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SYNOD-HEART Oct-10-2008 (580 words) xxxi

Synod members say Bible experience must move from head to heart

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics need better formation in sacred Scripture but without putting so much emphasis on knowledge that the word of God is prevented from entering people's hearts, several members told the world Synod of Bishops.

Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay, Australia, told the synod Oct. 9 that today's priests and seminarians are educated better than ever, especially in the scientific study of Scriptures.

"However, this has not resulted in a presbyterate whose heart is 'a library of the word' or 'dyed the color of the Scriptures.' Such an approach alone can lead to a head filled with the Scriptures but a heart bereft of them," he said.

He told the assembly a person's experience of the Scriptures needs to move from the head to the heart in part by practicing "a meditative prayerful reading" and sharing of Scriptures.

This is important not just to improve the priest's personal relationship with the Bible but also to enable the faithful "to enter more deeply into the mystery of our risen Lord."

"We let the faithful down by not proclaiming the Gospel in a deep radical way," he said.

Bishop Walker told the assembly the problem is not that preaching has become unorthodox but that those who preach "have domesticated the Gospel, tamed it so that we proclaim a Gospel that is not deep or radical" and therefore does not draw the faithful to a radical response.

Personal, deep holiness inextricably is linked to "an intimacy with Scriptures," which "is only acquired over time by regular meditative, prayerful reflection," he said.

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, told the assembly Oct. 8 that even though there is an increase in the number of educational institutions dedicated to religious studies for laypeople and men and women religious, ignorance about the Bible "seems to be on the increase."

Results from a recent survey in Europe by the Catholic Biblical Federation showed "there is quite incredible ignorance among believers concerning elementary notions" about the Bible, which makes poorly formed Catholics "fertile soil for sects," he said.

The cardinal said the increasing number of higher educational institutions for religious studies is sapping local dioceses of their needed priests as more priests are being hired to teach at these facilities.

Saying ordinary pastoral teaching should not be ignored, the cardinal expressed sadness over how many institutions "are dominated by specialized courses to the detriment of basic biblical, dogmatic and moral instruction."

Bishop Guillermo Loria Garita of San Isidro, Costa Rica, told the synod assembly Oct. 9 that the church's teachings start with "the living and joyous message of the word."

Therefore "theology must be nourished by Scripture first rather than by philosophy," said the bishop.

Archbishop Hector Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Peru, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, said firm knowledge of biblical texts "renders more effectively the presentation of the Gospel."

Ongoing formation will help priests and deacons avoid relying on anecdotes and "the nontranscendent," and instead cull "both the new and the old" when faced with drawing from the same texts in the Lectionary every three years.

Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, told the assembly Oct. 9 that Catholics would be more inspired to read and understand the Bible if they were convinced that, "when you read, it is God who is speaking to you."


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