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SYNOD-WUERL Oct-21-2008 (740 words) xxxi

Catholics know Bible from their liturgies, says Washington prelate

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics know the word of God, they just don't read their Bibles, said Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

But the archbishop said he hopes their reading habits will change after the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Archbishop Wuerl, who is attending his fourth synod, said that while the 1990 synod on priestly formation was probably the most practical, the synod on the Bible likely will be the most creative.

In an Oct. 21 interview with Catholic News Service, the archbishop said the synod "is challenging pastors of souls to find better ways of helping people access the Bible, the Scriptures. What I think will come out of this synod are creative ways to do that."

Archbishop Wuerl said he met Oct. 19 with Washington priests and seminarians studying in Rome and asked them for ideas to develop "useful, attractive, practical and pastoral mechanisms" to help people use the Scriptures daily.

The archbishop said that even if most Catholics cannot quote the chapter and verse numbers of Biblical passages like some of their Protestant neighbors can, "Catholics do know the Bible. You start a parable or a story from the New Testament and most Catholics would be able to complete it. They know the stories.

"They won't be able to tell you chapter and verse," he said, because Catholics do not learn Scripture "from opening the Bible; instead we learn it from sitting at liturgy and hearing it read to us in the context of worship, which is its living context."

"The Catholics I know, know the word of God; they just don't read the Bible," he said.

"What we want to do is to invite everyone to be more familiar with the Bible and spend more time with it," the archbishop said.

"For your salvation, what is important to know: the Ten Commandments or who wrote them down and roughly in what era?" he said.

"It's nice to know books, but at the end of the day, we are going to be tested on how much that word has really been the guide and norm of our life," Archbishop Wuerl said.

"But wouldn't it be wonderful if -- and I hope this is what will come out of the synod -- we as a church make a commitment to making our people excited about opening the Bible when they are at home or when they are with a small group."

Archbishop Wuerl said he always is amazed at how, by the third or fourth day of a synod, bishops from all over the world can agree on what is important. The agreements, of course, concern fundamental elements of Catholic faith and life developed over 2,000 years of history, he said.

"Where the synod becomes very valuable," he said, is in finding ways to apply those teachings and practices and "make them come alive today. That's what this synod is all about."

"It's how do you explain what the word of God means to a culture that is so frenetic, so 'now' focused, so secular in its context," he said. "How do you speak about the Transcendent coming into the world and offering us meaning and direction and purpose?"

In his address to the synod and in his contributions to the free discussion and the small working groups, Archbishop Wuerl said he asked the members to pay particular attention to the role the Catechism of the Catholic Church can play in helping people understand how the church understands the Scriptures and the role of the tens of thousands of catechists and Catholic schoolteachers actively involved in passing on the word of God.

"The catechism is not a substitute for Scripture, but is the matrix for understanding it," he said.

The catechism has thousands of biblical references listed in its footnotes along with references to the writings of early church theologians, saints and documents from the main church councils held throughout history.

Archbishop Wuerl said the catechism's weaving together of all those sources does not mean that the Bible is just one important piece of writing, but demonstrates that for 2,000 years the Catholic Church has read and reflected on the biblical passages and has come to an understanding of them with the help of the Holy Spirit.


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