Category Archives: Sacred Scripture

Profile of a Catholic Politician according to the Scriptures & Tradition

Gospel Commentary for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rome, 19 October 2008
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By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

This Sunday’s Gospel ends with one of those lapidary phrases of Jesus that have left a deep mark on history and on human language: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus & Caesar.JPGIt is no longer either Caesar or God, but Caesar and God, each on his appropriate level. It is the beginning of the separation of religion and politics, which until then had been inseparable among all peoples and regimes.

The Jews were used to understanding the future reign of God founded by the Messiah as a theocracy, that is, as a government directed by God ruling over the whole earth through his people. But now the words of Christ reveal a kingdom of God that is in this world but that is not of this world, that travels on a different wavelength and that, for this reason, can coexist with every other political regime, whether it be sacral or secular.


Here we see two qualitatively different sovereignties of God over the world: the spiritual sovereignty that constitutes the Kingdom of God and that is exercised directly in Christ, and the temporal and political sovereignty that God exercises indirectly, entrusting it to man’s free choice and the play of secondary causes.


Caesar and God, however, are not put on the same level, because Caesar too depends on God and must answer to him. Thus “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” means: “Give to Caesar what God himself wants to be given to Caesar.” God is sovereign over all, including Caesar. We are not divided between two loyalties; we are not forced to serve “two masters.”

The Christian is free to obey the state, but he is also free to resist the state when it goes against God and his law. In such a case it is not legitimate to invoke the principle about the obedience that is owed to superiors, as war criminals often do when they are on trial. Before obeying men, in fact, you must first obey God and your own conscience. You cannot give your soul, which belongs to God, to Caesar.


St Paul Rigali Center.jpgSt. Paul was the first to draw practical conclusions from this teaching of Christ. He writes: “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God. … Whoever resists authority opposes the order that God has appointed. … This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities who are in charge of this are ministers of God” (Romans 13:1 ff.).

Paying appropriately levied taxes is for the Christian (but also for every honest person) a duty of justice and therefore an obligation of conscience. Guaranteeing order, commerce and a whole series of other services, the state gives the citizen something to which it has a right for compensation in return, precisely to be able to continue these same services.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that tax evasion, when it reaches certain proportions, is a mortal sin equal to every other grave act of theft. It is stealing, not from the “state,” that is from no one, but from the community, that is, from everyone. Naturally, this supposes that the state is just and equitable in imposing taxes.


Christian cooperation in building a just and peaceful society does not stop at paying taxes; it must also extend itself to the promotion of common values such as the family, the defense of life, solidarity with the poor, peace. There is also another sphere in which Christians must make a contribution to politics. It does not have to do with the content of politics so much as its methods, its style.

Christians must help to remove the poison from the climate of contentiousness in politics, bring back greater respect, composure and dignity to relationships between parties. Respect for one’s neighbor, clemency, capacity for self-criticism: These are the traits that a disciple of Christ must have in all things, even in politics.

It is undignified for a Christian to give himself over to insults, sarcasm, brawling with his adversaries. If, as Jesus says, those who call their brother “stupid” are in danger of Gehenna, what then must we say about a lot of politicians?

Raniero Cantalamessa.jpgCapuchin Franciscan Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for the 29th Sunday are Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21.

3 of the reports from the various working groups at the Synod on the Word of God

Julian Carron2.jpgRev. Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation

The Spanish group began by expressing the expectation of the participants relative to this Synod dedicated to the Word of God in the life of the Church. Everyone hopes that this represents an impulse on the evangelizing mission of the Church so that the Word of God reaches everybody, in the various situations that the Church must face, so that men may encounter the living Christ. We propose the following:

It is noted that among Catholics who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament and because of some embarrassment and resistance faced by passages understood with difficulty, these being the controversial questions of divine and human violence, the amorality of certain Biblical figures and a theology which is insufficient concerning the afterworld. Therefore, an adequate Biblical formation should be offered to the faithful, which would help understanding the Old Testament texts in their historical and literary context, but also and especially can facilitate Christian reading as the main hermeneutic key, since these texts acquire and show their full meaning in the New Testament.(cf. DV 16)We propose to move from a “Biblical pastoral” to a Biblical animation of all pastoral actions, that is to say, to place the Word of God as the “rock” that is the foundation, as the living source and as the inspiring breath of all of the life and of all the mission of the Church.(cf. DV 21.24) Between the diverse forms of announcing and transmitting the Word of God particular importance must be given to kerygma.

