First General Congregation

First General Congregation

12th Synod of Bishops

This morning, Monday 6 October 2008, at 09:00 a.m., in the presence of the Holy Father, in the Synod Hall in Vatican City, with the chant of the Third Hour, the work of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began, with the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus. In the First General Congregation, the Holy Father Benedict XVI gave the reflection.


The Acting President-Delegate H. Em. Card. William Joseph LEVADA, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The synodal assembly opened yesterday by Benedict XVI, who presided over the solemn Concelebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, will gather together a representation of Prelates from around the world, on the theme of The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church, until 26 October 2008.

After the Third Hour, the following intervened in this First General Congregation: the President-Delegate, H. Em. Card. William Joseph LEVADA, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (VATICAN CITY STATE), for the Greeting by the President-Delegate; His Exc. Most Rev. Msg. Nikola ETEROVI, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops (VATICAN CITY STATE), for the Report by the General Secretary.

After the break, H. Em. Card. Marc OUELLET, Archbishop of Quebec (CANADA) intervened, for the Report before the Discussion by the General Reporter.

The entire texts of the interventions given in the Hall are published below:




The First General Congregation of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops concluded at 12,30 with the Recitation of the Angelus Domini led by the Holy Father.

There were 244 Synodal Fathers present .

At the end of the First General Congregation, the General Secretary addressed the following words to the Holy Father; "Most Blessed Father, at the end of this first session and gathering the words of all those present, I would like to express great gratitude for Your presence, and particularly for the reflection that, with transparent and clear words and with clear spirituality, you demonstrated to us, raising our spirit."

The Second General Congregation will take place this afternoon 6 October 2008 at 4.30 p.m. for the Reports on the five Continents.


Most Holy Father,

it is in a spirit of faith and Christian joy that we find ourselves united here to celebrate together this XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, called by Your Holiness. We will have the opportunity to debate with each other, but, above all, to come together in collegial communion to listen to the Word of life that God has entrusted to the loving and authoritative care of His Church, so that she may proclaim it with courage and conviction, to people near and far.

We would like to express our gratitude to you for having chosen such an important and delicate theme. We are, in fact, asked to reflect upon "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church". Everyone is aware of the importance of this topic and its centrality in the life of the Church and in our very Christian identity. In fact, the life and mission of the Church are founded on the Word of God, they are nourished by it and express it, since it is the soul of theology, and, at the same time, the inspiration for the whole of Christian existence. This Word of God, intended for all believers, requires special veneration and obedience, so that it may also be welcomed as an urgent call to the full communion of the followers of Christ.

As the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum reminds us there exists an indissoluble unity between Sacred Scripture and Tradition since both flow from the same source: "Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence." (Dei Verbum, 9).

Only the living ecclesial tradition allows Sacred Scripture to be understood as the authentic Word of God that acts as guide, rule and law for the life of the Church and the spiritual growth of believers. This involves the rejection of any interpretation that is subjective or purely experiential or the fruit of a unilateral analysis, incapable of embracing the global sense that has guided the Tradition of the whole of God's people down through the centuries.

It is in this context that the necessity and responsibility of the Magisterium are born, a Magisterium called to be the authentic interpreter of this same Word of God at the service of the whole Christian people and for the salvation of the whole world. And we individual bishops too know well how great our individual responsibilities are as legitimate successors of the Apostles and what is expected of us by today's society to which we are duty-bound to transmit the truth that we, in turn, have received. The Second Vatican Council teaches that "It devolves on sacred bishops [...] to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books" (Dei Verbum, 25).This therefore is a specific duty of the bishops both as hearers of the Word and as servants of the same, in accordance with the munus docendi they were given. In this sense, the synodal organism also constitutes an institution, qualified to promote the truth and unity of the pastoral dialogue within the Mystical Body of Christ.

Your Holiness, in your address to the Members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, you stated "hope that it will help every Christian and every ecclesial and civil community to rediscover the importance of God's Word in their life" (Speech to the Members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, L'Osservatore Romano, 26 January 2007, 5).

We want to welcome this invitation with humility and responsibility since we know that the final end of divine revelation is the communion of life with the Lord. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the Word of God is alive and active (cf. 4:12) and lights up the path of our earthly pilgrimage towards its full conclusion in the Kingdom of God. Only those who are familiar with the Word of God can become his credible spokesperson and only those who live it in a concrete undertaking of growth can understand what St Paul meant when he wrote to the Christians of Corinth: "I should be in trouble if I failed to do it [preach the Gospel]." (1 Co 9:16). St Paul's cry still echoes today in the Church with urgency and becomes for all Christians an appeal to serve the Gospel in the whole world.

