SYNOD-DISCUSSION Oct-16-2008 (800 words) xxxi
Some prelates say private Bible reading just first step for Catholics
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Private Bible reading is important, but for Catholics it is just the first step toward understanding the word of God, said several members of the world Synod of Bishops.
During the first 10 days of the Oct. 5-26 synod on the Bible, a recurring theme in the synod hall was the tension several bishops see between some schools of biblical scholarship and the traditional faith of the church.
The day after Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec presented his summary of the synod's initial discussions Oct. 15, several synod members met with reporters to discuss points the cardinal raised.
U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the tension between some schools of interpretation, or exegesis, and the traditional theology and teaching of the church was "not just one of the key -- but I would say one of the most delicate -- questions" for the synod.
He said, "We might look at the tension this way: When you look at the Scriptures, oftentimes you are told, 'Read the Scripture to look just at what this passage says to you or says in itself.'
"That is a very important step," he said, "but when you think of the way in which the church for 2,000 years has been reading and reflecting on the Scripture, the next question seems natural and necessary, and that is, 'How is this passage of Scripture related to all of the Bible and how is it related to the faith of the church?'"
The use of Bible readings at Mass clearly shows how Catholics should approach reading the Scriptures, he said.
First, the readings are proclaimed, the cardinal said. Then, "the homilist -- for better or for worse, depending on his skills and reflection -- will comment on that word of God, trying to make it relevant to the life of people and, particularly, to make it relevant and understood in accordance with the faith of the church."
"Immediately after the homily, the church asks us to stand and profess our faith in the creed," he said.
The liturgical use of Scripture demonstrates how the Bible is not simply an inspiring piece of literature, but forms the basis for what the church teaches and should lead to a profession of faith, Cardinal Levada said.
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Brazil, told the reporters that the synod members insisted that "exegesis is not enough," because understanding what God is saying requires an attitude of listening in faith.
The concern over understanding the Bible the way the Catholic Church traditionally has understood it led some reporters to ask whether some synod members were afraid of what would happen if more Catholics read the Bible.
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, said those days are over.
"Within the Catholic Church there is no denying the fact that in history the use of the Bible by the laity was kind of restricted out of what was perceived to be the danger of untutored reading of Scriptures," he said.
"Over time this has had to change," Cardinal Turkson said. "This has had to change because of the hunger for the word of God that has been manifested everywhere."
Cardinal Scherer also said synod members were asked how the Bible can strengthen ecumenical relations, and not just through organizing joint projects to translate and distribute Bibles or praying together using biblical texts.
Studying the Bible together could help the process of "resolving doctrinal differences which began with differences in scriptural interpretation," Cardinal Scherer said.
Cardinal Ouellet's report also mentioned several synod recommendations for using the Bible to improve relations with the Jewish community, beginning with reminders to Catholics that the Old Testament is the inspired word of God and that Christians can learn something from centuries of Jewish interpretation and commentary on the first books of the Bible.
Cardinal Turkson said several synod presentations emphasized that the Bible "is a religious document," so one cannot say there is anything in the New Testament that can be read as supporting anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic attitudes.
In addition, said Bishop Luis Tagle of Imus, Philippines, "there was much mention in the synod" and in the post-discussion report on the Bible and interreligious dialogue.
First, he said, there was a call to become familiar with and to respect the sacred writings of other faiths.
Then, he said, church members were urged "to realize that in our teachings and their teachings, there are many places where we converge, things we hold in common" -- including belief in the sacredness of human life, the importance of the family and values such as honesty and generosity.
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