.- Catholic faithful recently gathered in the Melanesian islands to mark “Bible Sunday” – a celebration aimed at fostering meditative reading and inspiring faith in action through Bible reading.
Held by Catholic bishops conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, the Aug. 3 event centered all liturgies and activities around scripture, Father Giorgio Licini, head of the bishops' social communication told CNA.
The day was intended to move “the faithful to read the Bible…help the people understand the biblical dimension of the Church, Sacraments and other activities,” added bishops' conference general secretary Father Victor Roche.
According to Fr. Roche, each year every country customarily devotes a Sunday to the Bible on a day chosen by respective bishops' conferences. In Papua New Guinea, the celebration aimed to make Bible awareness “as fruitful as possible.”
Fr. Roche also stressed the importance marking the day in the region's context. In his view, the event should help “fortify the faithful against the propaganda of the sects and increasing fundamentalism,” as well as “offer nourishment for the spiritual life of the communities and help towards a better understanding of the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass.”
Under the guidelines underlined by Catholic bishops, local parishes promoted the Bible by tailoring to various categories of age groups such as parents, couples, youth, students, and school children.
Attendees participated in Bible song competitions, poster completions, story writing, quizzes, a basic seminar and enacting Biblical skits to inspire and foster evangelization.
Parishes organized Bible-dramas that have been popular with the Papuans faithful and have remained an effective medium of communication that appeals all age groups, especially with the tribes.
During the Synod on the Bible held at the Vatican in 2008, global bishops stressed the importance of the scriptures in the life and mission of the Church.
At that time, Pope Benedict XVI, in his apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, said: “I express my heartfelt hope for the flowering of a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.”
The Melanesian bishops encouraged parishes to celebrate Bible Sunday in practical ways, such as a “meaningful entrance procession” to Mass with the Bible as well as traditional dance and “Enthronement of the Holy Bible,” keeping in view the sensitivity of culture.
Pointing to the role of families, the bishops proposed that a “father, mother and a child of a family can bring the Bible in a traditional way and they can read the first and the second readings to highlight the importance of the family.”
Participants in Bible Sunday also took their cue from Pope Francis, who in a March 16 homily at Rome parish Santa Maria dell'Orazione insisted that a “Christian's first task is to listen to the word of God, to listen to Jesus, because he speaks to us and saves us with his word.”
“Everyone should carry a small Bible or pocket edition of the Gospels and should find at least a few minutes every day to read the wo rd of God,” the Pope encouraged.
The bishops also urged local priests to give well-prepared homilies “on the Word of God.” A special offertory collection was also made Aug. 3 and will go towards sustaining the Catholic Biblical Apostolate in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.