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SYNOD-TAGLE Oct-22-2008 (650 words) xxxi

Philippine bishop: Simple programs make Bible part of daily life

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Making the word of God an integral part of people's lives requires simple, practical programs, not "grandiose and unattainable" plans, said Bishop Luis Tagle of Imus, Philippines.

He said the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible was providing serious and realistic ideas for strengthening people's relationship with Scripture.

Synod members realize their task is not just to help the faithful get their hands on the Bible and read it more often, he said, but also to foster a yearning "to encounter the Lord who speaks and reveals so many beautiful things about life -- the meaning of life -- in his very own words."

In an Oct. 22 interview with Catholic News Service, the bishop said the synod was being "very realistic in its approach, because if you want to penetrate consciences, small communities and families, (pastoral) programs should not be grandiose and unattainable," but simple and realistic.

One idea that has been working in the Philippines, Bishop Tagle said, is his weekly, hourlong, nationally televised catechetical program, "The Word Exposed."

On the program, broadcast live every Sunday morning, the bishop explains the three readings for that day's Mass. Each explanation lasts about seven minutes and is followed by a music video of song and images that aid in reflection, he said.

The bishop spends the remainder of the program answering callers' questions about the Bible and the Catholic faith.

"Those who are not able to attend Mass can be nourished by the word of God, and those who go to Mass, they go prepared, having listened to the reflections," he said.

Bishop Tagle said the church should do more to use mass media, since even remote communities have radios and sometimes access to the Internet.

Another initiative that has proven to be enormously popular, he said, is the National Catholic Family Bible Quiz. It was created in 2004 by Elvira Go, a Philippine pastoral assistant who is attending the synod as an observer.

The Bible quiz runs every other year and has drawn more than 800 families from across the Philippines.

"Contestants are whole families, parents and children" who work enthusiastically with parish liturgists, animators and catechists to prepare for the parish-level competitions, Bishop Tagle said. Parish quiz winners move on to compete at various levels leading to the national finals, he said.

"I am amazed. The families we are getting come from the lower economic brackets with no high educational credentials to boast of," but they read and study the Bible together and look for ways to integrate it in their daily lives, he said.

Bishop Tagle said instead of watching television in the evening, many children quiz their parents, and older children help their younger siblings read the Bible.

He also said the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, is witnessing a growing Christian evangelical movement. The bishop said the church is trying to avoid looking at the growing fundamentalist movement with prejudice, "suspicion or belligerence," but to humbly ask the questions "what are they doing right, what are they doing well" that attracts such a growing number of people.

"We believe we have a fuller approach to the word, but how come it is not felt?" he asked.

The church has learned it could improve on a number of things such as looking at the way Catholics live and proclaim the word of God, he said.

"Is it really a living word for them because when (evangelicals preach) it, they make it alive. And is this just a question of technique -- speaking ability -- or is it a question also of interiorizing" the Gospel message, he asked.

He said if Catholics are to "go beyond what the fundamentalist groups are doing," they must challenge themselves to consistently live the word of God and deepen their sense of spirituality because the best people who can communicate the word are those people who have truly encountered Jesus in the word.


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