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SYNOD-TRADITIONS Oct-13-2008 (480 words) xxxi

U.S. prelates remind synod of traditions that encourage Bible reading

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two U.S. members of the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible reminded the assembly of Catholic traditions that can encourage the faithful to read the Bible and understand it.

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a major Vatican tribunal, told bishops Oct. 11 that the church grants indulgences to the faithful who read or listen to a reading of the Bible as a spiritual exercise.

And Byzantine Archbishop Basil M. Schott of Pittsburgh, also speaking Oct. 11, told the synod that the Byzantine tradition's "Akathistos" hymn to Mary is filled with biblical images that could lead the faithful back to the sacred texts.

Archbishop Schott said the hymn particularly highlights the Old Testament stories that foreshadowed the coming of Christ and his incarnation in the womb of Mary.

"Using the mother of God as a model, the faithful must not only read the Scriptures but listen to what the Spirit is saying in the present moment," he said.

Archbishop Schott, like several other Eastern-rite bishops at the synod, also expressed hope that the theology, spirituality and traditions of the Eastern churches will be reflected in the synod's final message, its proposals to the pope and the final document the pope is expected to write.

Cardinal Stafford, whose office deals with matters related to the forgiveness of sins, told synod members that "the good news" of the word of God is pardon and reconciliation with God and with other people.

But he said the synod's working document only briefly mentioned the sacrament of penance and made no mention at all of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, both of which are good news.

In addition, the cardinal said, "As the major penitentiary of the church, I want to call the attention of the synod fathers to the 'Manual of Indulgences' in which the church concedes a plenary indulgence to those faithful who read the sacred Scriptures as a spiritual reading from a text approved by a competent authority and with reverence due to the divine word for at least half an hour."

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. A plenary indulgence means the punishment is completely remitted.

Those who read the Bible as a spiritual exercise for less than half an hour receive a partial indulgence, the cardinal said.

And, for those who cannot read the Bible themselves, "an indulgence is granted to those who listen to the reading of the word of God or watch a video recording," Cardinal Stafford said.

Canadian Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the synod's English-language briefing officer, told reporters many bishops in the synod hall were jotting down notes as Cardinal Stafford spoke about the indulgences.


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