Later this month, Biblical scholars and Episcopal leaders from around the world will descend on Rome to explore the role of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum--the Church’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.
This morning in the Vatican press office, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, presented the theme of the congress; "Holy Scripture in the Life of the Church," and discussed plans for the event, which will be held in Rome from September 14 to 18.
Also present this morning were: Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation (FBC); Alexander Schweitzer, secretary general of the federation in Stuttgart, Germany, and Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, the pontifical council delegate for relations with the FBC.
The congress is being jointly organized by the Catholic Biblical Federation and the pontifical council.
Cardinal Kasper announced that 400 people from 98 countries are expected to participate in the congress, and that all presidents of the world's Episcopal conferences and of the synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches have been invited to attend.
Likewise, fraternal delegates from Churches and ecclesial communities in dialogue with the Catholic Church, as well as members of the FBC, and representatives from dicasteries of the Roman Curia will also be present.
A new enthusiasm for Holy Scripture
The cardinal said that one of the goal’s of the congress is to “consider the road we have traveled in the light of the decisions and recommendations of the (Second Vatican) Council: Is ecclesiastical preaching nourished and regulated by Holy Scripture? ... How can the biblical formation of pastoral ministers and agents be improved? How far have we got with the translations of Sacred Scripture from the original texts? What is the state of ecumenical collaboration in the biblical field?"
Msgr. Usma added that the congress "will alternate between theology, history and pastoral activity." The objective, he said, "is to institute and reinforce dialogue about the Word of God, on the Word of God, and with the Word of God."
Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation which was founded in 1969 to promote the spread of the Bible in the light of the guidelines of Vatican Council II, noted that the aim of the congress is not so much to examine the scientific aspects of Dei Verbum, but rather, to "dwell on the pastoral elements present in the conciliar document."
He said that, despite the fact that over the last four decades the Bible "has returned to the hands of the faithful," Holy Scripture is still little known and read.
He cited research which was recently conducted in Italy, France and Spain which showed that for many people "the Bible is still a book chiefly reserved for the clergy." Another major problem, he added, is that "many Christian communities, above all in the South of the world, still do not have the Bible translated into their language."
Bishop Paglia recalled Blessed John XXIII who, in taking possession of the Basilica of St. John Lateran as bishop of Rome, affirmed that one of the priorities of his pontificate would be "to encourage all manifestations of the book, everywhere and without pause."
"We hope”, he said, “that the congress will encourage a new enthusiasm for Holy Scripture."
Alexander Schweitzer, secretary general of the FBC which, the Vatican noted, is active in 127 countries with 312 affiliated institutions, explained that the congress will concentrate on three principal speeches.
One, he said, will be delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper on the theological aspects of Dei Verbum, another by Bishop John Onaiyekan on the developments of the last 40 years, and a final by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini on the role and pastoral utility of the Bible today.
"All other contributions and discussions”, he said, “will take place in the form of round table discussions."
During the first full day of work, participants will explore the theme of "the Word of God in human words," and will focus on topics like the relationship between biblical exegesis and pastoral care, enculturation, and the Bible and the media.
September 16, the group announced, will be dedicated to questions associated with the pastoral use of the Bible in such fields as catechesis and the liturgy, and Saturday September 17, the final day, will be dedicated to the question of ecumenical dialogue with the theme of "Sacred Scripture and Christian Unity."
During this day, the congress will look at relations with Judaism while mindful of the theme "the Bible, Holy Scripture for Jews and Christians." They will also discuss inter-religious dialogue, and to the Word of God in the world today.