As we begin the work of this Synodal Assembly, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us turn our gaze to Christ, the light of the world and our only Teacher. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate, intercede on our behalf. Bless us, Holy Father, so that the beauty, purity and truth of the Word of God may reach all men and women of our time through our pastoral charity, our evangelical courage and our joyful responsibility for the Christian message.

[Original text: Latin]



Holy Father,
Eminent and Excellent Synodal Fathers,
Brothers and sisters,

I thank Divine Providence for the privilege of being allowed to address you as Secretary General at the beginning of another Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. I greet all of you with the words of Saint Paul the Apostle from approximately 1950 years ago - around AD 58 - to the Christians of this city: " To all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom 1,7). This very significant greeting by the Apostle to the Gentiles seems appropriate for many reasons.

Having come from all over the world, you Synodal fathers have arrived in Rome: the visible center of the Catholic Church, the seat of the Bishop of Rome, who in charity presides over the Holy Church of God. On behalf of everyone I would like to send a special greeting to His Holiness Benedict XVI, the 264th successor of St. Peter the Apostle in the See of Rome. We are grateful to have been summoned to this, his city, which is also the city of all of us - as all Catholics, or better still, all Christians enjoy a unique and singular relationship with Rome, the city which proudly preserves the memory of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. With their own blood, they consecrated the arrival of the Good News in Rome, the center of the Roman Empire which became the center of the Catholic Church.

The figure of St. Paul, and his message, will accompany the work of the synod; taking place as it does during the Pauline Year which, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father Benedict XVI proclaimed on 29 June, the bimillennium of the birth of the Apostle.

Moreover, the words of the Apostle of Tarsus remind us that we are all God's beloved and that, through baptism, we have received the vocation of holiness. This is the foundation of the common priesthood on which are based the ministries and charisms of the Church. Our activities over the next few weeks, listening, meditating, celebrating and spreading the Word of God, should help us progress towards holiness, a difficult and demanding path, but at the same time an exhilarating and joyful one. In order to reach this lofty goal, let us trust in the benevolence of God the Father, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, a gift which the Risen Lord Jesus gives continuously without limit (cf. John 3:34).

It is with these sentiments that I gladly greet the 253 Synodal Fathers who have come from all five continents: respectively 51 from Africa, 62 from America, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. The Synodal Fathers taking part in the Ordinary General Assembly are here in various capacities: 173 have been elected, 38 are participating ex officio, 32 have been appointed by the Holy Father, 10 have been elected by the Union of Superior Generals. Among them are 8 Patriarchs, 52 Cardinals [1], 2 Major Archbishops, 79 Archbishops and 130 Bishops. As far as their particular responsibilities are concerned, 10 are Heads of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, 30 Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, 24 Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, 185 Ordinary Bishops, 17 Auxiliary Bishops.

I would like to send a special greeting to the Fraternal Delegates, representatives of the 10 Churches and ecclesial communities who share with Catholics the same love and veneration for Holy Scriptures. Apart from the sacrament of baptism, it is the Bible which unites all those who believe in the mystery of God, One and Triune, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I would also like to welcome the specially invited guests who accepted the invitation from the Holy Father Benedict XVI and all the volunteers who will be taking part in the work of the synod.

I also welcome the 41 Experts and 37 Auditors, men and women who have been chosen from among many specialists and lovers of the Word of God to assist the Synodal Fathers and to help enrich their reflection, through their personal experience and that of their communities, on the always living and active importance of the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

I send out warm greetings to the Press Officers, Assistants and Translators, to the technical staff and to the Special Staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Without their generous and efficient contribution it would not have been possible to organize this synodal meeting.

To all, together with my warmest greetings, I would like to express the hope that their participation in the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops may help them acquire a better understanding of the Word of God, so that each and every one may rediscover that they are loved by God, and proceed with renewed enthusiasm on the path towards holiness, for the good of the Church and the whole world.