The task to announce Christ is the responsibility of each baptized person. In addition to the homily, to the actual preaching of the liturgical celebrations, it is necessary to recall the value of the preaching by all Christians in light of Baptism and of Confirmation.

Regarding the celebrations of the Word, many ecclesial communities, particularly those in the urban outskirts and in the rural areas, without Sunday Eucharistic celebrations, find the nourishment for their faith and to give a Christian witness, in the celebration of the Word of God.


In the formation of candidates to priesthood, the Word of God is essential to form the heart of a good pastor, future minister of the Word.

As pertains to the consecrated life, the academic Institutions of Sacred Scriptures, especially those in Rome and in Jerusalem, should be thanked for the great contribution they have made to the formation of exegetes and Biblicists, also the institutions of consecrated life should continue contributing to the study of the Holy Scripture, through these and other institutions, committed to spreading the knowledge of the Bible. Giving worth and careful attention in a particular way to the contemplative life is also indispensable. (cf. Benedict XVI, Angelus Address 18 November 2007). In contemplative life, the Word is welcomed, prayed and celebrated.

We feel a deep concern because of the influence of sects and new religious groups on the Catholic faithful, which sometimes bring them to even abandon the Church. This phenomenon harms our way of living the faith inside the Church and must be perceived as a call to witness it, so that the new life that Christ has brought us may shine on the face of our communities. Greater studies on the sects and the new examples of this phenomenon would be of great help, to face them suitably. In relationships with Islam and in dialogue with its representatives, its concept of the socio-political and judicial order -not always duly differentiated from religious order- should be kept in mind and its concept of marriage and the family where the role and the rights of the women are not dealt with as is foreseen in the doctrine of fundamental human rights and of the family institution and as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Most. Rev. Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University

Fisichella.jpgWe have reflected, in a special way on the first four questions raised by the Relatio post disceptationem and arrived at formulating indications for a number of Propositiones which I will sum up as follows.

It is necessary to clarify the sense of the dialogic dimension of Revelation, since the term refers to different dimensions such as “inter-religious dialogue”, “ecumenical dialogue”, “dialogue with cultures” … When it is referring to Revelation, it takes on a meaning all of its own: this involves the primacy of the action of God who in freedom comes towards man; this implies that there can never be a parity between the two subjects.

It is vital for the expression Word of God be made unambiguous. This is not easy, but it is necessary. One of the most important considerations of the Synod shows that the Word of God cannot only be identified with the Bible. The Word of God is Christ, the Word of the Father. His preaching, like his acts, have been given to the Church which remains the primary subject that under the action of the Holy Spirit transmits Christ uninterruptedly as the announcement of salvation (DV).

The announcement of the Word of God is the first duty of the Church. An explicit announcement, always and everywhere, that is accompanied by a coherent testimony of living that renders evident the content and reinforces it. What Dei Verbum affirms for the revelation that takes place gestis verbisque intrinsice inter se connexis (DV 2), by analogy is applied to the Church that carries out its evangelizing mission with the announcement of Christ and the testimony of a coherent lifestyle.

It was felt necessary to observe that in a generalized context of secularization – that goes way beyond the Western countries –particular attention be paid, above all, to creating forms of listening so that whoever places themselves in front of the Sacred Scripture knows they are in front of God who is speaking. This demands, furthermore, a formation that allows the discovery of how the reading of the Word converts the heart, opens up to penance and sets out on a path of new life. In this context, the importance of a permanent education is underlined, above all of catechists, that allows the overcoming of the major obstacle of a lack of knowledge of the basic contents of faith, which should cause great alarm to our pastoral action.

