly will direct its attention
to this truth which is fundamental to the life and the mission of the Church.
Nourishing oneself with the Word of God is for her the first and fundamental
responsibility. In effect, if the proclamation of the Gospel constitutes
her reason for being and her mission, it is indispensable that the Church
know and live that which She proclaims, so that her preaching is credible,
despite the weaknesses and poverty of Her members. We know, moreover, that
the proclamation of the Word, to the school of Christ, has as its content
the Kingdom of God (cf Mk 1:14-15), but the Kingdom of God is the person
of Jesus Himself, who with his words and his works offers salvation to men
of every age. It is interesting with regard to San Jerome’s consideration:
“He who knows not the Scriptures knows not the power of God nor his wisdom.
Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Prologue to the Commentary
on Isaiah: PL 24, 17).
In this Year dedicated to Saint Paul, we will hear the urgent cry of the
Apostle of the Gentiles: “I should be in trouble if I failed to do it [preach
the Gospel]” (1 Cor 9:16); a cry which becomes for every Christian an insistent
invitation to place oneself at the service of Christ. “The harvest is rich”
(Mt 9:37), the Divine Teacher repeats even today: many have not met Him yet
and are waiting for the first proclamation of his Gospel; others, though
having received Christian formation, their enthusiasm has weakened and they
maintain only a superficial contact with the Word of God; still others have
fallen away from the practice of their faith and are in need of a new evangelization.
Nor is there a lack of righteous persons asking essential questions on the
meaning of life and death, questions to which only Christ can supply a fulfilling
response. It becomes therefore indispensable for Christians on every continent
to be ready to respond to whomever asks the reason for the hope that is within
them (cf 1Pt 3:15), announcing the Word of God with joy and living the Gospel
Venerable and dear Brothers, the Lord will help us to interrogate ourselves,
during these next weeks of Synodal works, on how to render ever more effective
the proclamation of the Gospel in this our time. We all sense how necessary
it is to place the Word of God at the center of our life, to welcome Christ
as our only Redeemer, as the Kingdom of God in person, to allow his light
to enlighten every sphere of humanity: from the family to school, to culture,
to work, to free time and to other sectors of society and of our life. Participating
in the celebration of the Eucharist, we are always aware of the close bond
which exists between the announcement of the Word of God and the Eucharistic
Sacrifice: it is the same Mystery which is offered for our contemplation.
This is why, as pointed out by Vatican Council II: “The Church has always
venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord,
since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers
to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of
Christ's body.” Rightly the Council concludes: “Just as the life of the Church
is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery,
similarly we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from
a growing reverence for the word of God, which “lasts forever’” ("Dei Verbum,"
May the Lord grant us to draw near with faith to the dual tables of the Word
and the Body and Blood of Christ. May the Most Holy Mary, who “treasured
all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19) obtain this gift
for us. That She may teach us to listen to the Scriptures and to meditate
upon them in an interior process of maturity, which never separates intelligence
from the heart. May the Saints too come to our aid, in particular the Apostle
Paul, who reveals himself evermore as an intrepid witness and herald of the
Word of God. Amen!
Pope's Reflection at Synod on Word
"The Foundation of Everything, It Is the True Reality"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2008 - Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of
the reflection Benedict XVI gave Monday at the first general congregation
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. The Pope addressed
the assembly in Latin.
* * *
Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the beginning of our Synod the Liturgy of the Hours proposes a passage
from Psalm 18 on the Word of God: praise for His Word, expression of the
joy of Israel in learning it and, in it, to learn about His will and His
face. I would like to meditate on a few verses of this Psalm with you.
It begins like this: “In aeternum, Domine, verbum tuum constitutum est in
caelo... firmasti terram, et permanet”. This refers to the solidity of the
Word. It is solid, it is the true reality on which we must base our life.
Let us remember the words of Jesus who continues the words of this Psalm:
“Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Humanly
speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, but a breath.
As soon as it is pronounced, it disappears. It seems like nothing. But already
the human word has incredible force. It is words that create history, it
is words that form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the
word that forms history, reality.
Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true
reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change
our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid,
the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord
speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of
one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and
tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the
true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with
the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus
all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only
realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on
matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God
is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more
than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of
realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently
weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his
life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the
Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation
of our life, how to build life.
The following verse says: “Omnia serviunt tibi”. All things come from the
Word, they are products of the Word. “In the beginning was the Word”. In
the beginning the heavens spoke. And thus reality was born of the Word, it
is “creatura Verbi”. All is created from the Word and all is called to serve
the Word. This means that all of creation, in the end, is thought to create
the meeting place between God and His creature, a place where the history
of love between God and His creature can develop. “Omnia serviunt tibi”.
The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity
of the universe. It is not a minimal thing, which happens by chance on a
lost planet. It is the motivation for everything, the motivation for creation.
Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between
God and His creature. In this sense, the history of salvation, Covenant,
precedes creation. During the Hellenistic period, Judaism developed the idea
that the Torah would have preceded the creation of the material world. This
material world seems to have been created solely to make place for the Torah,
for this Word of God that creates the answer and becomes the history of love.
The mystery of Christ already is mysteriously revealed here. This is what
we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: Christ
is the prototypos, the first-born of creation, the idea the universe was conceived
for. He welcomes all. We enter in the movement of the universe by uniting
with Christ. One can say that, while material creation is the condition for
the history of salvation, the history of the Covenant is the true cause of
the cosmos. We reach the roots of being by reaching the mystery of Christ,
His living word that is the aim of all creation. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. In
serving the Lord we achieve the goal of the being, the goal of our own existence.
Let us take a leap forward: “Mandata tua exquisivi”. We are always searching
for the Word of God. It is not merely present in us. Just reading it does
not mean necessarily that we have truly understood the Word of God. The danger
is that we only see the human words and do not find the true actor within,
the Holy Spirit. We cannot find the Word in the words. Saint Augustine, in
this context, recalls the scribes and Pharisees consulted by Herod when the
Magi arrived. Herod wants to know where the Savior of the world would be
born. They know this, they give the correct answer: in Bethlehem. They are
great specialists, who know everything. However they do not see reality,
they do not know the Savior. Saint Augustine says: they are signs on the
road for the others, but they themselves do not move. This is a great danger
as well in our reading of the Scriptures: we stop at the human words, words
form the past, history of the past, and we do not discover the present in
the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today with the words from the
past. This is not how we may enter the internal movement of the Word, which
in human words hides and opens the divine words. Therefore, there is always
a need for “exquisivi”. We must always look for the Word within words.
Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of the Holy Scripture, is not only
a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my
existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words. Only
by conforming to the Mystery of God, to the Lord who is the Word, can we
enter within the Word, can we truly find the Word of God in human words.
Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us to look for the word, not only
with our intellect but also with our entire existence.
At the end: “Omni consummationi vidi finem, latum praeceptum tuum nimis”.
All human things, all the things we can invent, create, are finite. Even
all human religious experiences are finite, showing one aspect of reality,
because our being is finite and can only understand one part, a few elements:
“latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. Only God is infinite. And therefore His Word
too is universal and knows no boundaries. Coming into communion with the
Word of God, we enter a communion of the Church that lives the Word of God.
We do not enter into a small group, with the rules of a small group, but
we go beyond our limitations. We go towards the depths, in the true grandeur
of the only truth, the great truth of God. We are truly a part of what is
universal. And thus we go out into the communion of all the brothers and
sisters, of all humanity, because the desire for the Word of God, which is
one, is hidden in our heart. Therefore even evangelization, the proclamation
of the Gospel, the mission are not a type of ecclesial colonialism, where
we wish to insert others into our group. It means going beyond the individual
culture into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all
brothers. Let us pray once again that the Lord may help us to truly enter
the “vastness” of His Word and thus open the universal horizon to humanity,
what unites us despite all the differences.
At the end, we return to a preceding verse: “Tuus sum ego:salvum me fac”.
This translates as: “I am yours”. The Word of God is like a stairway that
we can go up and, with Christ, even descend into the depths of His love.
It is a stairway to reach the Word in the words. “I am yours”. The word has
a face, it is a person, Christ. Before we can say “I am yours”, He has already
told us “I am yours”. The Letter to the Hebrews, quoting Psalm 39, says:
“You gave me a body... Then I said, ‘Here I am, I am coming’”. The Lord prepared
a body to come. With His incarnation He said: I am yours. And in baptism
He said to me: I am yours. In the Holy Eucharist, He always repeats this:
I am yours, so that we may answer: Lord, I am yours. In the path of the Word,
entering the mystery of his incarnation, of His being among us, we wish to
appropriate His being, expropriate our existence, giving ourselves to Him,
He who gave Himself to us.
“I am yours”. Let us pray the Lord that we may learn to say this word with
our whole being. That way we will be in the heart of the Word. That way we
will be saved.
Benedict XVI's Address to
"Dualism Between Exegesis and Theology Must Be Overcome"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2008 - Here is the intervention Benedict XVI gave
Tuesday during the 14th 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."
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the work for my book on Jesus offers ample occasion
to see all the good that can come from modern exegesis, but also to recognize
the problems and risks in it. Dei Verbum 12 offers two methodological indications
for suitable exegetic work. In the first place, it confirms the need to use
the historical-critical method, briefly describing the essential elements.
This need is the consequence of the Christian principle formulated in Jn
1:14 "Verbum caro factum est." The historical fact is a constitutive dimension
of Christian faith. The history of salvation is not a myth, but a true story
and therefore to be studied with the same methods as serious historical research.
However, this history has another dimension, that of divine action. Because
of this, "Dei Verbum" mentions a second methodological level necessary for
the correct interpretation of the words, which are at the same time human
words and divine Word.
The Council says, following a fundamental rule for any interpretation of
a literary text, that Scripture must be interpreted in the same spirit in
which it was written and thereby indicates three fundamental methodological
elements to bear in mind the divine dimension, the pneumatology of the Bible:
one must, that is 1) interpret the text bearing in mind the unity of the
entire Scripture; today this is called canonical exegesis; at the time of
the Council this term had not been created, but the Council says the same
thing: one must bear in mind the unity of all of Scripture; 2) one must then
bear in mind the living tradition of the whole Church, and finally 3) observe
the analogy of faith. Only where the two methodological levels, the historical-critical
and the theological one, are observed, can one speak about theological exegesis
-- of an exegesis suitable for this Book. While the first level today's academic
exegesis works on a very high level and truly gives us help, the same cannot
be said about the other level. Often this second level, the level constituted
of the three theological elements indicated by Dei Verbum seems to be almost
absent. And this has rather serious consequences.