This presentation is divided into five sections:
I. Preliminary reflections on the Word of God
II. Activities between the XI and XII Ordinary General Assemblies
III. Preparation for the XII Ordinary General Assembly
IV. Activities of the General Secretariat
V. Conclusion

I. Preliminary reflections on the Word of God

The theme of the XII Ordinary General Assembly on the Word of God spontaneously recalls the words of the Prologue to John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn 1:1). These words full of Spirit allow us to penetrate into the deep mystery of God, hidden for centuries and revealed in the fullness of time (cf. Eph 1:10) in Jesus Christ - He born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary (cf. Lk 1:34-37) "No one has ever seen Go; it is the only Son who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known." (Jn 1:18)

The Logos (Dabar, Verbum, Word, Creative Reason) is Jesus Christ: the eternal Word who in the mystery of incarnation made himself flesh and made his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14). The Lord Jesus, man and God, who traveled through the towns and villages of the Holy Land "teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of disease and illness among the people" (cf. Mt 4:23). His revelation, made through words and actions, culminated in the Easter mystery, in the fall of the Passion and death and the subsequent glorification of the Resurrection and the Ascension " up above all the heavens to fill all things" (Eph 4:10)

The Son, Logos who in the beginning was with God, because He is Himself God (cf. Jn 1:1) took part in the creation "Through him all things came into being; not one thing came into being except through him" (Jn 1:3). Illuminated by the Holy Spirit which hovered over the waters as "the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep" (Gen 1:2) we move closer to the creative act of God: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" (Gen 1:1) and we discover the work of Logos through which God the Father created the cosmos and man, the masterpiece of creation, in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1: 26-27).

In Logos was life, life that was the light of men" (Jn 1:4) which shines in the darkness. All those who have accepted the "Word of life" (Jn 1:1) are called upon to announce it because, participating in the communion which has as its basis the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, they can know perfect joy. In such work the saints, the "faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph 1:1) are helped by the Holy Spirit, who lives in them and makes of them "a temple of God" (I Cor 3:16) and helps them in their weakness (cf. Rom 8:26) and guides them to all truth (cf. Jn 16:13). Also, risen Jesus stayed with his disciples to the very end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Furthermore, He makes of all those who, during the Eucharist eat His body and drink His blood, members of the Church, part of His mystical Body. Therefore, it is Jesus Himself, the Logos who from within our hearts pushes us towards the mission, the announcement of the Good News. In reality, as St. Jerome affirms, in the things of God we must trust not in our own forces but in the grace of God and the rightness of intentions, since: "He can never be at a loss for words who believes in the Word." ["neque posse eum verba deficere, qui credidisset in Verbum"] [2].

Jesus Christ, the eternal Logos, is the First and the Last. Even as glorified man He holds supremacy over the new creation, being the firstborn from among the dead (cf. Col 1:18). "He is known by the name, Word of God. "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev 19:16). So Logos He for whom all things were created will also be the Last when it is time to judge the living and the dead, to "render unto each according to his works" (Rev 22:12). He is the "Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Rev 22:13). Together with all the creatures of heaven and earth, let us proclaim ourselves full of the Holy Spirit; we too at the synodal assembly: "To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise honor, glory and power, for ever and ever." (Rev 5:13)

II. Activities between the XI and XII Ordinary General Assembly

During the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place between 2 and 23 October 2005 on the theme of The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, the XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat was formed. In compliance with the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, 12 members were elected, using electronic voting, by the Synodal Fathers. The Holy Father Benedict XVI appointed 3 Bishops to reach the required total of 15. The XI Ordinary Council faced two principal tasks: to bring to a close the conclusions of the XI Synodal Assembly on the Eucharist and to prepare the XII Ordinary General Assembly.

The Ordinary Council met 6 times in Rome, the first occasion, on 22 October 2005, as the General Assembly of the Synod was coming to a conclusion. This allowed the Members to get to know one another better and to plan future activities. In 2006 the Council met 3 times: 30-31 January, 1-2 June and 10-11 October. The Ordinary Council held one meeting in 2007, on 24-25 January, and one in 2008 from 21-22 January. Thanks to modern means of communication, especially e-mail, the General Secretariat, in agreement with the Members of the Council, encouraged the exchange of written information and documentation in an effort to reduce the inconvenience caused to Bishops by frequent travel from their dioceses to Rome, the seat of the General Secretariat.

The first two meetings of the XI Ordinary Council were principally devoted to reflection on the abundant documentation resulting from the Synod on the Eucharist. The Members of the Ordinary Council concentrated especially on examination of the 50 Propositions approved by the Synodal Fathers with a more than two-thirds majority. The first Proposition submitted for the benevolent study of the Holy Father Benedict XVI was the request to draft a Document on the sublime mystery of the Eucharist, for the good of the Church and its mission in the world.

