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Read the Bible, and engage with other faiths, Pope urges

by Bill Bowder

EVERY Roman Catholic family should have a Bible, and should read it, 253 RC bishops said during a three-week Synod of Bishops at the Vatican that ended on Sunday. The bishops had met to discuss “The word of God in the life and mission of the Church”.

“Every home should have its own Bible, and safeguard it in a visible and dignified way, to read it and to pray with it,” the bishops said in a message published during their discussions. The bishops also urged Christians to engage with the Jewish people, and to enter into dialogue with people of other religions.

The Synod of Bishops, estab­lished by Pope Paul VI in 1965, last met in 2005. It is summoned by a pope when he believes it to be necessary.

Despite the emphasis on ecu­menism at the synod, significant differences emerged between Angli­cans, Orthodox, and Roman Ca­tholics on ways to read the Bible and on the importance of synods.

The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, one of the “fraternal dele­gates”, said that the Bible could be read in the light of the tradition, teaching, and life of the Church, and in the context of mission.

“Some insist on the heart to the exclusion of mind, soul, and strength. Then you have a dangerous and vulnerable anti-intellectualism. But with modern critical study you often have the opposite: thousands of pages of research from which we only hear the faintest echo of the word of God. . . Then we bishops naturally react, insisting on ‘devotional’ reading only, or strict magisterial control. We then run the risk that we never hear God saying anything which has not already been controlled and neutralised. We need all four ‘loves’, in proper balance, as our hermeneutical principle,” he told the synod.

But the bishops insisted that they still provided the authentic teaching on how to read the Bible. “This is the great tradition: the effective presence of the ‘Spirit of truth’ in the Church, guardian of sacred scripture, which is authentically interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium. This tra­dition enables the Church to under­stand, interpret, communicate, and bear witness to the word of God,” they said.

The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bar­tholomew I, also addressed the Synod. “It is the first time in history that an Ecumenical Patriarch is offered the opportunity to address a synod of the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, and thus be part

of ‘the life of’ this sister Church at such a high level,” he said in his address on 14 October. It was a gesture “full of meaning and sig­nificance”.

But he told the bishops that, for the Orthodox Church, the inter­dependence of synodality and primacy “runs through all the levels of the Church’s life”.

“Our hopes are raised that the day will come when our two Churches will fully converge on the role of primacy and synodality in the Church’s life, to which our com­mon theological commission is devoting its study at the present time.”

His words were welcomed by the Pope. They had “walked together on the path in the land of the divine word under the guidance of Your Holiness, and we have tasted its beauty”, Pope Benedict said. “Your Fathers, that you have quoted so many times, are also our Fathers, and ours are also yours: if we have common fathers, how could we not be brothers?”

At the end of the Synod, the bishops presented a list of 55 propositions to the Pope. One was that women should, in future, be allowed to preach, a possibility hitherto restricted to men. Pope Benedict said that he would “elabor­ate “a post-synod document”.

“We always need this dialogue, listening to the scripture read by another from his perspective, from his vision, to learn together the richness of this gift,” he said as he closed the assembly on Sunday.

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