The first consequence of the absence of this second methodological level
is that the Bible becomes a book only about the past. Moral consequences
can be drawn from it, one can learn about history, but the Book only speaks
about the past and its exegesis is no longer truly theological, becoming
historiography, the history of literature. This is the first consequence:
the Bible remains in the past, speaks only of the past. There is also a second
even more serious consequence: where the hermeneutics of faith, indicated
by Dei Verbum, disappear, another type of hermeneutics appears of necessity,
a secularized, positivistic hermeneutics, whose fundamental key is the certitude
that the Divine does not appear in human history. According to this hermeneutic,
when there seems to be a divine element, one must explain where it came from
and bring it to the human element completely.
Because of this, interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements
emerge. Today, the so-called mainstream of exegesis in Germany denies, for
example, that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus'
corpse stayed in the tomb. The Resurrection would not be an historical event,
but a theological vision. This occurs because the hermeneutic of faith is
missing: therefore a profane philosophical hermeneutic is stated, which denies
the possibility of entering and of the real presence of the Divine in history.
The consequence of the absence of the second methodological level is that
a deep chasm was created between scientific exegesis and lectio divina. This,
at times, gives rise to a form of perplexity even in the preparation of homilies.
Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology
and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the
Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.
Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith,
this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology
and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call
Theology. Due to this, I would hope that in one of the propositions the need
to bear in mind the two methodological levels indicated in Dei Verbum 12
be mentioned, where the need to develop an exegesis not only on the historical
level, but also on the theological level is needed. Therefore, widening the
formation of future exegetes in this sense is necessary, to truly open the
treasures of the Scripture to today's world and to all of us.
Summary of Final Synod Message
"Grow and Deepen Your Knowledge and Love for the Word"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2008 - Here is a summary of the concluding message
of the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The final
message was approved today at the 21st general congregation.
The theme of the assembly was "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“With all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
their Lord as well as ours. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:2-3). With the Apostle Paul’s greeting -
in this year dedicated to him - we, the Synodal Fathers gathered in Rome
for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, with the Holy
Father Benedict XVI, address to you a message full of reflection and proposals
on the Word of God that has been the center of our assembly’s work.
It is a message that is entrusted to our pastors in the first place, to the
many, generous catechists and to all those who guide you in a loving listening
and reading of the Bible. Now, to you, we would like to outline the soul
and the substance of this text, so that it may grow and deepen your knowledge
and love for the Word of God. There are four cardinal points on the horizon
that we invite you to know and that we will express through just as many
First of all there is the divine Voice. It echoes in the beginnings of Creation,
breaking the silence of nothingness and giving origin to the marvels of the
universe. It is a Voice that penetrates in history, wounded by human sin
and distressed by suffering and death. It also sees the Lord walking with
humanity to offer His grace, His Covenant, His salvation. It is a Voice that
enters into the pages of the Holy Scriptures, which we read today in the
Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, who was given as the light of truth to
it and to its pastors.
Also, as Saint John wrote, “The Word became flesh” (1:14). Here then the
Face appears. It is Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the eternal and infinite
God, but also the mortal man, tied to an historical era, to a people and
to a land. He lives the exhausting existence of humanity till His death,
but rises glorious and lives forever. He makes our encounter with the Word
of God perfect. He unveils to us “the full meaning” and unity of the Holy
Scriptures, therefore Christianity is a religion that has a person at its
center, Jesus Christ, the One who reveals the Father. He makes us understand
that the Scriptures are “flesh”, that is to say human words to be understood
and studied in their way of expressing, but that also preserve the light
of divine truth within, which we can only live and contemplate with the Holy
It is the same Spirit of God that leads us to the third cardinal point in
our itinerary, the Home of the divine word, that is to say the Church, which,
as Saint Luke suggested (Ac 2:42), is supported by four ideal columns. There
is “teaching”, which is reading and understanding the Bible in the announcement
made to all, in catechesis, in the homily, through a proclamation that involves
mind and heart. Then there is “the breaking of the bread”, which is the Eucharist,
the source and the summit of the life and the mission of the Church. Like
what happened that day at Emmaus, the faithful are invited to nourish themselves
in the liturgy of the table of the Word of God and Body of Christ. A third
column is “prayer” with “psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God” (Col
3:16). It is the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church’s prayer destined to give
rhythm to the days and times of the Christian year. There is also the Lectio
divina, the prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures able to lead, in meditation,
in prayer, in contemplation, to the encounter with Christ, the living Word
of God. And, finally, there is “brotherly communion” because to be true Christians
it will not suffice being “those who hear the word of God” but also those
who “put it into practice” (Lk 8:21) through love’s labors. In the home of
the Word of God we also can meet the brothers and sisters from other Churches
and Christian communities who, even in division, live a real unity, if not
a full one, through the worship and love for the divine Word.
Thus we reach the last image of the spiritual map. It is the road the Word
of God walks upon: Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations [...] and
teach them to observe all the commands I gave you...what you hear in whispers,
proclaim from the housetops” (Mt 28:19-20; 10:27). The Word of God must run
through the world’s streets which today are also those of computer, television
and virtual communication. The Bible must enter into families so that parents
and children read it, pray with it and that it may be their lamp for the steps
on the way to existence (cf. Ps 119:105). The Holy Scriptures must also enter
into the schools and in the cultural areas because for centuries they were
the main reference for art, literature, music, thinking and the same common
moral. Their symbolic, poetic and narrative richness makes them a banner
of beauty for faith as well as for culture, in a world often scarred by ugliness
However, the Bible also shows us the breath of pain that rises from the
earth, goes towards the cry from the oppressed and the laments of the miserable.
At the summit it has the cross where Christ, alone and abandoned, lives the
tragedy of the most atrocious suffering and death. Because of this presence
of the Son of God, the darkness of evil and death is irradiated by the Paschal
light and by the hope of glory. But on the roads of the world, the brothers
and sisters of other Churches and Christian communities walk with us also,
even while divided, live a real unity if not a full one, through the worship
and love for the Word of God. Along the paths of the world we often meet
men and women of other religions that listen and faithfully practice the
commands of their holy books and who, with us, can build a world of peace
and light, because God “wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge
of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).
Dear brothers and sisters, guard the Bible in your houses, fully read, study
and understand its pages, transform them into prayer and witness of life,
listen to it with love and faith in the liturgy. Create the silence to effectively
hear the Word of the Lord and hold a silence after the listening, because
it will continue to dwell, live and speak to you. Make it resound at the
beginning of your day so that God will have the first word and let it echo
in you in the evenings so that the last word will be God’s.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace” (Ac 20:32).
With the same expression used by Saint Paul in his farewell speech to the
heads of the Church in Ephesus, also the Synodal Fathers entrust the faithful
of the communities dispersed throughout the world to the divine word, which
is also judgment but above all grace, which cuts like a sword but is sweet
as a honeycomb. It is powerful and glorious and guides us on the roads of
history with Jesus’ hand, who you like us love with an imperishable love
(cf. Eph 6:24).
On the Word and Words
"The Bible Should Not be Robbed of Its Divine Element"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict
XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in
St. Peter's Square. His greeting came after the celebration of Mass to close
the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life and mission of
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters:
With the Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of St. Peter, the XII Ordinary
General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops has drawn to a close. It had the
theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church." Every synodal
assembly is a strong experience of ecclesial communion, but this one even
more so because at the center of the attention was placed that which enlightens
and guides the Church: the Word of God, which is Christ in person.
And we have lived each day in a religious listening, marking all the grace
and beauty of being his disciples and servants. According to the original
meaning of the word "church," we have experienced the joy of being convoked
by the Word, and especially in the liturgy, we have found each other from
within it on the journey, as in our promised land, which gives us a foretaste
of the Kingdom of heaven.
One aspect that has been considered is the relationship between the Word
and words, that is, between the Divine Word, and the Scripture that expresses
it. As the Second Vatican Council teaches in the constitution "Dei Verbum"
(No. 12), a good biblical exegesis requires both the historical-critical
method and the theological one, because sacred Scripture is the Word of God
in human words. This implies that every text should be read keeping in mind
the unity of all Scripture, the living tradition of the Church and the light
of faith. If it is true that the Bible is also a literary work, even more,
the great code of universal culture, it is also true that it should not be
robbed of its divine element, but rather should be read in the same Spirit
in which it was written. Scientific exegesis and lectio divina are, therefore,
both necessary and complementary for seeking, through the literal meaning,
the spiritual one, which God wants to communicate to us today.
At the end of the synodal assembly, the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches
have raised a call, which I make my own, to bring the attention of the international
community, of religious leaders and of all men and women of good will, to
the tragedy that is being lived in the countries of the East, where Christians
are victims of intolerance and cruel violence, slain, threatened, and forced
to abandon their homes and wander in search of refuge. I am thinking especially
in this moment of Iraq and India.
I am sure that the ancient and noble populations of these nations have learned,
over the course of centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the
contribution that the small, but qualified and hardworking Christian minorities
give to the growth of the common homeland. They do not ask for privileges,
but only want to continue living in their nation with their countrymen, as
they have always done. I ask the respective civil and religious authorities
not to spare any effort so that legality and civil coexistence are again
re-established and honest and loyal citizens can know that they can count
on adequate protection from the institutions of the state. I also hope that
the civil and religious leaders of all countries, aware of their roles as
guides and reference points for the people, make significant and explicit
gestures of friendship and consideration for Christian minorities or those
of other religions, and that they make of the defense of their legitimate
rights a question of honor.
I am also happy to announce here with you what I have just announced in holy
Mass: In October of next year, the II Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa
will take place in Rome. Before this, if God allows it, in the month of March,
it is my intention to travel to Africa, first visiting Cameroon, where I
will give the bishops of the continent the "instrumentum laboris" of the
synod, and then to Angola, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the
evangelization of that country.
I entrust the suffering mentioned earlier, as well as the hopes that all
of us carry in our hearts, particularly the expectation of the synod of Africa,
to Most Holy Mary.
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the people in several
languages. In English, he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus,
including neocatechumenal communities from England. As the Synod of Bishops
on the Word of God concludes I invite you all to deepen your knowledge of
God's word which vivifies our life and mission as Christians. Today's Gospel
reading reminds us of the heart of our faith: love of God and of neighbour.
May your time here in Rome inspire you to live ever more fully God's commandment
of love, courageously bearing witness to the way of Christ. Upon you and
your families, I invoke God's abundant blessings of peace and joy!
© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Synod Presents 55 Propositions to Pope
Assembly Approves Every Proposal
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2008 - The work sessions of the world Synod of Bishops
on the Word of God concluded at midday Saturday, with the approval of 55
propositions that the synodal assembly presented to Benedict XVI.