His Holiness generously granted the Synodal Fathers' request. As is customary, in the drafting of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation the Supreme Pontiff was assisted by the XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. During the Council's meeting in January 2006 a detailed outline of the Document was agreed. Then at the Ordinary Council's June meeting the draft of the Apostolic Exhortation was examined. Numerous observations were made with the aim of capturing all the richness of the reflections during the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in the light of the Magisterium of the Church, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the teachings of Pontiffs Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. After including all the observations, the text was handed over to the Supreme Pontiff who made his own remarkable contribution, imparting all the charisma of the universal Pastor of the Church. For the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation the Holy Father chose the deeply significant title Sacramentum Caritatis. The Bishop of Rome signed the Document on 22 February 2007, the feast day of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. The Sacramentum Caritatis was published on 13 March 2007. The same day it was presented in the Holy See's Press Office by H.E. Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice and Relator General of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and by H.E. Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation was initially published in 8 languages. Later translations into other languages were added.

On 22 February 2006 the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops sent the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops' Relatio circa labores peractos to the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, to the Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the President of the Union of Superior Generals. The document presented a summary of the preparation leading up to and the actual work of the Synod. Among the statistical data included were the following: 256 Synodal Fathers took part in the Synod. Of these, 177 were elected, 39 participated 'ex officio', and 40 were appointed by the Holy Father. The Synodal Fathers came from all the continents and, in detail, 50 from Africa, 59 from America, 44 from Asia, 95 from Europe and 8 from Oceania. 22 General Congregations were held and 7 Sessions of the Small Groups took place The Synodal Fathers approved the Nuntius or Message to the People of God by acclamation; the 50 Propositions were approved by a large majority.

As is established practice, recordings of all the speeches made during the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops were transcribed in the languages in which the speeches were given. The Acta XI Coetus Generalis Ordinari Synodi Episcoporum were then published in 3 volumes totaling 973 pages. They were officially handed over to the Holy Father Benedict XVI on 21 January 2008. Other copies were sent to the Archive of the General Secretariat where they will remain as precious testimony to the profound reflection during the work of the Synod on the unlimited mystery of the Eucharist.

III. Preparation of the XII Ordinary General Assembly

The theme of the XII Ordinary General Assembly, which is being held in October 2008, was the subject of a wide range of consultation and in-depth discussions. Before the conclusion of the XI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the Synodal Fathers were invited to suggest possible themes for the next meeting. Many suggestions were made covering a very wide range of topics, although there were a significant number of proposals that the subject should be the Word of God.

At the beginning of 2006, following the Papal Audience of 13 January, H.E. Msgr. Nikola Eterovi, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, wrote to the Heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, to the Heads of Dicasteries for the Roman Curia and to the President of the Union of Superior Generals, asking them to indicate a group of three possible themes for discussion at the next Synod. It was made clear that the subjects had to be of interest to the universal Church, of genuine and topical pastoral interest and that profound debate of any such subjects during the Synod had to be feasible. Replies had to arrive by 1 June, 2006 in order for them to be examined immediately during the meeting of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat on 1-2 June.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops received a large number of suggestions which were examined by the Members of the Ordinary Council during the meeting. After much reflection three possible subjects were chosen which H.E., Msgr. Nikola Eterovi, Secretary General, then submitted for the benevolent consideration of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, the President of the Synod of Bishops. At the audience on 22 September 2006, the Supreme Pontiff chose the first of the three proposals and the one which had been most frequently put forward by the Bishops: The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. At the same time the Holy Father announced that the Synod would take place from 5-26 October 2008. The Supreme Pontiff's decision was officially communicated to the Secretary General by H.E., Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, on 30 September 2006. The subject was made public on 6 October in a statement published in 11 languages.

It is not difficult to perceive, from the very title of this Synodal Assembly, how it is intimately associated with that of the previous meeting dedicated to the Eucharist. The similarity was deliberate and intended to emphasize the mutual relation between the Word of God and the Eucharist. They are intimately united in the celebration of the Holy Mass, to such an extent that in reality the two tables of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form a single table of the Word, the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus.

