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SYNOD-MESSAGE Oct-24-2008 (820 words) xxxi

Synod message says each Catholic should own -- and use -- Bible

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Devotion to the word of God must lead Catholics to prayer, concrete acts of charity, unity with other Christians and dialogue with all people of good will, said the world Synod of Bishops.

In their final message to the world's Catholics, the 253 members of the synod said each Catholic should have a copy of the Bible, read it and pray with it regularly.

"Every home should have its own Bible and safeguard it in a visible and dignified way, to read it and to pray with it," said the synod's message, released Oct. 24.

And, like Jesus who came to proclaim hope and salvation, "the Christian has the mission to announce this divine word of hope by sharing with the poor and the suffering, through the witness of faith in the kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, and love and peace," the synod said.

"Authentic hearing is obeying and acting. It means making justice and love blossom in life," the message said.

It is not enough to explain the word of God to others, the bishops said, but people must let others see and experience the goodness of God through the good that they do.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and principal drafter of the message, told reporters that "if the word of God is love, then one who has read and prayed over the word must incarnate love. It must lead to communion, solidarity and dialogue."

Nearing the end of a synod that featured for the first time a major address by the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the bishops also insisted that "veneration and love for the word of God" is "the principle and source of a first and real unity" that Catholics share with other Christians.

"This bond must always be reinforced" through joint work on biblical translations, the distribution of Bibles, shared prayer, dialogue and study about differing approaches to interpretation and "the common witness of the word of God in a secularized world," the message said.

The bishops said the fact that Christians and Jews both recognize and love the Old Testament calls them to an "intense encounter" with each other. In learning more about Judaism, Christians can learn more about Jesus and his disciples who were Jewish and can enrich their understanding of the Bible by studying Jewish traditions of interpretation, they said.

Because Muslims recognize biblical themes, figures and symbols and witness to faith "in the one, compassionate and merciful God, the creator of all beings and judge of humanity," Christians also are invited to dialogue with them, the synod said.

Buddhists' "respect for life, contemplation, silence, simplicity (and) renunciation," Hinduism's "sense of the sacred, sacrifice, pilgrimage, fasting and sacred symbols" and Confucianism's promotion of "wisdom and family and social values" also are fertile grounds for dialogue, the bishops said.

In their message, the bishops explained the various forms the word of God has taken: the spoken word that created the universe and can still be seen in nature; the Bible, the record of the history of salvation written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and Jesus Christ, the word made flesh.

"Therefore, the word of God precedes and goes beyond the Bible," the synod members said, so true devotion to the word of God excludes a fundamentalist reading of the Scriptures.

Fundamentalism "does not recognize that this word (of God) expresses itself in the Bible according to a human language that must be decoded, studied and understood," said the synod message.

Auxiliary Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales of Valparaiso, Chile, vice president of the synod's message-drafting committee, told reporters that the Bible's importance flows from the fact that it is "a place of encounter with the Word who is Lord."

"A book cannot listen, a book cannot console, a book cannot challenge, but the Lord does," he said.

Documenting the creation of man and woman, their struggles with sin and oppression, God's liberating action and his gift of salvation in Jesus, "the Bible contains the model for the process of liberation," Bishop Silva said.

In Latin America and many other parts of the world, he said, the poor come together to read the Bible, and they are touched by Jesus.

"They come aware of their dignity as men and women. They come to understand better and act on their identity as disciples of Jesus Christ," the bishop said. "And, little by little, the conviction and enthusiasm of being Christian leads them to a new commitment in society, bringing to it the leaven of the values of the kingdom of God."

- - -

The English version of the synod message can be found online at: www.vatican.va/news_services/press/sinodo/documents/bollettino_22_xii-ordinaria-2008/02_inglese/b34_02.html.

The Spanish version of the synod message can be found online at: www.vatican.va/news_services/press/sinodo/documents/bollettino_22_xii-ordinaria-2008/04_spagnolo/b34_04.html.


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