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SYNOD-AGREEMENT Oct-14-2008 (560 words) xxxi

Bible associations sign agreement to work more closely

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The United Bible Societies and the Catholic Biblical Federation signed a new agreement during the world Synod of Bishops to work more closely in translating, printing and distributing the Bible and in helping people read it.

The document was signed Oct. 14 by Italian Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Narni and Amelia, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation, and the Rev. Archibald Miller Milloy, general secretary of the United Bible Societies.

Both leaders attended the Oct. 5-26 Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Hosting the signing ceremony, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that despite centuries of divisions among Christians "the Bible has always remained a common heritage" and is "the basis for ecumenical dialogue."

Four decades of ecumenical dialogue have underlined a shared conviction by Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans that "one who does not take seriously the words (in the Bible) cannot take seriously the Word" who is Jesus Christ, he said.

Bishop Paglia said: "All Christians of all traditions have a common problem: how to reach the incredible number of people who do not have a personal knowledge of the Bible. They might have it on the shelf, but they do not have it on the bedside stand."

While the United Bible Societies and Catholic biblicists have been working together for 40 years, Bishop Paglia said a new agreement and a new commitment were needed because "we believe all peoples have a right to have the Bible translated into their own language."

Rev. Milloy said that since the Catholic Church and the United Bible Societies adopted "Guidelines for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the Bible" in 1968 they have worked together on 130 translations.

In 2007, he said, the United Bible Societies distributed some 26 million complete Bibles and 12 million copies of the New Testament.

The 145 national societies that make up the United Bible Societies also have programs to help people read and use their Bibles for prayer. In addition to distributing Bibles, they run literacy programs for those who cannot read and develop audio material for those who are visually impaired.

Cardinal Kasper said that in addition to recognizing the importance of the Scriptures the mainline Christian churches are closer than ever before in how they interpret the Bible.

Rev. Milloy, a member of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, was asked about his reaction to insistence at the synod on Catholics knowing that the Scriptures must be interpreted in the light of tradition.

"Implied in that question is the idea that non-Catholics do not have any tradition, which is nonsense. There are now 34,000 denominations worldwide and the number is growing every year. Why do people feel obliged to create a new church? Because people are following their interpretation of Scripture," he said.

The Protestant tradition of "'sola Scriptura' (Scripture alone) was never meant to lead to individual interpretations," he said. "It was meant to give people access (to personal Bible reading), but with the assumption that they would come back to church and be in church" and understand the Scriptures in communion with the whole church, he said.

"All churches, all confessions have a doctrinal understanding" that they expect their members to share, he said.


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