The liturgy remains as the privileged place in which the Word of God expresses itself fully. It is necessary to overcome the gap between Bible and Liturgy, Word and Sacrament. This happens to the extent to which it reinforces the idea that the Word of God is Christ Himself in His differentiated presence in the life of His Church; above all in the real presence of the Eucharistic sacrifice; also when the sacraments are celebrated; therefore, when “the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks present in his own word” (SC 7). What has to grow, therefore, is the knowledge of a profound unity that reaches its high point in the Holy Eucharist.

The different ways in which Lectio Divina is celebrated pose the question of whether we shouldn’t clarify, above all, what is really meant by this action, so as not to leave the wealth of the tradition of the Church Fathers and Medieval teachers in the dark. The growing value that is placed on the Lectio forces us to remember that this is not the only way to meet the Word of God.


Most. Rev. Gerald Frederick Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson, Vice President of Episcopal Conference

G Kicanas.jpgThe group suggested that the tone of the exhortation should be hope filled, needs to energize the Church around the Word of God and should be pastoral and missionary.

The group identified critical areas about which propositions should be developed. A wide range of areas surfaced. First the need to give greater recognition to lay catechists, Catholic School teachers, youth ministers, and lay biblical animators. They need to be better formed and prepared. Second, the need to understand what is attracting people to the Sects and learn from them. Third, [to work on] how preaching might be improved and made more vibrant. Fourth, the need to emphasize and highlight the contemplative dimension. Fifth, [there needs to be a way of] finding structures to bring together exegetes, liturgists, theologians, and bishops. Sixth, the need to give greater emphasis to consecrated life, pneumatology, healing and the Sacrament of Penance, and the use of media.

The dialogic nature of the Word of God needs greater emphasis. There are few opportunities in parishes to teach the necessary theology. Even more important than teaching is modeling a dialogic manner. The group discussed the need to enhance the way we read the Word. There is a need to better form people in the Word through Lectio Divina, dramatization, working with parents who are the primary educators of their children,

There was a mixed reaction to a compendium on preaching. We need to do something but group did not agree that this would be helpful. Suggestion was made for a compendium on helping people read the Word of God.

There was not a strong feeling that there needs to be a revision of the Lectionary. While some Old Testament texts are difficult, they should not be dropped. Perhaps alternatives could be available. There was concern that the question about the relation between exegetes and theologians implies a rift between them. Rather we should encourage cooperation. Scholars should have an opportunity to work in pastoral settings.

Finally the group explored relations with other Christians and with Jews. Concern was raised that Jews sometimes feel that Catholics downplay their positions for dialogue. They do not want that. Bringing the experience of the Synod to other Christian churches might foster communion


Pope Benedict’s address to the Synod of Bishops

During the Fourteenth General Congregation, Tuesday morning 14 October 2008, after
B16.jpgthe pause, the Holy Father Benedict XVI intervened with a reflection on the Synodal theme.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the work for my book on Jesus offers ample occasion to see all the good that can come from modern exegesis, but also to recognize the problems and risks in it. Dei Verbum 12 offers two methodological indications for suitable exegetic work. In the first place, it confirms the need to use the historical-critical method, briefly describing the essential elements. This need is the consequence of the Christian principle formulated in Jn 1:14 Verbum caro factum est. The historical fact is a constitutive dimension of Christian faith. The history of salvation is not a myth, but a true story and therefore to be studied with the same methods as serious historical research.

However, this history has another dimension, that of divine action. Because of this Dei Verbum mentions a second methodological level necessary for the correct interpretation of the words, which are at the same time human words and divine Word. The Council says, following a fundamental rule for any interpretation of a literary text, that Scripture must be interpreted in the same spirit in which it was written and thereby indicates three
Holy Spirit2.jpgfundamental methodological elements to bear in mind the divine dimension, the pneumatology of the Bible: one must, that is 1) interpret the text bearing in mind the unity of the entire Scripture; today this is called canonical exegesis; at the time of the Council this term had not been created, but the Council says the same thing: one must bear in mind the unity of all of Scripture; 2) one must then bear in mind the living tradition of the whole Church, and finally 3) observe the analogy of faith. Only where the two methodological levels, the historical-critical and the theological one, are observed, can one speak about theological exegesis – of an exegesis suitable for this Book. While the first level today’s academic exegesis works on a very high level and truly gives us help, the same cannot be said about the other level. Often this second level, the level constituted of the three theological elements indicated by Dei Verbum seems to be almost absent. And this has rather serious consequences.

