Tag Archives: Dei Verbum

How Catholics use Scripture: Pope Francis talks on inspiration and truth in the Bible

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Yesterday, the Holy Father met with the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) led by German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The theme the PBC’s annual plenary assembly was “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible.” On the personal and parish level, this theme is revisited year-in and year-out. Catholics (and the Orthodox) have a particular way of praying, reading, studying and living the sacred Scripture that is very different from the Protestant ecclesial communities: from WITHIN the context of the living community of faith, i.e., the Liturgy.

Pope Francis paid close attention to this year’s work of the PBC by saying it “affects not only the individual believer but the whole Church, for the Church’s life and mission are founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology as well as the inspiration of all of Christian existence.”

He noted that in Dei Verbum the emphasis of what the nature of Scripture is, how the Church interprets Scripture, what is conserved by the Church, and by whose authority is at work. I  think one of the “money quotes” is when Francis reminded us that “The interpretation of Sacred Scriptures cannot be just an individual academic effort, but must always be compared to, inserted within, and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church.” 

The point we Catholics have to come to understand and to work on is that we are a biblically based religion, like none other, established by Jesus Christ, and preaching Him since 33 AD. We can’t get away from the Scriptures and that’s why bible study AND lectio divina are crucial every day. The Scriptures are testimony of how God works and humanity responds to God’s invitation.

Here is the Pope’s text:

I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank the President, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, for his greeting and summary of the topic that has been the subject of careful consideration in the course of your work. You have gathered again to study a very important topic: the inspiration and truth of the Bible. It is a matter that affects not only the individual believer, but the whole Church, for the life and mission of the Church is founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and the inspiration of all Christian life .

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What is a theologian? What purpose does the work of a theologian have? To be “In the Communion of the Church”

The public has been bombarded with the media’s assessment of nuns, church, the sexual abuse crisis, fidelity to the Lord, and the like. In some ways the media looks at the life of the Church and picks out the obvious problems of coherence. No doubt we have matters of concern that we have to work to correct; the adage: “the Church always needs renewal” is very true today. We rely on the Holy Spirit and the good work of Pope Benedict. The other day I found this review of a document written by members of the International Theological Commission (ITC), a group of theologians organized by the Pope to advise him on certain questions of theological questions of importance. Even the Pope needs advice! The ITC group is made up of a diversity of peoples from around the world. The ones I know personally are fine men and women, credible witnesses of the Lord. The review of Theology Today that follows is written by Father Paul McPartlan in which he synthesizes the document giving us the broad view of the work of Catholic theologian. What he highlights sits in contradistinction to what we’ve heard about the recent work of Sr Margaret Farley and other theologians who see themselves in a different light. I prefer to put my money the ITC and not on “envelop pushing, agenda driven” theologians. You?

Following its examination, in Chapter One, of the fundamental nature of theology, as the rational exploration of that faith which is a response to the proclamation of the Word of God, and prior to its extended reflection, in Chapter Three, on significant aspects of the rationality of theology, the new International Theological Commission (ITC) text, Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria, carefully considers the ecclesial context of theology in Chapter Two. “The ecclesiality of theology is a constitutive aspect of the theological task, because theology is based on faith, and faith itself is both personal and ecclesial”, it says, emphasising that “it is through the Church that theologians receive the object of their enquiry” (n.20). Theological enquiry is therefore properly conducted within the living and life-giving milieu of the leiturgia, martyria and diakonia of the Church (cf. n.7). In short, as the chapter’s title indicates, it is necessary for theologians to abide in the communion of the Church.

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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]yahoo.com.
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