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 CNS Story:

SCRIPTURE-BISHOPS Aug-25-2008 (650 words) With photo. xxxn

Bishops who are biblical scholars say the knowledge enhances ministry

By Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Priests often get advanced degrees and specialize in a particular area of Catholic teaching. Some become canon lawyers; others become biblical scholars. Some of those same men then later become bishops and are able to use their specialty to impact their ministry.

"From a standpoint of preaching, you have to hear and make it (Scripture) your own before you presume to bring it to other people," said Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Ark. Bishop Taylor has a doctorate in biblical theology from Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York.

The world Synod of Bishops on the Bible will take place at the Vatican Oct. 5-26. The theme for the synod is "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Bishop Taylor took an interest in biblical studies while serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, a part of the country with "a general environment where most Christians place emphasis on the Bible. Naturally, I knew it would be important," he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba of Milwaukee and Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., both became biblical scholars because their bishops asked them to go to Rome and study Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Bishop Sklba "fell in love with the discipline," he told Catholic News Service. Bishop Trautman said his experience in biblical studies has "powered all of my work with a love for the Bible."

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa became interested in the field while he was in the Jesuit novitiate, inspired by some of his teachers who themselves were biblical scholars.

"My Jesuit spirituality was illuminated by the study of Scripture; my prayer and work complemented each other," said Archbishop Prendergast in an interview with CNS.

For 10 years Archbishop Prendergast wrote a weekly column on Scripture for The Catholic Register, a national Canadian weekly based in Toronto, where he served as auxiliary bishop beginning in 1995. He also taught Scripture in seminaries for many years before that.

"The most significant change (in biblical studies) is the enhancement of the historical aspect supplemented by literary studies of text," said Bishop Sklba, who has participated in three archaeological digs in the Holy Land.

"It's hard work but it's a thrilling opportunity to put your hand in the soil and discover floors, houses, walls; it puts you in touch with people from 2,500 years ago," Bishop Sklba said about the digs.

Bishop Sklba said he felt the synod itself would not have an immediate impact on the church, but that Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic letter after the synod would have more of an impact "on how the Gospel is lived and taught in the church."

Bishop Trautman said he believes the issue of fundamentalism will be discussed at the synod.

"Tradition with a big 'T' is all Jesus said and passed on," he said. "It is faith coming through Scripture, but the little 't' can and must change." He said the cycle of liturgical readings for Sundays and major feasts adopted after the Second Vatican Council takes Catholics through the Scriptures completely every three years. "The three-year cycle has caused a renewal for the Bible in the life of every Catholic," Bishop Trautman said.

Archbishop Prendergast attended the 1990 bishops' synod on priestly formation as a resource person and covered the event for The Catholic Register. This time he will be one of the five Canadian bishops attending the synod, which he expects to focus on St. Paul, as Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Pauline year from June 2008 to June 2009.

The archbishop said he also expects formation programs to be among the topics discussed.

"When beautifully proclaimed, the word of God really touches people," he added. "It's not just something you study; it's something you pray."


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