The proposals were voted on electronically by the 244 synod fathers present
in the hall. To be approved, each proposition needed a two-thirds majority.
All of the propositions that were presented were approved, confirming the
evaluation of this synod as exhibiting perhaps more consensus than any synod
since the Second Vatican Council reinstituted this assembly.
The first part includes propositions on the Word of God in the faith of the
Church. The proposals in this sections include suggestions so that Catholic
communities better understand and live their deep relationship with the Word,
Jesus Christ, who can be found in the reading and meditating Scripture.
They highlight the role of the Holy Spirit, the Church and tradition, as
well as the intimate relationship between Scripture and the Eucharist.
Three propositions present the Word of God as a Word of reconciliation, a
Word of commitment in favor of the poor, and the base of natural law. This
section also considers the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
The second part of the document (propositions 14-37) considers the Word of
God in the life of the Church. Among other things, concrete ideas are offered
to improve homilies, a revision of the Lectionary is suggested, and lectio
divina is promoted. It is suggested that women be allowed to be instituted
This section also urges overcoming division between exegetes and theologians,
or exegetes and pastors.
Proposition 37 has a historical value, because it takes up the contribution
make by Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
Propositions 38-54, on the Word of God in the mission of the Church, speaks
of the Word in relation to art and culture, and the translations and availability
of the Bible.
This section also considers the transmission of the Word in the media, as
well as the fundamentalist reading of the Bible and the phenomenon of sects.
It also takes into account proposals on interreligious dialogue, the promotion
of pilgrimages and studies in the Holy Land, dialogue with Judaism and Islam,
and the relationship between the Word and protection of the environment.
The concluding proposition is dedicated to Mary, and invites a promotion
of the Angelus and the rosary -- contemplation of the Word though the eyes
of the Mother of Christ.
The propositions were prepared by a team led by the relator-general of the
synod, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and by the special secretary,
Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo.
The team spent the entire night working so as to present the propositions
Normally the propositions are not made public, but Benedict XVI has asked
the secretariat of the synod to publish a provisional, non-official Italian
Benedict XVI's Homily at
Close of Synod
"Our Thinking Must Conform to God's Thinking"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2008 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict
XVI gave Sunday at St. Peter's Basilica to mark the conclusion of the world
Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
* * *
Brothers in the Episcopacy and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The Word of the Lord, which echoed in the Gospel earlier, reminded us that
all of Divine Law is summarized in love. Matthew the Evangelist tells that
the Pharisees, after God answered the Sadduceans closing their mouths, met
to put Him to test (cf. 22:34-35). One of them, a doctor of law, asked Him:
“Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” (22:36). The question
allows one to see the worry, present in ancient Hebrew tradition, of finding
a unifying principle for the various formulations of the Will of God. This
was not an easy question, considering that in the Law of Moses, 613 precepts
and prohibitions are contemplated. How to find which is the most important
one among these? But Jesus has no hesitation, and answers promptly: “You
must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and
with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment” (22:37-38).
Jesus quotes the Shemà in His answer, the prayer the pious Israelite
recites several times a day, especially in the morning and in the evening
(cf. Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Nb 15:37-41): the proclamation of whole and total
love due to God, as the only Lord. Emphasis is put on the totality of this
dedication to God, listing the three faculties that define man in his deep
psychological structures: heart, soul and mind.
The word mind, diánoia, contains the rational element. God is not
only the object of love, commitment, will and feelings, but also the intellect,
which should not be excluded from this. Our thinking must conform to God’s
thinking. Then, however, Jesus adds something which, in truth, had not been
asked by the doctor of law: “The second resembles it: You must love your
neighbour as yourself” (22:39). The surprising aspect of Jesus’ answer consists
in the fact that He establishes a similarity between the first and the second
commandments, defined this time with a Biblical formula drawn from the Levitic
code of holiness (cf. Lv 19:18) as well. And therefore, the two commandments
are associated in the role of main axis upon which all of Biblical Revelation
rests: “On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too”
The Evangelical page we are focusing on sheds light on the meaning of being
disciples of Christ which is practicing His teachings, that can be summarized
in the first and greatest commandment of Divine Law, the commandment of love.
Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty
of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons: they
must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help. The next
to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the indigent, that
is to say those citizens that are without a “defender”. The holy author goes
into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons
(cf. Ex 22:25-26). In this case, God Himself is the guarantor for the person’s
In the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme
commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities.
Saint Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that,
while having known them for such a short time, he appreciated them and bore
affection in his heart for them. Because of this, he points to them as “an
example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Th 1:6-7). There is
no lack of weaknesses or problems in this recently founded community, but
love overcomes all, renews all, wins over all: the love of who, knowing their
own limits, docilely follows the words of Christ, the Divine Teacher, transmitted
through one of His faithful disciples. “You took us and the Lord as your
model, welcoming the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit in spite of great
hardship”, the Apostle wrote. He continued: “since it was from you that the
word of the Lord rang out -- and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia,
for your faith in God has spread everywhere” (1 Th 1:6.8). The lesson that
we can draw from the experience of the Thessalonians, and experience that
is a common factor in every authentic Christian community, is that love for
the neighbor is born from the docile listening to the Divine Word and accepts
also hardships for the truth of the divine word and thus true love grows
and truth shines. It is so important to listen to the Word and incarnate
it in personal and community existence!
In this Eucharistic Celebration, which closes the work of the Synod, we feel,
in a particular way, the bond that exists between the loving hearing of the
word of God and disinterested service towards the brothers. How many times,
in the past few days, have we heard about experiences and reflections that
underline the need emerging today for a more intimate hearing of God, of
a truer knowledge of His Word of Salvation; of a more sincere sharing of
faith which is constantly nourished at the table of the Divine Word! Dear
and Venerable Brothers, thank you for the contribution each of you offered
in discussing the theme of the Synod: “The Word of God in the Life and the
Mission of the Church”. I greet you all with great affection. A special greeting
goes to the Cardinals, the Delegate Presidents of the Synod and the General
Secretary, whom I thank for their constant dedication. I greet you, dear
brothers and sisters, who came from every continent bringing your enriching
experience. In returning home, give everyone an affectionate greeting from
the Bishop of Rome. I greet the Fraternal Delegates, the Experts, the Auditors
and the Invited Guests: the members of the General Secretariat of the Synod,
all those who worked with the press. A special thought goes for the Bishops
of Continental China, who could not be represented during this Synodal assembly.
I would like to speak on behalf of them and thank God for their love for
Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness
to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayers, along
with all the faithful who are entrusted to their pastoral care. We ask the
“Chief Shepherd” (1 Pt 5:4) to give them apostolic joy, strength, and zeal
to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China
so dear to all of us.
All of us who have taken part in the work of the Synod will carry with us
the renewed knowledge that the Church’s principal task, at the start of this
new millennium, is above all to nourish ourselves on the Word of God, in
order to make more effective new evangelization, the announcement of our
times. What is needed now is that this ecclesial experience reach every community;
we have to understand the necessity of translating the Word we have heard
into gestures of love, because this is the only way to make the Gospel announcement
credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals. What this requires
first of all is a more intimate knowledge of Christ and an ever-more docile
acceptance of his Word.
In this Pauline year, making the words of the Apostle our own: “I should
be in trouble if I failed to [preach the Gospel]” (1 Cor 9:16), I hope with
all my heart that in every community this yearning of Paul’s will be felt
with ever more conviction as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for
the world. At the start of the Synod, I recalled the appeal of Jesus: “The
harvest is rich” (Mt 9:37), an appeal we must never tire of responding to
whatever difficulties we might encounter. So many people are searching for,
sometimes unwittingly, the meeting with Christ and His Gospel; so many have
to find in Him a meaning for their lives. Giving clear and shared testimony
to a life according to the Word of God, witnessed by Jesus, therefore becomes
an indispensable criterion to verify the mission of Christ.
The Readings the liturgy offers us today to meditate on remind us that the
fullness of the law, as of all the Divine Scriptures, is love. Therefore
anyone who believes they have understood the Scriptures, or at least a part
of them, without undertaking to build, by means of their intelligence, the
twofold love of God and neighbor, demonstrates that in reality they are still
a long way from having grasped its deeper meaning. But how should we put
into practice this commandment, how can we live the love of God and our brothers
without a living and intense contact with the Holy Scriptures? Vatican Council
II asserts it is necessary that “easy access to Sacred Scripture should be
provided for all the Christian faithful” (Cost. Dei Verbum, 22), so that persons,
on meeting the truth, may grow in authentic love. This is a requisite that
today is indispensable for evangelization. And since often the encounter
with Scriptures is in danger of not being “a fact” of the Church, but informed
by subjectivity and arbitrariness, a robust and credible pastoral promotion
of the knowledge of Holy Scripture, to announce, celebrate and live the Word
in the Christian community, becomes indispensable, dialoguing with the cultures
of our time, placing ourselves at the service of truth and not of current
ideologies, and increasing the dialogue God wishes to have with all men (cf
ibid 21). With this in mind, special care should be paid to the preparation
of pastors, ready then to take whatever action is necessary to spread Biblical
activity with appropriate means.
Ongoing efforts to give life to the Biblical movement among lay people should
be encouraged, along with the formation of group animators, with particular
attention being paid to the young. We must also support the effort to allow
faith to be known through the Word of God to those who are “far away” as
well and especially those who are sincerely looking to give a meaning to
Many other reflections should be added, but I will limit myself to underlining
that the privileged place where the Word of God rings out, that builds the
Church, as has been said many times during the Synod, is undoubtedly the
liturgy. In this is where it appears that the Bible is a book of a people
and for a people; an inheritance, a testament handed over to readers so that
they can put into practice in their own lives the history of salvation witnessed
in the text. There is therefore a reciprocal relationship of vital belonging
between the people and the Book: the Bible remains a living Book with the
people which is its subject which reads it; the people cannot exist without
the Book, because it is in it that they find their reason for living, their
vocation and their identity. This mutual belonging between people and Holy
Scripture is celebrated in every liturgical ceremony, which, thanks to the
Holy Spirit, listens to Christ since it is He who speaks when the Scripture
is read in the Church and welcomes the Covenant that God renews with his
people. Scripture and liturgy converge, therefore, with the single aim of
bringing the people to dialogue with the Lord and to the obedience of the
Lord’s Will. The Word that leaves the mouth of God, witnessed in the Scriptures,
returns to Him in the shape of prayerful response, of a living answer, of
an answer of love (cf Is 55:10-11).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that from this renewed listening to
the Word of God, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, an authentic renewal
of the universal Church may spring forth, as well as of every Christian community.
