Bishops address the Bible’s role in the family, for clergy and in the Holy Land

Bishops address the Bible’s role in the family, for clergy and in the Holy Land


On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, with Pope Benedict present, several Church fathers offered their input to the ongoing synod on the Bible. Among them were the president of the Council on the Family, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative texts.

Addressing the assembly, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli spoke about the need to incorporate the Word of God into the lives of families. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family recommended that families make the Bible a part of their lives by following "the liturgical year by means of the daily Gospel, or at least the Sunday Gospel, highlighting a phrase to remember or to live during the day or throughout the week."

Indeed, the cardinal noted, "It does not take much time: just a few minutes are sufficient for praying and listening together, for making a shared commitment to enact in daily activities and relationships and to recall at the right moment in spontaneous family dialogue. If one hears the Word only once a week, it may be for a longer period and may constitute a preparation or a continuation and application of the Sunday parish Mass."

Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative texts, also spoke to the bishops on Thursday afternoon. In his brief comments, the prelate touched on how canon law does not emphasize the need for priests to meditate on the Scriptures in personal prayer. He suggested that the Canon 276 could be revisited to provide a fuller description of the expression, "they are exhorted to engage regularly in mental prayer."

On Friday morning, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, offered his perspective on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects Arab Christians’ reading of the Bible.

"The Israel-Palestinian conflict creates problems in reading and understanding certain passages of the Bible," Archbishop Twal said. "Thus, Arab Christians, in general, often find difficulties in reading the Old Testament, not because of the Word of God, but because of the political and ideological interpretations."

The Latin Patriarch offered two principles that protect us from political and ideological interpretations. First, he said, Christians should "read and interpret the Word of God in the light of Christ. Jesus said: 'Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them'. Christ took back and summarized all categories of the Old Testament in Himself, to give them new impulse and new meaning (He 'fulfilled' them). The Old Testament is read and understood in Him and through Him."

"The second principle for interpretation is the Church," Archbishop Twal explained. "Any interpretation outside the Church is a dangerous one," he concluded.

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