The first consequence of the absence of this second methodological level is that the Bible becomes a book only about the past. Moral consequences can be drawn from it, one can learn about history, but the Book only speaks about the past and its exegesis is no longer truly theological, becoming historiography, the history of literature. This is the first consequence: the Bible remains in the past, speaks only of the past. There is also a second even more serious consequence: where the hermeneutics of faith, indicated by Dei Verbum, disappear, another type of hermeneutics appears of necessity, a secularized, positivistic hermeneutics, whose fundamental key is the certitude that the Divine does not appear in human history. According to this hermeneutic, when there seems to be a divine element, one must explain where it came from and bring it to the human element
Resurrection.jpgcompletely. Because of this, interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements emerge. Today, the so-called mainstream of exegesis in Germany denies, for example, that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus’ corpse stayed in the tomb. The Resurrection would not be an historical event, but a theological vision. This occurs because the hermeneutic of faith is missing: therefore a profane philosophical hermeneutic is stated, which denies the possibility of entering and of the real presence of the Divine in history. The consequence of the absence of the second methodological level is that a deep chasm was created between scientific exegesis and lectio divina. This, at times, gives rise to a form of perplexity even in the preparation of homilies. Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.

Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith, this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call Theology. Due to this, I would hope that in one of the propositions the need to bear in mind the two methodological levels indicated in Dei Verbum 12 be mentioned, where the need to develop an exegesis not only on the historical level, but also on the theological level is needed. Therefore, widening the formation of future exegetes in this sense is necessary, to truly open the treasures of the Scripture to today’s world and to all of us.

More interesting interventions at the Synod

Card. Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice

Angelo Scola.jpgDei Verbum
, 25 exhorts all the faithful “to move voluntarily towards the sacred text through pious reading (“per piam lectionem”)”, linked to prayer: “so that dialogue between God and man may take place”. Pious reading is not merely study, but a personal relationship with the Lord, because “one can read the Bible without faith, but without faith one cannot scrutinize the Word of God” (IL 26a). Sacred Scripture is the inspired and normative testimony of revelation. The source of the testimony of Scripture is Jesus Christ himself, the faithful witness of the Covenant of God with men. The testimony of the work of salvation of Jesus is at the origin of Scripture. Therefore this can only be adequately understood by the witness. So to be pious, the reading of Scripture has to pass from Witness to witness. The category of witness places the Church in the front line as the subject of pious reading. This is the road of realism that avoids every fundamentalist and intellectual drift, obstacles in reading that exclude the witness of the Church, where the Word is heard in faith. This understanding of Scripture guarantees the primacy of the personal meeting with Christ, against every reduction of the Word of God to a book.


Rev. Father Adolfo Nicolás, S.I., Superior General of the Society of Jesus

In these days of the Synod we have heard a good number of those aspects that make the
Adolfo Nicolás.jpgHoly Scriptures such a precious gift from God.

And yet we continue to feel that there will always be new or unanswered. The questions that reach us most often are of a pastoral character. The people of God continue to ask the pastoral question: How can we read the Scriptures so that they produce in us, in our hearts, in our families and in our communities all the good effects that Christian Tradition has proclaimed through the Centuries?

Allow me to address just one concrete aspect within the wider pastoral breadth of the question. This aspect is the so-called “Medicinal” or “Transforming” power of the Word of God. It is my conviction that the Word of God can claim in a high degree a ”therapeutic” role in the life of the Christian community.

Every time we “enter” the World of the Bible, we are exposed to a New World: God’s World; God’s action; God’s teaching of his people. The encounter, if real, can be shocking, surprising, enlightening, soothing or consoling. It can also be misunderstood and lost.

Thus the conditions of the encounter are all important. Pastors and Ministers of the Word have to become good helpers for good and fruitful encounters. We need to know where people really are (diagnosis); we need the skills for presenting the Word (teaching, preaching, biblical catechesis); we are expected to be good company in the search for depth (contemplation); and we are ordained or commissioned for good Christian leadership (service of love for community and Christian living).

