Today the Catholic Biblical Federation and GFK Eurisko presented their research on the frequency of Bible reading at the Holy See’s Press Office. Their survey explored the practice in several countries: U.S., UK, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Russia; finding that the Bible is present in the lives of many adults today.
Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Italy, the president of the Catholic Biblical Federation, explained that looking toward the Synod on "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church", the Catholic Biblical Federation thought it would be valuable “to undertake research in a number of countries in the world,” while remaining mindful of Christian tradition to “acquire concrete information on Christians' relationship with Scripture.”
The survey highlighted the “role of the Bible in ecumenical dialogue,” and found that "Scripture remains the most effective 'place' Christians have to progress together along the path of unity. ... The answers also showed that there no longer exists that diversity among the various Christian traditions - a diversity evident in the past - concerning their relationship with Scripture".
Another emerging factor was the respect that men and women have toward Holy Scripture. Among Christians "it is widely held that the Bible contains the Word of God, that it is an inspired work capable of giving meaning to life, and that it has far greater authority than other ecclesial manifestations," although the values it contains "are difficult to put into practice".
For this reason, Bishop Paglia highlighted the importance of preaching in such a way that the faithful and all “those who seek” can apply the “authoritative appeal” of the Bible to their lives.
The prelate emphasized the need "to find space for the 'schools of the word', the 'schools of the Gospel', and the 'schools of reading and listening to the Bible'.” He continued, “It is in this perspective that we must see 'lectio divina', the oldest and riches method of listening to Scripture," which must be given "new spaces and new forms until it becomes the habitual way of approaching the Word of God in our Christian communities."
For his part, Luca Diotallevi, coordinator of the research group and professor of sociology explained that some 13,000 interviews had been completed during the course of the survey, which he described as "the most systematic scientific undertaking yet attempted to compare, on an international scale, levels and forms of familiarity with the Scriptures of Christian tradition among the adult population."
The research found that the Bible "is not the text of a minority but an important point of reference present - in different degrees and ways - in the life and culture of broad majorities of the population. ... It may be affirmed that between a third and a quarter of adults in the countries examined have read a Bible passage at least once in the last 12 months."
Comparing the survey between cultures, Professor Diotallevi noted the existence of "a gap dividing the Anglo-Saxon world from central and eastern Europe". In the former, "the sensation of the closeness of God is anything but extinct and the practice of prayer is anything but marginal. A very large majority of people look to the Bible as a source of truth, as the source of a message that has to do with life."
It also emerged from the survey that "the practice of reading the Bible depends statistically, more than on shared religious beliefs, on participation in events and groups which already adopt this practice.”
“Reading the Bible in no way echoes political polarization between 'right' and 'left,'” said Professor Diotallevi. He concluded by noting that the prevalence among the countries studied "of a position favorable to studying the Bible in schools. In particular those in favor exceed 50 percent in Russia, Poland, Italy, UK and Germany."