(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with members of the Italian Biblical Association on the occasion of the 43rd National Bible Week.
The encounter with the Holy Father marks the beginning of commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, promulgated 18 November 1965.
In his address, Pope Francis said, “We should be grateful for the openings, the fruits of a long effort of research, offered us by the Council, and also for the abundance and ease of access to the Sacred Scriptures.” Now more than ever, he said, we need the Scriptures. “In order for the faith to shine, to not be suffocated, it must be constantly nourished by the Word of God.”
The Holy Father expressed his “esteem and appreciation” for the work of Biblical scholars, recalling the words of Pontifical Biblical Commission that biblical exegesis “fulfils, in the Church and in the world, an indispensable task.”
However, the Pope said, biblical scholarship cannot remain on the level of dry academic scholarship. Quoting Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis said Catholic exegesis “must help the Christian people more clearly perceive the Word of God in these texts so that they can better accept them in order to live in full communion with God.” Therefore, he continued, “not only academic competence, but also and above all faith is required of the Catholic exegete — [faith] received and shared with the whole believing people.”
Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis’ address to the Italian Biblical Association for the XLIII National Biblical Week:
I am meeting with you at the end of the 43rd National Bible Week, promoted by the Italian Biblical Association (ABI). This meeting inaugurates the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution [on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum]. We should be grateful for the openings, the fruits of a long effort of research, offered us by the Council, and also for the abundance and ease of access to the Sacred Scriptures. The Christian needs it now more than ever, prompted by contrasting cultural provocations. For the faith to shine, to not be suffocated, it must be constantly nourished by the Word of God.
I express my esteem and appreciation for the precious work you carry out in your ministry as teachers and students of the Bible. In addition, this meeting gives me the opportunity to re-affirm, in continuity with the Magisterium of the Church, the importance of biblical exegesis for the People of God. Let us recall the affirmation of the Pontifical Biblical Commission: “Biblical exegesis,” — I’m quoting — “fulfils, in the Church and in the world, an indispensable task. To attempt to bypass it when seeking to understand the Bible would be to create an illusion and display lack of respect for the inspired Scripture… Addressing men and women, from the beginnings of the Old Testament onward, God made use of all the possibilities of human language, while at the same time accepting that his word be subject to the constraints caused by the limitations of this language. Proper respect for inspired Scripture requires undertaking all the labours necessary to gain a thorough grasp of its meaning. Certainly, it is not possible that each Christian personally pursue all the kinds of research which make for a better understanding of the biblical text. This task is entrusted to exegetes, who have the responsibility in this matter to see that all profit from their labour.”
Meeting with the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of the presentation of the Document just mentioned, Saint John Paul II recalled that “in order to respect the coherence of the Church's faith and of scriptural inspiration, Catholic exegesis must be careful not to limit itself to the human aspects of the biblical texts. First and foremost, it must help the Christian people more clearly perceive the word of God in these texts so that they can better accept them in order to live in full communion with God” (L’Osservatore Romano, 25 April 1993, p. 9). In this context, it is of course necessary that the exegete himself be able to perceive in the text the divine Word — and this is only possible if his spiritual life is fervent, rich in dialogue with the Lord; otherwise, exegetical research remains incomplete, loses sight of its main objective.
In the conclusion of the document, there is a very effective expression: “Catholic exegesis does not have the right to become lost, like a stream of water, in the sands of a hypercritical analysis.”
And so [not only] academic competence, but also and above all faith is required of the Catholic exegete — [faith] received and shared with the whole believing people, which in its totality cannot err. I refer again to the words of Saint John Paul II: “to arrive at a completely valid interpretation words inspired by the Holy Spirit, one must first be guided by the Holy Spirit and it is necessary to pray for that, to pray much, to ask in prayer for the interior light of the Spirit and docilely accept that light, to ask for the love that alone enables one to understand the language of God, who ‘is love’” (see 1 John 4:8, 16) (L’Oss. Rom., 25 Apr 1993, p. 9).
The model is Mary, who, Saint Luke tells us, reflected in her heart on the words and events that concerned her Son Jesus (see Lk 2:19). May the Madonna teach us fully to welcome the Word of God, not only through intellectual research, but in our whole life.
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you again, I bless you and your work, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.
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