Which means that Pastors and Ministers of the Word need training for good diagnosis, for wise application of forms of reading, for deeper prayer and interiorization of the Word of God, and for a meaningful accompaniment that helps the faithful discern the action of the Spirit in and through the reading of the Bible.

Since this is a fine skill that requires deep spiritual sense, adequate training and discerned commissioning, it seems highly needed that this training be included in the preparation for pastoral minis1ry and in programs of ongoing formation for all Priests. Moreover all Parishes and/or Dioceses should have access to Centers or Trained persons that can offer this service to individuals or communities and who can train catechists and other lay ministers in this important service.


Card. Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches

1. I thank the Lord and the Church for the powerful return to the Word of God, thanks to
Crdl Leonardo Sandri.jpgthe impulse of Vatican Council II. That was a Biblical renewal according to the Life-Giving Tradition of the Church. That renewal is still ongoing, and it may receive helpful stimuli from the Synod. I thank the Holy Father for this convocation that involves us in a collegial discipleship dealing with the Divine Word. Making ourselves listeners to and disciples of Christ, who speaks in the Church (Ipse loquitur duro sacrae Scripturae in Ecclesia leguntur … SC 7), we offer the highest example of our being “Christian shepherds”: the Word of God is the evangelical gate by which we enter the fold. Whoever does not enter by this gate is a hired man not a shepherd (cf Jn 10:2).



2. Constant personal and community commitment in favor of all Biblical initiatives in the academic field, such as in ordinary Catholic education and making the daily pastoral an act of obedience to the Word, are to be encouraged in attachment to the Word. The Word of God will always lead us to the Sacrament, especially the Holy Eucharist, from which springs forth ecclesial communion. From the perspective of daily obedience, I would like to highlight the importance of the further study and personal appropriation of the Word of God after the liturgical proclamation.

3. The priority of Biblical formation in all the categories of the people of God should be reaffirmed. The criterio princeps, though, in the approach to the Biblical sciences should be that they do not negate, through their sometimes exaggerated criticism, the sense of an existential meeting with Christ. What is indispensable, therefore, is the zeal of the shepherds, above all in the homily, and in order not to extinguish the prophetic charge of the Word of God, we have to insist that it never transforms itself into an opportunity for secular or even personal argumentation, and that it be the moment of highest obedience to the Word in a true sense for the preachers of the Word. Formation in the seminaries and ordinary updating of the clergy and of us bishops remain a priority and should be accompanied by the “prayerful” Biblical spirituality, in which we decide ever more each day to look for and find Christ and with Him the brothers we should lead with us on a daily basis in obedience to the faith.


5. The Eastern Churches were able to evangelize cultures that were very far from the thinking of Christ and generate admirable liturgical, theological and spiritual traditions, lived by disciples who were faithful to the point of martyrdom. I render homage to those who remain faithful to the Word of Christ, especially in the East, in the darkest adversities of the present, and I unhesitatingly invite the Synodal Fathers to pray as brothers and as shepherds for the present and future of the Christian East. Thank you.


Rev. Father Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa, O.P., Master of the Order of Preachers

The “primacy” of the Holy Scripture has its basis precisely in Trinitarian life.

Carlos Costa.jpgThe great Medieval Doctors (Saint Albert the Great, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Thomas Aquinas) fully understood this; for them, the procession of people, within the unity of the divine essence is “the cause and the explicit reason of the procession of the same creatures.” The Word, genitus creator, has from the Father the will to make itself flesh and to suffer for us ab aeterno.

God wished to reveal Himself to mankind in human form, through human culture, people and languages and through the very life of Jesus. While this form is for us a guarantee of the value of our nature , of history and of human cultures – with their different languages – it also poses complex problems of interpretation.

As the reality of the creation is not rationally understandable without an adequate grounding in metaphysics – l’analogia entis – so knowledge of the Holy Scripture requires profound knowledge of the cultures and literary genres in which it was expressed; thus making possible a less inadequate perception of its literal sense and also the recognition of the analogical quality of the terms used.


Christian faith, for all the fact that it is “religion”, must first of all be considered as “religion of the Spirit”, because the New Testament is principally the same Holy Spirit which in us produces charity and only secondarily, being “letter” may be considered “religion of the Book”.

