Servants of the Word
To the Catholic Biblical Federation
"There are places where the Word of God is drained of its authority". Thus, there is need everywhere for "a specific pastoral commitment to bring out the central role of the Word of God in ecclesial life". The Pope consigned a text to those attending the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation, whom he received in audience on Friday, 19 June , in the Consistory Hall. The following is a translation from the Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you and greet you with the words of St Paul to the Christians of Philippi: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,... for your partnership in the gospel” (Phil 1:2-5).
I sincerely thank Cardinal Tagle, the new President, for the words of greeting he addressed to me also on behalf of all of you. I express gratitude to Archbishop Paglia for the service he has rendered to the Federation in these years.
You chose as the motto of this Tenth Plenary Assembly a passage from the First Letter of John: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (1 Jn 1:3). In order to be able to proclaim the word of truth, we ourselves have to have experienced the Word: to have listened to it, contemplated it, practically touched it with our own hands.... (cf. 1 Jn 1:1). Christians, who are “God’s own people, that [you] may declare the wonderful deeds of him” (1 Pet 2:9), must first of all, as recommended by the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine RevelationDei Verbum, venerate, read, listen to, proclaim, preach, study and spread the Word of God (cf. n. 25).
The Church, which proclaims the Word every day, receiving from it nourishment and inspiration, renders herself the beneficiary and excellent witness of that force and power intrinsic to the very Word of God (cf.Dei Verbum, n. 21). It is neither us, nor our efforts, but it is the Holy Spirit who works through those who dedicate themselves to the apostolate, and who works in the listeners as well, predisposing one and the other to hear the Word proclaimed and receive the message of life.
On the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation,Dei Verbum, it seems very fitting that you should dedicate your Plenary Assembly to reflection on Sacred Scripture, the source of evangelization. St John Paul II, in 1986, invited you to carry out a careful rereading of theDei Verbum, applying its principles and putting its recommendations into practice. Surely the Synod of Bishops in 2008 on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church offered another important occasion to reflect on its implementation. Today too, I would like to invite you to carry this work forward, always enhancing the wealth of the Conciliar Constitution, as well as the subsequent Magisterium, while you communicate the “joy of the Gospel” to the farthest ends of the earth, in obedience to the missionary mandate. “The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized. It is indispensable that the word of God ‘be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity’” (Apostolic ExhortationEvangelii Gaudium, n. 174).
However, there are places in which the Word of God has not yet been proclaimed or, although proclaimed, has not been accepted as the Word of salvation. There are places where the Word of God is drained of its authority. The lack of support and force of the Word leads to a weakening of Christian communities of long established tradition and slows the spiritual growth and missionary fervour of young Churches. We are all responsible should “the message run the risk of losing its freshness and cease to have ‘the fragrance of the Gospel’” (cf.ibid., n. 39). Therefore, there is an open invitation to exercise an intense commitment to ensure the central role of the Word of God in ecclesial life, by promoting biblical reading throughout the pastoral ministry. We must ensure that in the usual activities of every Christian community, in parishes, in associations and movements, there actually be at heart the personal encounter with Christ who communicates himself to us in his Word, because, as St Jerome teaches us, “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Dei Verbum, n. 25).
The mission of the servants of the Word — bishops, priests, religious and lay people — is that of promoting and fostering this encounter, which arouses faith and transforms life; therefore I pray, on behalf of the entire Church, that you may bring to fruition your mandate: to ensure “that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph” (2 Thes 3:1), until the day of Christ Jesus.
May the “Handmaiden of the Lord”, who is blessed because she “believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken” (Lk 1:45), accompany you in these days as she accompanied the disciples in the first community, so that you may be guided by the light and the power of the Holy Spirit.
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26 June 2015, page 4
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