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SYNOD-MARTINI Jan-31-2008 (500 words) xxxi

Italian cardinal hopes synod helps draw Catholics closer to Scripture

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the retired archbishop of Milan and biblical scholar who repeatedly asked for a world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, said he hopes October's synod on the topic will focus on practical pastoral initiatives to bring Catholics closer to the Scriptures.

The Oct. 5-26 synod should be "a pastoral discernment" aimed at helping the church offer Catholics "authentic itineraries of worship, prayer and service" based on the Bible, he said in an article published in La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal reviewed by the Vatican prior to publication.

Cardinal Martini said the synod also should be an "examination of conscience" of how well the church has put into practice the teachings of the Second Vatican Council's document on divine revelation, "Dei Verbum."

A chapter of the synod outline or "lineamenta," published last April, focused on how the church nourishes itself with the word of God "in liturgy and in prayer, in evangelization and catechesis, in exegesis and in theology, and in the life of the believer," he said.

"I think that all of these areas are important and deserve the attention of the synod fathers," the cardinal said, particularly because too many Catholics still do not read the Bible on their own or in groups and only hear the Scriptures at Mass.

The cardinal said he hoped the synod would avoid "prolonged and abstract" discussions on matters already dealt with by the Second Vatican Council, such as the relationship between Scripture and tradition, or an examination of particular methods of biblical interpretation and scholarship.

Also, he said, focusing on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," the synod's theme, the gathering should avoid placing an emphasis on "individual revealed truths," looking instead at the fact that God has revealed himself through the Scriptures.

Cardinal Martini said he hoped the synod would come up with concrete suggestions for bringing the Bible closer to the lives of Catholics.

He said his first suggestion would be that even at a daily Mass, where homilies usually are not given, the celebrant should offer a brief reflection -- "no longer than three minutes" -- on the day's Scripture readings.

A more difficult, but essential task, he said, is finding ways to help Catholics learn to pray with the Scriptures during their private prayers.

Cardinal Martini, who taught in Jerusalem and lives there much of the year, said the synod also must remind Catholics how much the Jewish tradition and modern Jewish scholarship have to teach them about the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.

"It is not enough to avoid any anti-Semitic feelings," he said. "One must reach the point of loving the Jewish people and all the expressions of their life and culture: their literature, art, folklore and religiousness. Only then can we establish those ties that will lead not only to overcoming mistrust and prejudices, but to collaborating for the good of humanity."


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