This process of revelation and of salvation is also the unveiling of the veritas iustitiae of our life, of the justice of God which is the foundation of the truth of our being and which is, for us, above all “justifying justice” that is to say based on its mercy which is the permanent precondition of divine justice, because it is the first root and also its crowning.


Card. Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon

In the Bible, all must be read! At the heart of the Word of God, Scripture is a source that
Philippe Barbarin.jpgirrigates the path of the Church. The liturgy of the Word must be surrounded by a beautiful solemnity, this is a requirement, because this is the usual meeting place between God and His people. The liturgical readings should be chosen with one essential criteria in mind: unity of the message offered by the Word. Even if the cutouts pose various questions, certain absences pose greater and more questions. This is due to the rooted fears that one must give up.


An eyewitness of the Transfiguration, he recalls that Scriptures allow us to learn about the Presence of Our Lord. Its objective is to not lose the memory, or contact with Scriptures, the accomplishment of Jesus’ life. This word contains, so as to say in the Bible, the value of a spiritual testament given to the entire Church: Beware of pride that will lead you to thinking that the ancient words are no longer of any interest. On the contrary we must hold “more firmly to the prophetic word”. This exhortation is not displaced only for the Jews, Does this not welcome the prophetic word especially as a renewed invitation in obeying the Torah? In truth, the prophets remind us that God can freely burst in on the life of His people. Let us therefore hold on to their word more firmly, after Jesus showed us its meaning and depth.

It is always up to the son of the centuries, we have seen this sad tendency to “forget” the Holy Scriptures in the Christians, to look at them like “sophisticated fables”. On the contrary, we need “through the Holy Spirit, that men continue to speak to us on behalf of God”. The Scriptures remain “a shining lamp” in our present shadows. She keeps us in humility, “waiting for the day to shine and the morning star to rise in our hearts”.

This is why, until the coming of the Lord, we must continue reading all Scriptures.

Some interesting interventions at the Synod

Most Rev. Paolo Pezzi, F.S.C.B., Archbishop of Mother of God in Moscow

Paolo Pezzi.jpg
In this historical moment, the Word of God cannot be separated from the event of Jesus Christ

In present relativism, which leans to level off any differences, so that all words are valid and none is more valid than the other, where all is reduced to a game of opinions, the Biblical word must incarnate itself in the beauty of its witnesses, if it wants to draw the world towards the truth. In Instrumentum Laboris (48), it is cleverly pointed out that “Making the Word of God and the Sacred Scriptures the soul of his pastoral activity, the bishop is capable of bringing the faithful to encounter Christ” […] “so that, through their own experience, the faithful will see that the words of Jesus are spirit and life (cf. Jn 6:63) […]”.

The announcement of the Word of God, should therefore have as its scope making persons, so to speak, that they are in the presence of the living Person: be witnesses of the Person of Jesus Christ, the Logos became flesh. Or according to Saint Paul’s splendid words: it should be “a clear picture of Jesus Christ crucified, right in front of your eyes“. The Word of God is a source of an evermore deep and authentic knowledge of Christ, of “the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Such glory of Christ kindles a fire in us, becomes a desire to witness Him. It is said in Instrumentum Laboris (54) that “listening to the Word of God is a priority for our ecumenical commitment”. It is necessary to renew among Christians the tension towards the person of Christ Himself, the desire to understand and know more deeply His mystery. Through the encounter with the Word made flesh, made possible by the Spirit, we rediscover communion with Him: it is the force of the Spirit of the Risen Christ that attracts the scattered people towards His only body.


Most Rev. Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University

S Fischella.jpg

The Dei Verbum had still not been discovered and developed in its great intuition that constituted an authentic dogmatic progress; the Council fathers in fact had recovered the Biblical concept of the uniqueness of the source. This allowed Sacred Scripture to be understood within the life of the Church which does not just live by it but is responsible for its being alive, complete and fruitful. Many believers when asked what they mean by “Word of God” reply: the Bible. This is not a wrong answer, but it is incomplete or at least it shows an incomplete perception of the richness present in the expression and leads, as a consequence, to identifying Christianity as the “religion of the book”. It is necessary that in our language we do not fall into the uncertain expression “the three religions of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “word”. It is important to strive for the construction of a culture that sees sacred Scripture as a living word, dynamically open to the truth of the revelation it contains. If we do not present this teaching in its totality in the various instruments we possess for the training of our people, we risk humiliating the Word of God because we reduce it exclusively to a written text without the provocative force to bring meaning to life any longer. As the Apostle reminds us: “God’s message cannot be chained up” (2 Tm 2:9).

