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Pope interprets humanity from biblical perspective

20 December 2019

A new study will base anthropology on the scriptures

PA

Pope Francis welcomes a young visitor during an audience in the Vatican

Pope Francis welcomes a young visitor during an audience in the Vatican

THE Vatican has produced a new systematic study of humanity from scripture, to “offer a path of what the Bible says about all the complexity of the human being”.

Produced by the Pontifical Biblical Commission at the request of Pope Francis, the book-length document seeks not to tackle pressing modern theological concerns, but, rather, to provide foundational principles for discernment.

The Secretary to the Commission, Fr Pietro Bovati SJ, told the Vatican news website that his team had worked hard to be systematic.

Most theologians picked out a handful of texts to support their arguments, he said. “We, on the contrary, wanted to do a systematic work in order to offer a path of what the Bible says about all the complexity of the human being.”

The work, which has not yet been published, is What is Man? An itinerary of biblical anthropology. “We have not only tried to clarify some points, and perhaps give a more mature, more complex interpretation even of certain biblical texts,” Fr Bovati said.

The document offers theologians and anyone else “involved in the transmission of the faith . . . an understanding of man that is more complex, more organic, more in conformity with our biblical traditions”.

It was Pope Francis’s idea, Fr Bovati said, to consider anthropology starting from the Bible. He continued: “At the basis of this is a question: what is man? This question runs through the whole of the Bible as an itinerary.”

The theme of humanity has been a constant throughout much of Pope Francis’s pontificate. Earlier this month, he spoke out against the rise of online pornography, which, he said, was to blame for the “general loss of human dignity” (News, 6 December).

He has also condemned the exclusion of migrants and refugees, saying in a speech to mark the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees that they were an “invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity” (News, 31 May).

Last year, he hailed the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for recognising that the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world” (News, 12 January 2018).

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