Preparation of the Lineamenta

After the Holy Father Benedict XVI had established the theme of the XII Ordinary General Assembly, the XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat held two meetings to study the text of the Lineamenta. During the meeting of 10-11 October 2006, the Members of the Ordinary Council, with the assistance of a group of experts, agreed on the organizational structure of the Lineamenta, with particular reference to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, the major document produced by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, while at the same time taking into account the successive pronouncements on the subject by the Magisterium of the Church and also the pastoral and social situations in which individual Churches live and work in the modern world.

During the meeting of 24-25 January 2007, the Members of the Ordinary Council examined the draft of the Lineamenta, and made modifications with the aim of improving the text. At the same time, certain aspects requiring more profound study were noted. The General Secretariat, assisted by specialists, sought to include all the observations. Before the text was sent for translation into a number of languages it was sent by e-mail to individual Members who were able to make further improvements.

After obtaining the approval of the Ordinary Council, on 27 April 2007 the General Secretariat published the Lineamenta of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The aim of the text was to promote discussion in the universal Church of the theme for the next Synod. The Lineamenta was presented in the Holy See's Press Office by H.E. Msgr. Nikola Eterovi, Secretary General, and by Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. Circulation of the document was made easier by the wide range of possibilities available thanks to modern means of communication, especially the internet. On the Holy See's website dedicated to the Synod of Bishops the text of the Lineamenta was posted in 10 languages. As well as the 8 languages (Latin, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish) in which documents from the General Secretariat are usually published, the text was also translated into Chinese and Arabic, a sign of the great interest the theme of the Synod holds for Churches worshiping in those languages. As is customary, the Lineamenta contained questions, 21 altogether, intended to foster reflection and greater understanding of its subject matter. In the Preface the Secretary General asked all collegial bodies to make their contribution to discussion of the theme chosen by the Holy Father Benedict XVI by submitting their written response to the questions by November 2007.

Preparation of the Instrumentum laboris

From the answers which reached the General Secretariat it was clear that the theme of this Ordinary General Assembly is today of great relevance and one intensely felt by local Churches, which expect the work of the Synod to provide rediscovered impetus and zeal for evangelization, renewed interest to know, love and celebrate the Word of God, especially in liturgical celebrations, so that the Word may then be proclaimed with renewed vigor both near and far.

78.3 % of institutional bodies replied to the questions. Distribution was as follows:
- Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris: 61.5 % (out of 13 Churches 8] replied) [3];
- Episcopal Conferences: 82.3 % (out of 113 Episcopal Conferences 93 replied);
- Dicasteries of the Roman Curia: 68 % (out of 25 Dicasteries 17 replied)[4];
- Union of Superior Generals: 100 %.

As far as the Episcopal Conferences are concerned, it might be interesting to look at the individual percentages for each continent:
- Africa: 72.2 % (out of 36 Episcopal Conferences 25 replied)[5] ;
- America: 83.3 % (out of 24 Episcopal Conferences 20 replied)[6];

- Asia: 94.1 % (out of 17 Episcopal Conferences 16 replied)[7];
- Europe: 93.7 % (out of 32 Episcopal Conferences 30 replied)[8];
- Oceania: 50 % (out of 4 Episcopal Conferences 2 replied)[9].

The XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, assisted by experts, attentively examined the contributions from the Episcopacies. The Members of the Council also studied numerous comments from ecclesial institutions: for example the International Union of Superior Generals (I.U.S.G.) and from interested individuals. The General Secretariat also took into consideration the results of several Conventions and articles published in specialized magazines and those for lay readers.

During the meeting on 21-22 January 2008, the Members of the XI Ordinary Council used the rich supply of contributions principally from the episcopacies of the universal Church to extensively rework the draft of Instrumentum laboris. They then entrusted the General Secretariat, assisted by specialists, with completing a text containing the most pertinent observations. After this demanding task, the General Secretariat e-mailed the text completed according to the indications of the Ordinary Council to each individual Member. They were asked to approve the Document or, if necessary, to make any further, final observations. These comments from the Members of the Ordinary Council were duly examined and largely included in the definitive text.XXX Following the customary patient and painstaking work of translation into 8 languages, the Instrumentum laboris was published on 12 June 2008. On the same day at the Press Office of the Holy See it was presented by H.E. Msgr. Nikola Eterovi, Secretary General, and by Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. The Instrumentum laboris was widely circulated via the internet - being posted on the Holy See's website dedicated to the Synod of Bishops - and appeared in a wide range of publications - for example, in L'Osservatore Romano in Italian and other languages, through the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (the Vatican Publishing House), and in numerous magazines. Consequently many people were made aware of the Agenda of the next Synodal Assembly. This was particularly useful to the Synodal Fathers who were therefore able profitably to prepare themselves for reflection on the theme of this Synod; a theme which is of such importance for the life of the Church and its mission of evangelization and human improvement.