What we are always faced with is the inexhaustibility of the Word of God; it is like the bush that burns without going out. We are called to exercise a ministry that permits this Word of Life to spread so that everyone in every part of the world can grasp its profound meaning in such a way as to obtain salvation. In a time like ours filled with attempts to marginalize the sacred texts as bearers of meaning only insofar as they are myths, with no historical character and destined only for the naïve, it is important that they find the necessary forms to restore historical value and provocativeness about the sense of existence. We really are faced with a teaching emergency that brings back to the center of our life of faith the theme of salvation. Again Dei Verbum reminds us how much has been transmitted and written on the “salvation announcement” (DV 7). The various cultural tendencies present in the modern world have not only perverted the meaning of salvation but they have marginalized it as useless and illusionary. Representing the Word of God in its totality means pointing the scope of its teaching towards the theme of our salvation.

Father Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation


The Instrumentum Laboris and the General Report have pointed out that the interpretation of the Bible is one of the most pressing concerns in the Church today (Instrumentum laboris 19-31). The essence of the challenge raised by the question of modern interpretation of Holy Scripture was identified some years ago by the then Cardinal Ratzinger: “How can I reach an understanding that is not based on the judgment of my own presuppositions, a comprehension that permits me truly to understand the message of the text, giving me something that comes not from myself?” («L’interpretazione biblica in conflitto. Problemi del fondamento ed orientamento dell’esegesi contemporanea», in AA.VV., L’Esegesi cristiana oggi, Casale Monteferrato 1991, pp. 93-125).

The Church’s recent Magisterium offers us some elements for avoiding any possible reduction regarding this difficulty.

It was the Second Vatican Council’s merit to have recuperated a concept of revelation as the event of God in history. In fact, Dei Verbum allows us to understand revelation as the event of the self-communication of the Trinity in the Son, both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation,” in whom “the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out,” (DV2) through the Holy Spirit in human history. It is Christ who “perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth.” (DV 4).

The encyclical Deus Caritas Est quite rightly recalls that “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. (DCE 1¸cf. FR 7)

This event does not belong only to the past, to one moment of time and space, but remains present in history, communicating itself through the whole life of the Church that welcomes it. For “Christ’s relevance for people of all times is shown forth in his body, which is the Church. (VS 25 cf. FR 11). As the Apostles transmitted “what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did” (DV 7), so the Church “in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes” (DV 8). Precisely because of this character of event proper to revelation and to its transmission, the Conciliar Constitution stresses that though “expressed in a special way in the inspired books” (cf. DV 8), the event of revelation does not coincide with Holy Scripture. The word of the Bible witnesses Revelation, but does not contain it in such a way as to be able to exhaust it in itself. For this reason, “it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed” (DV 9).

If revelation has the character of an historical event, when it comes into contact with man it cannot fail to strike him, provoking his reason and his freedom. The Gospel narratives in their simplicity show this, witnessing to the wonder that Jesus’ person aroused in those who met Him (Cf. Mk 1:27; 2:12; Lk 5:9) Jesus’ presence widens our vision so we can see and recognize what is before us (Cf. Lk 24, Emmaus). The encyclical Fides et Ratio insists on this when it affirms that men “can make no claim upon this truth [of revelation], which comes to them as gift and which, set within the context of interpersonal communication, urges reason to be open to it and to embrace its profound meaning” (FR 13).

So the encyclical characterizes the impact that revealed truth provokes in man who encounters it with a twofold impulse: a) it widens reason so as to make it adequate to the object; b) it facilitates the acceptance of its deep meaning. Instead of mortifying man’s reason and freedom, revelation enables both to grow to the fullness of their original condition.