We entrust the fruits of this Synodal Assembly to the motherly intercession
of the Virgin Mary. I also entrust to Her the II Special Assembly of the
Synod for Africa, that will take place in Rome in October of next year.
Next March I intend to go to Cameroon to deliver the Instrumentum laboris
of that Synodal Assembly to the representatives of the Episcopal Conferences
of Africa. From there, God willing, I will go on to Angola to celebrate solemnly
the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country. Most Holy Mary,
who offered your life up as the “servant of the Lord”, so that everything
would happen in accordance with the divine will (cf Lk 1:38) and who told
us to do whatever Jesus tells us to do (cf Jn 2:5), teach us to recognize
in our lives the primacy of the Word that alone can grant us salvation. Amen!
Pope's Words After Meal With Synod
"Let Us Walk Together Guided by the Word of God"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address
Benedict XVI gave after eating lunch Saturday with participants in the world
Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, which concluded Sunday. The lunch was
held in Paul VI Hall.
* * *
Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Synod is about to end, but walking together under the guidance of the
Word of God continues. In this sense, we are always in “synod”, on a common
path with the Lord under the guidance of the Word of God.
The Instrumentum laboris spoke about the polyphony of the Holy Scriptures.
And I feel that today we can say, in the contributions to this Synod, we
have also heard a beautiful polyphony of faith, a harmony of faith, with
so many contributions, also from the Fraternal Delegates. Thus we have truly
felt the beauty and the richness of the Word of God.
It was also a school of listening. We listened to one another. It was a mutual
hearing. And because we listened to each other, we learnt how to listen to
the Word of God in a better way. We experienced how true the words of Saint
Gregory the Great are: Scripture grows with who reads it. Only in the light
of the different realities of our lives, only in facing everyday reality,
one can discover the potential, the riches hidden that are hidden in the
Word of God. We can see that by facing reality, the meaning of the Word,
given to us in the Holy Scriptures, is opened to us in a new way.
Thus we are truly enriched. We have seen that no meditation, no scientific
reflection can, by itself, draw forth all the treasures and potential that
can be discovered only through the history of every life, from the Word of
I do not know if the Synod was more interesting or more edifying. In any
case, it was moving. We are enriched by this mutual hearing. In listening
to the other, we may also hear the Lord better. And in this dialogue of hearing,
we then learn the deeper reality, obedience to the Word of God, conforming
to our thought, our will to think turning to God’s thought and will. This
obedience is not an attack on freedom, rather it develops all the possibilities
of our freedom.
I have reached the point where I must thank all who worked for the Synod.
I do not dare list all the individuals who worked, because I would certainly
forget many. However, I thank everybody for the great work they have done:
the Presidents Delegate, the Relator, with his Assistant Secretary, all the
Relators, Collaborators, Technicians, Experts, and Auditors, from whom we
have learnt many moving things. A cordial thanks to all. I am a bit concerned,
because I feel that we have violated the human right of sleeping at night
and Sunday rest, for these are truly fundamental rights. We should reflect
on how to resolve this situation in the future Synods. I would also like
to thank the caterer that prepared this marvelous lunch and all those who
served. Thank you for this gift.
Now we must begin to elaborate the Post-Synodal document with the help of
all these texts. This too will be a school of listening. This way, we stay
together, we listen to the voices of others. And we can see that only if
another reads the Scripture to me, can I enter the richness of the Scripture.
We always need this dialogue, listening to the Scripture read by another
from his perspective, from his vision, to learn together the richness of
A wish you all pleasant travels and thank you all for your work.
Conclusions of Episcopal Assembly on Word of God
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2008 - Here are translations of the synodal propositions
which were submitted to Benedict XVI at the end of the world Synod of Bishops
on the "Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," held in October
at the Vatican.
* * *
Documents that were presented to the Supreme Pontiff
Presented for the consideration of the Supreme Pontiff -- in addition to
the documents on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church relating
to this Synod, namely the lineamenta, the instrumentum laboris, the reports
before and after discussion, and the texts of the interventions, whether
those presented in the hall or those written, the reports of the minor circles
and their discussions -- above all some specific proposals, which the fathers
held to be of particular importance.
The synodal fathers humbly requested the Holy Father to take the opportunity
to offer a document on the mystery of the Word of God in the life and mission
of the Church, also in the light of the Year dedicated to St. Paul, Apostle
of the Gentiles, on the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.
From the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" to the synod on the Word of God
The synodal fathers, at more than 40 years after the promulgation of the
dogmatic constitution on the divine revelation "Dei Verbum" to the work of
the Vatican II ecumenical council, acknowledge with gratitude the great benefits
contributed by this document to the life of the Church, at the exegetic,
theological, spiritual, pastoral and ecumenical level.
Throughout the history of the "intellectus fidei" and of Christian doctrine,
this constitution brought to light the Trinitarian and historic salvific
horizon of revelation.
In these years the ecclesial awareness has undoubtedly grown that Jesus Christ,
God's Word incarnate, "by the very fact of his presence and with the manifestation
he makes of himself with words and works, with signs and miracles, and especially
with his death and his resurrection from the dead, and at last with the sending
of the Spirit of truth, fulfills and completes Revelation and corroborates
it with the divine testimony, that is that God is with us to deliver us from
the darkness of sin and death and resurrect us for eternal life" ("Dei Verbum,"
All this has allowed for further reflection on the infinite value of the
Word of God that is given to us in sacred Scripture, as inspired testimony
of revelation, which with the living Tradition of the Church constitutes
the supreme rule of faith (cf. "Dei Verbum," 21). It is this same Word that
is kept and interpreted faithfully by the Magisterium (cf. "Dei Verbum,"
10), which is celebrated in the sacred Liturgy and which gives itself to
us in the Eucharist as bread of eternal life (cf. John 6).
Treasuring all that emerged in these years, the Church feels today the need
to reflect further on the mystery of the Word of God in its different articulations
and pastoral implications. Hence, this synodal assembly expresses the hope
that all the faithful will grow in the awareness of the mystery of Christ,
only savior and mediator between God and men (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews
9:15), and the Church renewed by the religious hearing of the Word of God
might undertake a new missionary season, proclaiming the Good News to all
FIRST PART: THE WORD OF GOD IN THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH
Analogy "Verbi Dei"
The expression Word of God is analogical. It refers first of all to the Word
of God in Person who is the Only-begotten Son of God, born of the Father
before all ages, Word of God made flesh (cf. John 18) is the unique and definitive
Word entrusted to humanity. To receive the Revelation, man must open his
mind and heart to the action of the Holy Spirit that makes him understand
the Word of God present in the sacred Scriptures. Man responds to God in
full liberty with the obedience of the faith (cf. Romans 1:5; 2 Corinthians
10:5-6; "Dei Verbum," 5).
Mary, Mother of Jesus, personifies this obedience of the faith in an exemplary
manner, she is also the archetype of the faith of the Church that hears and
receives the Word of God.
Dialogical Dimension of Revelation
When dialogue refers to Revelation it implies the primacy of the
Word of God addressed to man. In his great love, in fact, God willed to encounter
humanity and took the initiative to speak to men calling them to share in
his very life. The specificity of Christianity is manifested in the event
of Jesus Christ, summit of Revelation, fulfillment of the promises of God
and mediator of the encounter between man and God. He, "that has revealed
God to us" (cf. John 1:18), is the unique and definitive Word entrusted to
mankind. To receive the Revelation, man must open his mind and heart to the
action of the Holy Spirit who makes him understand the Word of God present
in the sacred Scriptures. Man responds to God in full liberty with the obedience
of the faith (cf. Romans 1:5; 2 Corinthians 10:5-6; "Dei Verbum," 5).
Mary, Mother of Jesus, personifies this obedience of the faith in
an exemplary way; she is also archetype of the faith of the Church that listens
to and receives the Word of God.
Holy Spirit and Word of God
The sacred Scriptures, being a gift entrusted by the Holy Spirit to the Church
Bride of Christ, have in the Church their own hermeneutical place.
The Spirit himself, who is Author of the sacred Scriptures, is also guide
of their correct interpretation in the formation of the "fides Ecclesiae"
The Synod recommended to pastors to remind all those baptized of the role
of the Holy Spirit in inspiration (cf. "Dei Verbum," 11), in the interpretation
and understanding of the sacred Scriptures (cf. "Dei Verbum," 12).
Consequently, all of us disciples are invited to invoke the Holy Spirit frequently,
so that he will lead us to ever more profound knowledge of the Word of God
and to the testimony of our faith (cf. John 15:26-27). They remind the faithful
that the sacred Scriptures close evoking the common cry of the Spirit and
the Bride: "Come Lord Jesus" (cf. Revelation 22:17-20).
Patristic reading of Scripture
Not to be neglected for the interpretation of the biblical text, is the Patristic
reading of Scripture, which distinguishes two senses: literal and spiritual.
The literal sense is that signified by the words of Scripture and found among
the scientific instruments of critical exegesis. The spiritual sense concerns
also the reality of the events of which Scripture speaks, taking into account
the living Tradition of the whole Church and of the analogy of the faith,
which implies the intrinsic connection of the truths of the faith among them
and in the totality of the design of divine Revelation.
Unity between Word of God and Eucharist
It is important to consider the profound unity between the Word of God and
the Eucharist (cf. "Dei Verbum," 21), as expressed by some particular texts,
such as John 6:35-58; Luke 24:13-35, in such a way as to overcome the dichotomy
between the two realities, which is often present in theological and pastoral
reflection. In this way the connection with the preceding Synod on the Eucharist
will become more evident.
The Word of God is made sacramental flesh in the Eucharistic event and leads
Sacred Scripture to its fulfillment. The Eucharist is a hermeneutic principle
of Sacred Scripture, as Sacred Scripture illumines and explains the Eucharistic
mystery. In this sense the Synodal Fathers hope that a theological reflection
on the sacramentality of the Word of God might be promoted. Without the recognition
of the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, the intelligence of Sacred
Scripture remains unfulfilled.
Word of reconciliation and conversion
The Word of God is word of reconciliation because in it God reconciles all
things to himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 1:10). God's merciful
forgiveness, incarnated in Jesus, raises the sinner.
The importance of the Word of God in the sacraments of healing (Penance and
Anointing) must be underlined. The Church must be the community that, reconciled
by that Word that is Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:14-18; Colossians 1:22),
offers all a space of reconciliation, of mercy and of forgiveness.
The healing force of the Word of God is a living call to a constant personal
conversion in the listener himself and an incentive to a courageous proclamation
of reconciliation offered by the Father in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
In these days of conflicts of all kinds and of inter-religious tensions,
in fidelity to the work of reconciliation fulfilled by God in Jesus, Catholics
are committed to give example of reconciliation, seeking to share the same
human, ethical and religious values in their relationship with God and with
others. Thus they seek to construct a just and peaceful society.