Contribution of the Holy Father Benedict XVI

The Holy Father Benedict XVI followed the work of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops with great attention, for which I feel the pleasant duty to thank him on behalf of the XI Ordinary Council and all the Assembly. After all, the Supreme Pontiff is also President of the Synod of Bishops. The Bishops follow the Holy Father's pronouncements with great attention, especially those concerning the ecclesial communion, episcopal collegiality, and the synodality of the Church - questions of the greatest interest for the Synod of Bishops and its contribution to the service of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, universal Pastor of the Church.

In addition to the working Audiences granted to the Secretary General, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received the XI Ordinary Council in the Apostolic Palace on 3 occasions: 1 June 2006; 25 January 2007 and 21 January 2008. Each time the Bishop of Rome commented on certain key aspects of the Council's work, comments which provoked significant interest throughout the Church. The comments concerned the mystery of the Eucharist and came as the XI Ordinary Council was assisting the Supreme Pontiff to collect and collate the large number of contributions from the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The Eucharist: Source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. As was logical, when the Council began concentrating its efforts on preparations for the XII Ordinary General Assembly, His Holiness emphasized the vital importance of the meeting's theme The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

If I may, I would like to point out the following pronouncements by the Supreme Pontiff on the Word of God: Angelus 6 November 2005, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of thee proclamation of Dei Verbum [10]; His speech to participants at the international convention Holy Scripture in the life of the Church [11]; and the volume Jesus of Nazareth[12].

Nor should we neglect the frequent references to the rediscovery of Lectio Divina. In the catecheses during the Wednesday General Audience the Holy Father Benedict XVI has frequently underscored the vital importance of Holy Scripture to the theological, spiritual and ecclesial work of the Apostles and those who followed them and for the Fathers of the Church. These and similar contributions can only enrichen the occasions for reflection during the Synod. Many have already been included in either the Lineamenta or the Instrumentum laboris, respectively the preparatory document and the working document for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

IV. Activities of the General Secretariat

The General Secretariat was kept extremely busy bringing to a conclusion the reflections on the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. At the same time it also had to focus on preparation for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops to be held, God willing, in October 2009.

Notwithstanding, the General Secretariat also carried out other activities which I would like to summarize briefly.

Updating the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum

The need had been felt for some time to update the statutes concerning the Order of the Synod of Bishops to conform to the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, proclaimed respectively by Pope John Paul II on 25 January 1983 and 18 October 1990. Moreover, it seemed timely to adapt legislative regulations to developments in procedures that in the course of nearly 40 years had changed significantly but which frequently were still completed according to ad hoc instructions written on loose sheets of paper. The Holy Father Benedict XVI had set out several important modifications to synodal procedures which were endorsed during the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Following the Supreme Pontiff's proposal, an ad hoc Commission was set up to study how best to update the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum. After significant efforts the Commission's report was approved by His Holiness Benedict XVI in the form of the Rescript of 29 September 2006, signed by the Secretary of State H.E., Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The Ordo Synodi Episcoporum was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. A special edition, with the original Latin text on one page and a translation into Italian on the other, was produced by the General Secretariat. A copy was distributed to all Synodal Fathers. The updated text of Ordo Synodi Episcoporum may also be consulted online on the Holy See's website dedicated to the Synod of Bishops.

Restrictions on time mean it is not possible to list all the changes that were introduced. But I would like to point out the principal ones.

In the Proemio there is a brief and succinct account of the modifications to the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum and of the institution's historical development. At the same time, the juridical character and the theological importance of the Synod of Bishops are outlined. Particularly emphasized is the spirit of communion which unites Bishops among themselves and with the Bishop of Rome. Also the collegial ties which distinguish the relations between the Members of the ordo episcoporum are clearly shown. Also evident is the episcopacy's concern for the good of the Universal Church. With the help of the Holy Spirit the Synod of Bishops can provide the Pontiff with sound counsel over all the various ecclesial problems. In this way, the Synod of Bishops, like any other collegial body, has as its ultimate goal the search for truth or the good of the Church. The consensus Ecclesiae which is obtained through the verification of that same faith, is "the outcome of the working of the Spirit, the soul of the one Church of Christ.".