Relationship with the tradition living in the Church’s body enables each and every man to share in the experience of those who encountered Jesus. Astounded by His unique exceptionality, these began a journey that enabled them to reach certainty about his absolute claim, that of being God. Those who make this journey do not accept naively the tradition they meet, but on the contrary put it to the proof, thus enabling their reason to grasp its truth.

The experience of encounter with Christ present in the Church’s living tradition is an event and becomes, therefore, the determining factor in the interpretation of the biblical text. It is the only way to enter into harmony with the experience witnessed by the text of Scripture, for “correct knowledge of the biblical text is accessible only to those who have a lived affinity with what the text speaks of” (PCB 70). I was able to document this hermeneutical principle in a simple but meaningful episode that occurred some years ago in Madrid. There was a young man who had had no contact with Christianity; when he met a living Christian community he began to participate and to attend Holy Mass. After the first occasions of hearing the Gospel, he commented: “What happened to us happened to them!” It was the ecclesial present that disclosed the meaning of the Gospel account.

In synthesis, “[The apostles’] capacity to believe was completely sustained and activated by the revealing person of Jesus,” according to the fine expression of [Cardinal] Hans Urs von Balthasar, enabled them to grasp the mystery of His person and adhere to Him. Analogically, today our reason needs the Event present in the tradition of living witnesses so as to open up to the Mystery of Christ, who comes towards us in them. But we will be able to recognize the unmistakable features of Jesus Christ only if we are familiar with the unique, canonical witness of His absolutely original features offered by the Sacred Scriptures. St. Augustine summarized it well: “In manibus nostris sunt codices, in oculis nostris facta.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

Crdl DiNardo.jpgThe Eternal Word emptied himself for our salvation. In an analogous way the Holy Spirit has also given and “humbled” himself in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. With great courtesy he has adapted the divine “language” with thought towards our human nature (Dei Verbum

I speak in behalf of Catholics who live in the famous Bible Belt of the Southern United States. It is a genuine location, but it is also a frame of mind, diffused through many places in the world. There are surely issues and problems with this mind set, but it has kept alive a Biblical imagination and vocabulary and a sense of divine agency in the world that is important for us. In the Instrumentum Laboris, #18 a-g and 22 c-d, the Word of God is spoken about in a deeply rich christological way. The pneumatology, however, is more discrete. Catholics in the Bible Belt need a pneumatology that can help them in reading Scripture.

I would recommend the publication of a Compendium, similar to other such documents, that would be directed to the faithful. It would be a clear and direct guide that would highlight the rich and useful methods of the Church for reading and sharing the Sacred Scriptures. Such a Compendium would be an immeasurable help for personal bible reading, for Bible Study groups etc. Totally ecclesial and Catholic, it would also be of great help in ecumenical bible studies in which many of our people are enrolled. It would help retrieve a vivid and excellent sense of the Catholic understanding of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration in the Sacred Scriptures.


Right Rev. Nicholas Thomas Wright, Bishop of Durham, Anglican Church

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1. We face the same challenges as you: not only secularism and relativism, but also postmodernity. Uncertainty here breeds anxiety: (a) the Bible might tell us unwelcome things; (b) its message might be stifled.

2. A fourfold reading of scripture as the love of God: heart (Lectio Divina, liturgical reading); mind (historical/critical study); soul (church life, tradition, teaching) and strength (mission, kingdom of God). These must be balanced.

3. In particular, we need fresh mission-oriented engagement with our own culture. Paragraph 57 of the Instrumentum Laboris implies that Paul’s engagement merely purifies and elevates what is there in the culture. But Paul also confronts pagan idolatry, and so must we. In particular, we must engage critically with the tools and methods of historical/critical scholarship themselves.

4. The climax of the Canon is Jesus Christ, especially his cross and resurrection. These events are not only salvific. They provide a hermeneutical principle, related to the Jewish tradition of ‘critique from within’.

5. Mary as model: Fiat (mind); Magnificat (strength); Conservabat (heart) – but also Stabat, waiting patiently in the soul, the tradition and expectation of the church, for the new, unexpected and perhaps unwelcome, but yet saving, revelation.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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