Encounter with the Word in reading sacred Scripture
This Synod re-proposes forcefully to all the faithful the encounter with
Jesus, Word of God made flesh, as event of grace that reoccurs in the reading
and hearing of the Sacred Scriptures. Taking up a thought shared by the Fathers,
Saint Cyprian reminds: "Attend assiduously to prayer and to "lectio divina."
When you pray you speak with God, when you read it is God who speaks with
you" ("Ad Donatum," 15).
Hence, we sincerely hope that from this assembly a new season will spring
of great love for sacred Scripture on the part of all the members of the
People of God, so that from their prayerful and faithful reading in time
the relationship with the very person of Jesus will be deepened. In this
prospective, it is hoped -- in so far as possible -- that each of the faithful
will personally possess the Bible (cf. Deuteronomy 17:18-20) and enjoy the
benefits of the special indulgence connected with the reading of Scripture
(cf. "Indulgentiarum Doctrina," 30).
The Old Testament in the Christian Bible
Jesus prayed the psalms and read the laws and the prophets, quoting them
in his preaching and presenting himself as the fulfillment of Scripture (cf.
Matthew 5:17; Luke 4:21; 24:27; John 5:46). The New Testament has drawn constantly
from the Old Testament the words and expressions that allow it to recount
and explain the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Matthew 1-2 and
"Es passim"; Mark 6:3; Luke 24:25-31). At the same time, of the rest, his
death and resurrection "gave these same texts a fullness of meaning that
at first was inconceivable" (Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation
of the Bible in the Church," III A 2).
Consequently, apostolic faith in Jesus is proclaimed "according to the Scriptures"
(cf. 1 Corinthians 15) and presents Jesus Christ as the "yes" of God to all
the promises (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).
For these reasons, knowledge of the Old Testament is indispensable for those
who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because -- according to the word
of St. Augustine -- the New Testament is concealed in the Old and the Old
is revealed in the New (cf. "Quaestiones in Heptateucum," 2, 73).
Hence, we hope that in the preaching and in catechesis due account will be
taken of the pages of the Old Testament, explaining it appropriately in the
context of the history of salvation and help the People of God to appreciate
it in the light of faith in Jesus Lord.
Word of God and charity toward the poor
One of the characteristic features of sacred Scripture is the revelation
of God's predilection for the poor (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus of Nazareth,
Word of God incarnate, went through this world doing good (cf. Acts 10:35).
The Word of God, willingly received, generates abundantly in the Church charity
and justice towards all, above all towards the poor.
As the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" teaches, the first to have the right
to the proclamation of the Gospel are in fact the poor, in need not only
of bread but also of words of life. However, the poor are only the recipients
of charity, but also agents of evangelization, in as much as they are open
to God and generous in sharing with others. Pastors are called to listen
to them, to learn from them, to guide them in their faith and to motivate
them to be architects of their own history. Deacons in charge of the service
of charity have a particular responsibility in this ambit. The Synod encourages
them in their ministry.
Inspiration and truth of the Bible
The Synod proposes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarify
the concepts of inspiration and truth of the Bible, as well as their reciprocal
relationship, in order to understand better the teaching of "Dei Verbum"
11. In particular, it is necessary to highlight the originality of the Catholic
biblical hermeneutics in this field.
Word of God and natural law
The synodal fathers are well aware of the great challenges present in the
current historical moment. One of these touches the enormous development
that science has realized in regard to knowledge of nature.
Paradoxically, the more this knowledge increases the less one sees the ethical
message that stems from the same. In the history of thought, ancient philosophers
already used to call this principle "lex naturalis" or natural moral law.
As Pope Benedict XVI has recalled, this expression seems to have been made
incomprehensible today "because of a concept of nature that is no longer
metaphysical, but only empirical. The fact that nature, being itself is no
longer permeable to a moral message, creates a sense of disorientation that
makes decisions of daily life precarious and uncertain" (Feb. 12, 2007).
In the light of the teaching of sacred Scripture, as recalled above all by
the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Romans (cf. Romans 2:14-15), it is
good to underline that this law is written in the depth of the heart of each
person and each one can access it. Its basic principle is that one must "do
good and avoid evil"; a truth that is evidently imposed on all and from which
other principles stem that regulate ethical judgment on the rights and duties
of each one. It is good to recall that to be nourished by the Word of God
also increases knowledge of the natural law and allows for progress of the
moral conscience. Hence, the synod recommends to all pastors that they have
special solicitude in which the ministers of the Word are sensitive to the
rediscovery of the natural law and its function in the formation of consciences.
SECOND PART: THE WORD OF GOD IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
Word of God and liturgy
The assembly, convoked and gathered by the Spirit to hear the proclamation
of the Word of God, is transformed by the same action of the Spirit that
is manifested in the celebration.
In fact, there, where the Church is, Lord's Spirit is; and where the Lord's
Spirit is, the Church also is (cf. Saint Irenaeus, "Adversus Haereses," III,
The synodal fathers reaffirm that the liturgy is the privileged place in
which the Word of God is fully expressed, both in the celebration of the
sacraments as above all in the Eucharist, in the Liturgy of the Hours and
in the liturgical year. The mystery of salvation narrated in sacred Scripture
finds in the liturgy its own place of proclamation, listening and acting.
For this reason, it is imperative that:
-- The book of sacred Scripture, even outside liturgical action, has a visible
and honorable place in the church.
-- Silence should be encouraged after the first and second reading and after
the homily is finished, as suggested in the General Order of the Roman Missal
(cf. No. 56).
-- Celebrations of the Word of God are provided, centered on the Sunday readings.
-- Readings of sacred Scripture be proclaimed from worthy liturgical books,
namely the lectionaries and the Gospel, to be treated with the most profound
respect for the Word of God they contain.
-- Highlight the role of the servers of the proclamation: readers and cantors.
-- Men and women lectors be adequately formed, so that they can proclaim
the Word of God in a clear and comprehensible way. The latter must be invited
to study and witness with their life the contents of the Word they read.
-- The Word of God be proclaimed in a clear way, with control of the dynamics
-- Persons for whom the reception of the Word of God, communicated in the
usual way is difficult as well as persons with sight or hearing disabilities
not be forgotten.
-- Competent and effective use be made of acoustic instruments.
Moreover, the synodal fathers feel the duty to remind of the grave responsibility
of those who preside over the Eucharist so that the texts of sacred Scripture
are never substituted by other texts. No text of spirituality or literature
can have the value and wealth contained in sacred Scripture, which is the
Word of God.
Homiletic updating and "Directory on the Homily"
The homily that updates the proclaimed Word: "Today this scripture has been
fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). It leads to the mystery celebrated,
invites to mission and shares the joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears of
the faithful, thus disposing the assembly both to the profession of faith
(Creed) as well as the universal prayer of the Mass.
There should be a homily in all Masses "cum populo," even during the week.
It is necessary that preachers (bishops, priests, deacons) prepare themselves
in prayer, so that they preach with conviction and passion. They must ask
themselves three questions:
-- What do the proclaimed readings say?
-- What do they say to me?
-- What must I say to the community, taking into account its concrete situation?
The preacher should above all allow himself to be questioned first by the
Word of God he proclaims. The homily must be nourished by doctrine and transmit
the teaching of the Church to strengthen the faith, call to conversion in
the framework of the celebration and prepare for the action of the Eucharistic
To help the preacher in the ministry of the Word, and in continuity with
the teaching of the post-synodal apostolic "Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis"
(No. 46), the synodal fathers desire the elaboration of a "Directory on the
Homily," which should show, together with the principles of homiletics and
of the art of communication, the content of the biblical topics that appear
in the lectionaries that are used in the liturgy.
It is recommended that an examination of the Roman Lectionary be initiated
to see if the present selection and ordering of the readings are really adequate
to the mission of the Church at this historic moment. Specifically, the relation
of the reading of the Old Testament with the evangelical pericope should
be reconsidered, so that it does not imply a too restrictive reading of the
Old Testament or the exclusion of important passages.
The revision of a Lectionary could be done in dialogue with ecumenical counterparts
who use this common Lectionary.
It is desirable that an authoritative examination of the problem of the Lectionary
be carried out in the liturgies of Oriental Catholic Churches.
Ministry of the Word and women
The synodal fathers acknowledge and encourage the service of the laity in
the transmission of the faith. On this point, women especially have an indispensable
role above all in the family and in catechesis. In fact, they are able to
awaken interest in the Word, the personal relationship with God, and to communicate
the meaning of forgiveness and evangelical sharing.
It is desirable that the ministry of the lector be open also to women, so
that the Christian community will recognize their role as heralds of the
Celebrations of the Word of God
The celebration of the Word of God is recommended according to the different
forms received from the liturgical tradition (cf. SC 35). Many ecclesial
communities, which do not have the possibility of the Sunday Eucharistic
celebration, find in the celebration of the Word the food for their faith
and for Christian testimony.
The celebration of the Word is one of the privileged places of encounter
with the Lord, because in this proclamation, Christ makes himself present
and continues to speak to his people (cf. SC 7). Even in the midst of today's
noise, which makes effective listening very difficult, the faithful are encouraged
to cultivate a disposition of interior silence and of listening to the Word
of God that transforms life.
The Synodal Fathers recommend that ritual directories be formulated, based
on the experience of Churches in which formed catechists regularly lead Sunday
assemblies round the Word of God. The purpose is to avoid such celebrations
being confused with the Eucharistic liturgy.
Reception of the Word, the prayer of praise, thanksgiving and petition, which
make up the celebration of the Word of God, are manifestations of the Spirit
in the heart of the faithful and in the Christian assembly, gathered round
the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in fact, makes the proclaimed and celebrated
Word of God fruitful in the heart and life of those who receive it.
We also believe that pilgrimages, celebrations, different forms of popular
piety, the missions, spiritual retreats and special days of penance, reparation
and forgiveness are a concrete opportunity, offered to the faithful to celebrate
the Word of God and enhance their knowledge.
Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours is a privileged way to hear the Word of God because
it puts the faithful in contact with sacred Scripture and with the living
Tradition of the Church. Hence, the Synod hopes that the faithful will participate
in the Liturgy of the Hours, above all in lauds and vespers. Hence, it would
be useful to prepare a simple form of the Liturgy of the Hours where it does
not exist yet.
Bishops, priests, deacons, religious and those already delegated to it by
the Church must remember their sacred duty to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
This is very much recommended to the lay faithful, so that this liturgy becomes,
in an even greater sense, the prayer of the whole Church.
Word of God, marriage and family
The Word of God is at the origin of marriage (cf. Genesis 2:24). Jesus himself
inscribed marriage among the institutions of his Kingdom (cf. Matthew 19:4-8),
giving it a sacramental statute. In the sacramental celebration, the man
and woman pronounce a prophetic word of reciprocal self-giving, being "one
flesh," sign of the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Ephesians
5:32). Through the fidelity and unity of family life, spouses are to their
children the first heralds of the Word of God. They must be supported and
helped in developing prayer in the family, the domestic celebration of the
Word, reading of the Bible and other forms of prayer.
Spouses must remember that the Word of God is a valuable support also in
the difficulties of conjugal and family life.
Word of God and small communities
The synod recommends the formation of small ecclesial communities where the
Word of God is heard, studied and prayed, also in the form of the rosary
as biblical meditation (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis
Mariae"). In many countries there are already small communities, which can
be made up of families living in the parishes or connected to the different
ecclesial movements and new communities.
They meet regularly, around the Word of God, to share among themselves, and
receive strength from it.
Some only rarely have the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist. They experience
the sense of community and encounter the Word of God personally. Through
the reading of the Bible they feel themselves loved personally by God. The
service of the laity that leads these communities must be appreciated and
promoted as they carry out a missionary service to which all the baptized
Word of God and prayerful reading
The synod proposes that all the faithful, including young people, be exhorted
to approach the Scriptures through "prayerful" and assiduous "reading" (cf.
"Dei Verbum," 25), in such a way that the dialogue with God becomes a daily
reality of the people of God.
Therefore, it is important:
-- That the prayerful reading be profoundly related to the example of Mary
and the saints in the history of the Church, as those who carried out the
reading of the Word according to the Spirit;
-- That it be ensured that pastors, priests and deacons, and in a very special
sense future priests, have adequate formation so that, in turn, they can
form the people of God in this spiritual dynamic;
-- That the faithful be initiated -- in keeping with the circumstances, categories
and cultures -- in the most appropriate method of prayerful reading, personal
and/or community ("lectio divina," spiritual exercises in daily life, "Seven
Steps" in Africa and in other places, various methods of prayer, sharing
in the family and in the grassroots ecclesial communities, etc.);
-- That the practice of prayerful reading be encouraged, using liturgical
texts that the Church proposes for the Sunday and daily Eucharistic celebration,
to better understand the relation between Word and Eucharist;
-- That care be taken that the prayerful reading of the Scriptures, above
all by the community, result in a commitment to charity (cf. Luke 4:18-19).
Conscious of the present widespread diffusion of "lectio divina" and of other
similar methods, the synodal fathers see in them a true sign of hope and
encourage all ecclesial leaders to multiply their efforts in this sense.
Catechesis and sacred Scripture
Preferably, catechesis should have its roots in Christian revelation. It
should take as model Jesus' pedagogy on the road to Emmaus.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opens the heart of the disciples to an understanding
of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:27). His way of proceeding shows that the
catechesis that plunges its roots in Christian revelation implies an explanation
of the Scriptures, inviting us also to approach the men of today to transmit
to them the Gospel of salvation:
-- With special attention to the youngest children;
-- To those in need of a more profound formation rooted in the Scriptures;
-- To catechumens who must be supported on their path, showing them the plan
of God through the reading of sacred Scripture, preparing them to encounter
the Lord in the sacraments of Christian initiation, to be committed in the
community, and to be missionaries.
The pre-baptismal catechumenate is followed by a post-baptismal mistagogy,
a continuing formation in which sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the
Catholic Church must hold center place.
Word of God and consecrated life
Consecrated life is born from listening to the Word of God; it receives the
Gospel as its norm of life. In the school of the Word, it rediscovers its
identity continually and becomes a "testificatio evangelica" for the Church
and the world.
Called to be living "exegesis" of the Word of God (cf. Benedict XVI, Feb.
2, 2008), it itself is a word with which God continues speaking to the Church
and the world.
The synod thanks consecrated persons for their testimony of the Gospel and
their willingness to proclaim it in the geographical and cultural frontiers
of the mission through their charismatic services.
At the same time, it exhorts them to take care of the personal and community
spaces of listening to the Word of God, and to promote schools of biblical
prayer open to the laity, above all young people.
They must be able to listen to the Word of God with the heart of the poor
and express their response in a commitment to justice, peace and the integrity
The synod highlights the importance of contemplative life and its valuable
contribution to the tradition of "lectio divina." Monastic communities are
schools of spirituality and give strength to the life of local Churches.
"The monastery, as spiritual oasis, points today's world to what is most
important, in a word, the only decisive thing: there is an ultimate reason
which makes life worth living, namely, God and his inscrutable Love" (Benedict
XVI, Angelus, Nov. 18, 2007).
In contemplative life, the Word is received, prayed and celebrated. Care
must be taken, therefore, so that these communities receive the biblical
and theological formation appropriate to their life and mission.
Need for two levels in exegetical research
The biblical hermeneutic proposed in "Dei Verbum," 12, continues to be of
great present importance and efficacy, which envisages two different and
correlative methodological levels.
The first level corresponds, in fact, to the so-called historical-critical
methods that, in modern and contemporary research, often was used with fruitfulness
and that entered the Catholic field, above all with the encyclical "Divino
Afflante Spiritu" of the servant of God Pius XII. This method is necessary
by the very nature of the history of salvation, which is not mythology, but
a true history with its apex in the incarnation of the Word, divine and eternal,
who comes to dwell in men's time (cf. John 1:14). The Bible and the history
of salvation, therefore, also call for study with the methods of serious historical
The second methodological level necessary for a correct interpretation of
the sacred Scriptures, corresponds to the nature, also divine, of human biblical
words. The Second Vatican Council justly recalls that the Bible must be interpreted
with the help of the same Holy Spirit who guided its writing.
Biblical hermeneutic cannot be considered carried out if -- along with the
historical study of the texts -- it does not also seek its theological dimension
in an adequate manner. "Dei Verbum" identifies and presents the three decisive
references to arrive at the divine dimension and, therefore, to the theological
meaning of the sacred Scriptures. It is a question of the content and the
unity of the whole of Scripture, of the living tradition of the whole Church
and, finally, of attention to the analogy of the faith. "Only where the two
methodological levels are observed, the historical-critical and the theological,
can one speak of a theological exegesis, an exegesis adequate to this book"
(Benedict XVI, Oct. 14, 2008).
To enlarge the perspective of today's exegetical study
The positive fruit contributed by the use of modern historical-critical research
is undeniable; at the same time, however, it is necessary to look at the
state of present-day exegetical studies by looking also at the difficulties.
While current academic exegesis, including the Catholic, works at a very
high level as regards the historical-critical methodology, including its
happy and most recent integrations (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The
Interpretation of the Bible in the Church"), the same cannot be said about
the study of the theological dimension of the biblical texts. Sadly, the
theological level indicated by the three elements of "Dei Verbum," 12 very
often is almost absent.
The first consequence of such absence is that the Bible becomes for present-day
readers a mere book of the past, incapable of speaking to our time. In these
conditions, biblical exegesis runs the risk of becoming pure historiography
and history of literature.
The second consequence, perhaps even graver, is the disappearance of the
hermeneutics of the faith pointed out in "Dei Verbum." Instead of believing
hermeneutics, what is then insinuated in fact is a positivist and secular
hermeneutics that denies the possibility of the presence and access of the
divine in the history of man.
The synodal fathers, while sincerely thanking the many exegetes and theologians
that have given and give essential help in the profound discovery of the
Scriptures, request from all a growing commitment in order to reach with
greater force and clarity the theological level of biblical interpretation.
To truly arrive at a growing love for the Scriptures, hoped for by the Council,
greater care must be taken to apply the principles that Dei Verbum itself
pointed out with thoroughness and clarity.
To overcome the dualism between exegesis and theology
For the life and mission of the Church, and for the future of the faith within
contemporary cultures, it is necessary to overcome the dualism between exegesis
and theology. Sadly, not infrequently an unproductive separation between
exegesis and theology occurs even at the highest academic levels.
A worrying consequence is uncertainty and scarce solidity in the intellectual
formative path including that of some future candidates to ecclesial ministries.
Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of that unique
reality that we call theology.
The synodal fathers, therefore, with esteem address an appeal, both to theologians
as well as exegetes, so that, with a clearer and more harmonious collaboration,
they will not fail to give contemporary theology the force of the Scriptures,
and not reduce the study of the Scriptures to the historiographic dimension
of the inspired texts.
"When exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology
and, vice-versa, when theology is not essentially interpretation of Scripture
in the Church, such theology loses its foundation" (Benedict XVI, Oct. 14,
Dialogue between exegetes, theologians and pastors
Episcopal conferences are requested to favor regularly meetings between pastors,
theologians and exegetes to promote greater communion in service to the Word
We hope that exegetes and theologians will be able to share ever better the
fruits of their science for the enhancement of the faith and the edification
of the People of God, always keeping in mind the characteristic dimensions
of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission,
"The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," III).
Difficulty in the reading of the Old Testament
At times difficulties arise in reading the Old Testament because of texts
that contain elements of violence, injustice, immorality and scarce exemplarity,
even in important biblical figures.
Consequently, an adequate preparation of the faithful is required for reading
these passages and a formation that teaches them to read the texts in their
historical and literary context, so that a Christian reading is favored.
The latter has as central hermeneutical key the Gospel and the new commandment
of Jesus Christ fulfilled in the paschal mystery. Hence, it is recommended
that the reading of the Old Testament not be neglected, which, despite some
difficulties, is essential to fully understand the history of salvation (cf.
"Dei Verbum," 15).
Biblical pastoral ministry
"Dei Verbum" exhorts that the Word of God not only be made the soul of theology
but also the soul of the whole of pastoral care, of life and of the mission
of the Church (cf. "Dei Verbum," 24). Bishops must be the first promoters
of this dynamic in their dioceses. To be a herald and a credible herald,
the bishop must first nourish himself with the Word of God, so that he can
sustain and make ever more fruitful his own episcopal ministry. The synod
recommends increasing "biblical pastoral ministry" not in juxtaposition to
other forms of pastoral care but as biblical animation of the whole of pastoral
Under the guidance of pastors, all the baptized participate in the mission
of the Church. The synodal fathers wish to express their most profound esteem
and gratitude, as well as to encourage the service of evangelization that
so many lay people, especially women, offer with generosity and commitment
in communities spread throughout the world, following the example of Mary
Magdalene, first witness of paschal joy.
Word of God and priests
The Word of God is indispensable to form the heart of a good pastor, minister
of the Word. To this end, "Pastores Dabo Vobis" recalls: "The priest must
be the first 'believer' of the Word, with full consciousness that the words
of his ministry are not 'his' but of him who has sent him. He is not the
owner of this Word; he is servant. He is not the sole owner of this Word;
he is debtor vis-à-vis the People of God" (John Paul II, post-synodal
apostolic exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis," 26). Priests, especially parish
priests, are called to nourish themselves every day with the sacred Scriptures
and to communicate them with wisdom and generosity to the faithful entrusted
to their care.
Formation of candidates to holy orders
Candidates to the priesthood must learn to love the Word of God. Therefore,
Scripture should be the soul of their theological formation, underlining
the indispensable circularity between exegesis, theology, spirituality and
mission. Hence, the formation of priests should include multiple approaches
-- Prayerful reading of "lectio divina," both personal as well as in community,
in the framework of a first reading of the Bible. It will be necessary to
continue it during the whole process of formation, taking into account what
the Church establishes in regard to retreats and spiritual exercises in the
education of seminarians.
-- Nourish himself assiduously with the Word of God, also through the richness
of the Divine Office.
-- The discovery of exegesis in its various methods. A precise and ample
study is necessary of the hermeneutical rules to overcome the risks of an
arbitrary interpretation. The methods of the exegesis must be understood
in an appropriate manner, with its possibilities and limits, allowing for
correct and fruitful understanding of the Word of God.
-- Knowledge of the history of what produced the reading of the Scriptures
in the Fathers of the Church, the saints, the doctors and the masters of
spirituality down to our day.
-- Intensification, during the seminary years, of the formation for preaching,
and vigilance of permanent formation during the exercise of the ministry,
so that the homily can speak to those who hear it (cf. Acts 2:37).
-- Parallel to formation in the seminary, future priests will be invited
to take part in meetings with lay groups or associations, gathered around
the Word of God. These meetings, held during a sufficiently long amount of
time, will foster in future ministers the experience and taste for hearing
what the Holy Spirit inspires in believers gathered as Church, whether they
are young or old. Serious study of philosophy must not be neglected; it will
lead to evaluate with clarity the assumptions and implications contained
in the various hermeneutics applied to the study of the Bible (cf. "Optatam
To this end, it is hoped that philosophic and cultural thought (art and music)
open to transcendence will be addressed and taught in philosophic faculties,
so that disciples can hear and understand better the Word of God, the only
one that can satisfy the desires of the human heart (cf. "Fides et Ratio,"
What is hoped for is a renewal of academic programs (cf. John Paul II, apostolic
constitution "Sapientia Christiana") so that the systematic study of theology
in the light of sacred Scripture is manifested better.
Moreover, a revision of the courses in seminaries and in houses of formation
must take care that the Word of God has its due place in the various dimensions
Biblical formation of Christians
Love of the Bible is a grace of the Holy Spirit that permeates the whole
life of the believer. Hence, Christians must be formed in appreciation of
this gift of God. "If you knew the gift of God" (John 4:10), says the Lord.
Hence, it is hoped that in each cultural region centers of formation will
be established for the laity and for missionaries of the Word, where they
learn to understand, live and proclaim the Word of God. Moreover, that institutes
specialized in biblical studies are created so that exegetes may have solid
theological understanding and sensibility to the contexts of their mission.
This can also be done by a re-examination or reinforcement of existing structures,
such as seminaries and faculties.
Finally, it is necessary to offer adequate formation in biblical tongues
to persons who are translators of the Bible into various modern languages.
Promoting the Bible among the youth
As Jesus invited a youth to follow him, so the invitation must be proposed
again today to boys, adolescents and young men so that they can find the
answer to their search in the word of the Lord. In promoting the Bible among
youth, Benedict XVI's invitation will be taken into account: "Dear young
people, I exhort you to acquire familiarity with the Bible, to have it at
hand so that it will be for you as a compass that indicates the path to follow
(Message to the 20th World Youth Day, April 9, 2006). It is hoped that Scripture
will be presented in its vocational implications, so that it will help and
orient many young people in their vocational decision, even up to total consecration.
That the Christian community receive, hear and support the young generations
with love, so that they are initiated in knowledge of the Scriptures by educators,
true and impassioned witnesses of the Word of God. In this way, that young
people may also be led to love and communicate the Gospel, above all to their
Bible and health ministry
During his life, Jesus took care of and healed the sick and showed in this
service of his a sign of the presence of the Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 7:22).
Yet today, Scriptures continue to offer the sick and all those who suffer
a word of consolation and encouragement, and also of spiritual and physical
healing. The prayer of the Psalms touches one profoundly and gives each one
the very words of God to express their own suffering, and also their own
hope. Hence, the synodal fathers exhort all those who approach persons afflicted
by all sorts of evil to take to them humbly but audaciously the vivifying
Word of the Lord Jesus both in Scripture as well as in the Eucharist. Indispensable
also today is that the Word of God inspire the whole of health pastoral care,
leading the sick to discover through faith that their suffering makes them
capable of participating in the redeeming suffering of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians
Sacred Scripture and Christian unity
The Bible is truly a privileged place of encounter between the different
Churches and ecclesial communities. To listen to the Scriptures together
makes us live a real though not full communion (cf. "Relatio Post Disceptationem,"
"To listen together to the Word of God, to practice the 'lectio divina' of
the Bible (...) is a path to follow to attain the unity of the faith, as
response to the listening of the Word" (Benedict XVI's Address, Jan. 25,
2007). Hence, common listening of the Scriptures stimulates the dialogue
of charity and makes that of truth grow. An open ecumenical problem is the
understanding of the individual authorized in the interpretation of the Church
(especially the magisterium); therefore, common study and biblical research
should be intensified. Likewise, common efforts in the translations and diffusion
of the Bible must be intensified, as well as inter-confessional celebrations
of listening to the Word of God.
Presence of His Holiness Bartholomew I
The synodal fathers thank God for the presence and interventions of the fraternal
delegates, representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities and,
in a special way, for the prayer of Vespers presided over by the Holy Father
Benedict XVI, together with His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch
of Constantinople. The words of the ecumenical patriarch addressed to the
synodal fathers have made it possible to experience a profound spiritual
joy and to have a living experience of real and profound communion, though
still not perfect; in them we have tasted the beauty of the Word of God,
read in the light of the sacred liturgy and of the fathers, a spiritual reading
strongly contextualized in our time.
Thus, we have seen that, going to the heart of sacred Scripture, we really
find the Word in the words, which opens the eyes of the faithful to respond
to the challenges of today's world. Moreover, we have shared the joyful experience
of having common Fathers in the East and West. May this meeting become a
fervent prayer to the one Lord that Jesus' prayer "Ut omnes unum sint" may
be a reality as soon as possible (John 17:20).
THIRD PART: THE WORD OF GOD IN THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
Missionary task of all the baptized
The mission to proclaim the Word of God is a task of all the disciples of
Jesus Christ as a consequence of their baptism. This awareness must be deepened
in every parish, community and Catholic organization. Initiatives must be
proposed that make the Word of God reach all, especially baptized brothers
who are not sufficiently evangelized. Given that the Word of God was made
flesh to communicate with men, a privileged way to know it is through an
encounter with witnesses that make it present and alive. By the force of
their own charism experience, a special collaboration is contributed in the
mission by missionary institutes. Moreover, the reality of the new ecclesial
movements is an extraordinary richness of the evangelizing force of the Church
at this time, so much so as to stimulate the Church to develop new forms
of proclaiming the Gospel.
The laity is called to rediscover its responsibility to execute its prophetic
task, which stems for them directly from their baptism, and witness to the
Gospel in daily life: at home, at work and wherever they are. This witness
often leads to persecution of the faithful because of the Gospel. The synod
appeals to leaders in public life to guarantee religious liberty. Moreover,
it is necessary to open itineraries of Christian initiation in those who,
through listening to the Word, the celebration of the Eucharist and brotherly
love lived in community, might practice an ever more adult faith. To be considered
is the new question stemming from mobility and the migratory phenomenon,
which opens new prospects of evangelization, because immigrants not only
need to be evangelized but they themselves can be agents of evangelization.
Word of God and commitment in the world
The Word of God, contained in the sacred Scriptures and in the living Tradition
of the Church, helps the mind and heart of men to understand and love all
the human realities and creation. In fact, it helps to recognize the signs
of God in all man's fatigues directed to making the world more just and habitable;
it helps in identifying the "signs of the times" present in history; stimulates
believers to commit themselves in favor of those who suffer and are victims
of injustices. The struggle for justice and transformation is an integral
part of evangelization (cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," 19).
The synodal fathers direct a special thought to those who, as believers,
are committed to political and social life. They desire that the Word of
God sustain their forms of testimony as well as inspire their action in the
world, in search of the true good of all, and in respect of the dignity of
every person. Hence, it is necessary that they be prepared through an adequate
education according to the principles of the social doctrine of the Church.
Word of God and liturgical art
The great tradition of East and West has always esteemed all the artistic
expressions, specifically sacred images, inspired in sacred Scripture.
We appreciate all artists enamored of beauty: poets, men of letters, painters,
sculptors, musicians, people of the theater and cinema. They have contributed
to the decoration of our churches, to the celebration of our faith, to the
enrichment of our liturgy and, at the same time, many of them have helped
to make the invisible world perceptible and to translate the divine message
in the language of forms and figures. For all this, the synod manifests its
In every cultural area a new epoch must be aroused in which art can re-encounter
biblical inspiration and be an instrument capable of proclaiming, singing,
and enabling contemplation of the manifestation of the Word of God.
In the construction of churches, bishops, duly helped, must endeavor to make
these places adequate for the proclamation of the Word, for meditation and
for the Eucharistic celebration. Sacred spaces, also outside liturgical action,
must be eloquent, presenting the Christian mystery related with the Word
Word of God and culture
The Word of God is addressed to all mankind. It must be acknowledged that,
in the course of the centuries, it has inspired different cultures, generated
fundamental moral values, excellent artistic expressions and exemplary lifestyles.
In the Word of God are found different applications that can help both science
in its discovery of ever new conquests as well as enhance the dialogue with
all those who share our own faith. Hence, the synodal fathers encourage a
dialogue between the Bible and culture, above all given the questions about
meaning present in our time, so that the definitive answer to the search
will be found.
It would be good to organize biblical reading groups, including in secularized
environments or among nonbelievers, as a way to open the world to God through
the Word of the Bible.
Bible and translation
The synod recommends that, in compatible cultures and in similar linguistic
regions, the same translation of the Bible be approved and used, both in
the liturgical use as well as in private.
Many Churches spread around the world are still deprived of Bibles translated
into their local languages. Important above all, therefore, is the formation
of specialists dedicated to the various translations of the Bible.
Bible and dissemination
The synod wishes to remind how necessary it is that all the faithful be able
to have easy access to the reading of sacred texts. Together with this, it
requests a general mobilization so that sacred texts are disseminated as
much as possible and with all the instruments available that modern technologies
offer, above all for people with different abilities, who have our preferred
Such an endeavor calls for an exceptional form of collaboration between the
Churches so that those that dispose of more means share more to respond to
the needs of the Churches that are in greater difficulty. The synodal fathers
recommend support of the commitment of the Catholic Biblical Federation for
ample access to sacred Scripture (cf. "Dei Verbum," 22) so that there is
an ultimate increase in the number of translations of sacred Scripture and
its capillary dissemination. This should be done in collaboration with the
various Biblical societies.
Means of social communications
The synod underlines the importance of the means and languages of communication
The proclamation of the Good News finds new amplitude in present-day communication,
characterized by the interaction of the means.
The Church is called not only to disseminate the Word of God through the
means but also and above all to integrate the message of salvation in the
new culture that communication creates and amplifies.
The new communicative context allows us to multiply the ways of proclamation
and in-depth study of sacred Scripture. The latter, with its wealth, calls
for reaching all communities, including the most remote through these new
It recommends thorough knowledge of the means of communication, a sympathetic
attitude to its rapid changes, and more investment in communication through
the different instruments that are offered, such as television, radio, newspapers,
Internet. They are, in any case, ways that can facilitate the exercise of
obedient listening to the Word of God. It is necessary to prepare competent
Catholics of conviction in the field of social communication.
Word of God and world congress
In these times, meetings of worldwide character are multiplied. Hence, it
is not considered opportune to institute a specific congress on the Word
of God. Episcopal conferences are invited to support and promote events to
disseminate the Bible.
Faithful reading of Scripture: historical authenticity and fundamentalism
Faithful reading of sacred Scripture, practiced since antiquity in the Tradition
of the Church, seeks the truth that saves for the life of each faithful and
for the Church. This reading acknowledges the historic value of the biblical
tradition. It is precisely because of this value of historic testimony that
it desires to rediscover the profound meaning of sacred Scripture destined
also for the life of today's believer.
Such a reading of Scripture differs from "fundamentalist interpretations,"
which ignore the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres.
To use "lectio divina" fruitfully, the believer must be educated "not to
confuse unknowingly the human limits of the biblical message with the divine
essence of the message itself" (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation
of the Bible in the Church, I F).
The Bible and the phenomenon of sects
We are profoundly concerned over the increase and mutation of the phenomenon
of sects. In fact, the sects of various origins seem to offer an experience
of God's closeness to a person's life and promise an illusory happiness through
the Bible, often interpreted in a fundamentalist way.
-- Through a vital correct hermeneutic of the biblical pages, to intensify
pastoral activity to provide the food of the Word to the faithful seeking
-- To learn from the rich experience of the first centuries of the Church,
which, however, knew similar phenomena (cf. 1 John 2:19; 4:2-3);
-- To know better the peculiar characteristics, the causes and promoters
of the sects exactly as they present themselves today;
-- To help the faithful to distinguish well the Word of God from private
-- To stimulate groups that share and meditate in order to counteract the
attraction of the sects and fundamentalism.
It is necessary that priests are adequately prepared to address this new
situation, making them capable of proposing a biblical animation of pastoral
care, adapted to the problems that people face today.
We ask the Holy See to study, in collaboration with the episcopal conferences
and the competent structures of the Catholic Eastern Churches, the phenomenon
of the sects in its global scope and also in its local repercussions.
Bible and inculturation
Revelation was constituted by taking from the different human cultures the
authentic values capable of expressing the truth that God communicated to
men for our salvation (cf. "Dei Verbum," 11). The Word of God, in as much
as revelation, introduced in cultures the knowledge of truth that would otherwise
have been unknown and created cultural progress and development. The Lord's
command to the Church to proclaim the Word of God implies taking the Word
of God to all peoples on earth and their cultures. This implies the same
process of inculturation of the Word of God as occurs in Revelation.
Hence, the Word of God must penetrate every environment so that culture produces
original expressions of life, liturgy and Christian thought (cf. "Catechesi
Tradendae," 53). This takes place when the Word of God, proposed to a culture,
"fertilize as from within the spiritual qualities and traditions of each
people, confirms them, perfects them and recapitulates them in Christ" ("Gaudium
et Spes," 58), thus eliciting new expressions of Christian life.
For a genuine inculturation of the evangelical message, the formation of
missionaries with adequate means must be ensured, to know in-depth the vital
ambience and the socio-cultural conditions, so that they can be inserted
in the environment, the language and the local cultures. It corresponds to
the local Church in the first place to achieve a genuine inculturation of
the evangelical message, paying attention of course to the risk of syncretism.
The quality of inculturation depends on the degree of maturity of the evangelizing
Mission "ad gentes"
The Word of God is a good for all men, which the Church must not keep to
herself but share with joy and generosity with all peoples and cultures,
so that they also can find in Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life
(cf. John 14:6).
Looking at the example of St. Paul, of the Apostles and of so many missionaries
that, in the course of history, took the Gospel to peoples, this Synod reaffirms
the urgency of the mission "ad gentes" also in our time -- a proclamation
that must be explicit, made not only within our churches but everywhere and
must be accompanied by a coherent testimony of life, which makes the content
evident and reinforces it.
Bishops, priests, deacons, persons of consecrated life and laymen must also
be close to persons who do not participate in the liturgy and do not frequent
our communities. The Church must go out to all with the strength of the Spirit
(cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5) and continue to defend prophetically the right and
liberty of persons to listen to the Word of God, seeking the most effective
means to proclaim it, not excluding the risk of persecution.
Bible and interreligious dialogue
The dialogue with non-Christian religions is a significant moment in the
life of the Church and in the dialogue with men. Monotheisms, the traditional
religions of Africa and Australia, the ancient spiritual traditions of Asia
have values of respect and collaboration that can greatly foster understanding
between persons and societies. The guidelines of this dialogue are in the
declaration "Nostra Aetate" of Vatican II. The synod also reminds of the
need to effectively ensure for all believers the freedom to profess their
own faith in private and public, as well as freedom of conscience.
Paul VI called the Holy Land the "Fifth Gospel." The synod recommends pilgrimages
and, if possible, the study of the sacred Scriptures in the Holy Land, and
following in the steps of St. Paul. Through this experience, pilgrims and
students will be able to understand better the physical and geographical
environment of the Scriptures and especially the relation between the two
Testaments. The stones on which Jesus walked could become for them stones
of living memory. In the meantime, Christians in the Holy Land need the communion
of all Christians, especially in these days of conflict, poverty and fear.
Dialogue between Christians and Jews
The dialogue between Christians and Jews belongs to the nature of the Church.
Faithful to his promises, God does not revoke the Old Covenant (cf. Romans
9 and 11). Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and the Holy Land is the motherland
of the Church. Christians and Jews share the Scriptures of the Jewish people,
which Christians call the Old Testament. As Abraham's descendants, Jews and
Christians can be a source of blessing for humanity (cf. Genesis 17:4-5).
Jewish understanding of the Bible can help Christians in the understanding
and study of the Scriptures.
Christian biblical interpretation is based on the unity of the two Testaments
in Jesus, Word made flesh. He realizes in his person the full meaning of
the Scriptures with continuity and discontinuity as regards the inspired
books of the Jewish people.
It is suggested that episcopal conferences promote meetings and dialogues
between Jews and Christians.
Dialogue between Christians and Muslims
"The Church also looks with esteem at Muslims that adore the one God" (NA,
3). They refer to Abraham and render worship to God above all with prayer,
alms and fasting. Dialogue with them allows for better knowledge of one another
and collaboration in promoting ethical and spiritual values.
In this dialogue, the synod stresses the importance of respect for life,
human rights and women's rights, as well as the distinction between the socio-political
order and the religious order in the promotion of justice and peace in the
world. Another important topic in this dialogue is reciprocity and freedom
of conscience and religion.
It is suggested to the episcopal conferences of countries where it is beneficial
to promote circles of dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
Cosmic dimensions of the Word of God and custody of creation
The Word of God communicates to us the beauty of God through the beauty of
creation and also through sacred images, such as icons of the incarnate Word.
They are modalities with which the invisible mystery of God is in some way
made visible and perceptible to our senses. The Fathers of the Church, moreover,
always affirmed the cosmic dimensions of the Word of God made flesh; each
creature bears in a certain sense a sign of the Word of God. In Jesus Christ,
dead and risen, all created things find definitive recapitulation (cf. Ephesians
1:10). All things and persons, therefore, are called to be good and beautiful
Sadly, the man of our time has lost the habit of contemplating the Word of
God in the world he inhabits that has been given by God. Hence, the rediscovery
of the Word of God, in all its dimensions, impels us to denounce all the
actions of contemporary man that do not respect nature as creation.
To receive the Word of God attested in sacred Scripture and in the living
Tradition of the Church generates a new way of seeing things, promoting a
genuine ecology, which has its deepest root in the obedience of the faith
that receives the Word of God. Hence, we hope that, in the pastoral action
of the Church, commitment in favor of the safeguarding of creation will be
intensified, developing a renewed theological sensibility to the goodness
of all things created in Christ, Word of God incarnate.
Mary "Mater Dei" and "Mater Fidei"
The synod, whose intention is above all to renew the faith of the Church
in the Word of God, looks at Mary, the Virgin Mother of the Word Incarnate,
who with her yes to the Word of the Covenant and to its mission, perfectly
fulfills humanity's divine vocation. The Synodal Fathers suggests the dissemination
of the Angelus prayer among the faithful, daily memorial of the Word Incarnate
and of the Rosary.
The Church of the New Testament lives where the Word Incarnate is received,
loved and served in full availability to the Holy Spirit. Mary's faith then
develops in the love with which it accompanies the Incarnate Word's growth
and mission. Under the Son's cross, faith and love become the hope with which
Mary accepts to become the Mother of the beloved disciple and of redeemed
Devout and loving attention to Mary's figure, as model and archetype of the
Church's faith, is of capital importance to realize also today a concrete
change of paradigm in the relation of the Church with the Word, both in the
posture of prayerful listening as well as generosity in the commitment to
the mission and the proclamation. The synodal fathers, united to the Holy
Father in prayer so that the synod "will carry fruits of genuine renewal
to each Christian community" (Benedict XVI, Angelus in Pompeii, Oct. 19,
2008), invite pastors and faithful to look at Mary and ask the Holy Spirit
for the grace of a lively faith in the Word of God made flesh.