The updated text conforms more logically to the composition of the synodal Assemblies, in particular the presence of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris and of the Episcopal Conferences. Unchanged is the norm which calls for the participation ex officio at the synodal meetings of the Head of the Eastern Catholic Church. However, it is specified that if for serious reasons the Head is unable to attend, he may - with the approval of that Church's Synod, send another Bishop in his place. Furthermore, for those Eastern Catholic Churches with more than 25 Members the election of a second representative is foreseen.

The Ordo Synodi Episcoporum also clarifies the role of the General Relator, whose duties have developed considerably in the course of more than 4 decades of activity. Similar clarification is provided for the role of the Special Secretary.

A new norm is introduced whereby all the Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia participate ex officio in the Ordinary General Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. The previous norm called for the participation of the Chief Cardinals, while the other participants were appointed by the Holy Father.

To make denominations uniform in both the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, it was decided to use the title Roman Pontiff to refer to the Bishop of Rome, the President of the Synod of Bishops.

For the Extraordinary General Assemblies a new norm was introduced sanctioning the established practice whereby if the President of an Episcopal Conference is unable to attend he is substituted ex officio by the first Vice-President. As is known, the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum includes provisions allowing the participation ex officio at the Extraordinary General Assemblies of the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences.

Changes were also made to norms concerning the establishment of a Commission for the composition of a possible Message or another document. As with the other Commissions, this one is to be comprised of 12 Members, of which 8 are elected from the Assembly and 4, including the President and Vice-President, are appointed by the Holy Father.

Free discussion, which was introduced with success at the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2005, was institutionalized at the express desire of the Holy Father Benedict XVI. Also mentioned are those participants of the Synod of Bishops who do not possess the right to vote: Experts, Auditors, and Fraternal Delegates.

Regulations concerning the activities of the small groups were also revised.

Revisions to the Vademecum: new procedures

In the light of the updated Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, and also of the rapid developments in certain practices at recent Synodal Assemblies, I would like to look at some new procedures, some of which were already introduced on an experimental basis with the approval of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, at the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Every Synodal Father will have 5 minutes in which to speak to the Assembly, one minute less than at the last meeting. The time thus gained will be used for more discussions in the Synod Hall and the work of the small groups.

For the Fraternal Delegates and Auditors speaking time of 4 minutes each, where possible, will be allowed.

At the beginning of this Assembly 5 Relators from each of the 5 continents will seek to present an overview of the theme of the Word of God for each region.

Each Relator will be allotted 10 minutes. The same time is scheduled for the reports by the Relators for the small groups.

During free discussion a Synodal Father may speak for no longer than 3 minutes with the right, where necessary, to make only one reply.

The same holds true for other scheduled periods of discussion in the Synod Hall, with the aim of achieving ever increasing levels of participation in reflection at the Synod.

Such discussion will take place, for example, after a presentation of approximately 30 minutes on reception of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis which was produced after the last Ordinary General Assembly. Obviously it is expected that discussion will focus on questions connected to the Document which is of enormous importance for the Church worldwide, as the Eucharist represents both the source and the crowning glory of the life and the mission of the Church.

Every Synodal Father who would like to address the Hall is kindly requested to apply in advance in writing to the General Secretariat, indicating the subject on which he would like to make a contribution. Obviously the Synodal Father will indicate the number - or numbers - of the Instrumentum laboris to which he wishes to refer. Priority will be given to all those who wish to speak on the first part of the Instrumentum laboris: numbers 1-26 covering the Introduction and the theme of The Mystery of God who speaks to us. Subsequently, numbers 27-41 will deal with The Word of God in the life of the Church while the third part, The Word of God in the mission of the Church, is covered by numbers 42-60. It is hoped that such an arrangement will help foster more organized, more logical and more in-depth reflection on the themes under discussion and will also avoid abrupt changes from one subject to another.

During the Synodal Assembly electronic voting procedures will be used; these save time and allow results to be known in real-time. Nevertheless, given the importance of voting on the Propositions and even the slightest of possibilities of error with electronic systems, in this case votes will be counted both electronically and in writing. Official results will be tabulated and announced by a Scrutiny Committee.

During the Assembly we will have the joy of greeting two special guests.

In the afternoon of Saturday 18 October the Ecumenical Patriarch of Costantinopole Bartholomew I and the Holy Father Benedict XVI will be present in the Synod Hall to jointly lead a Celebration of the Word.

In the afternoon of Monday 6 October, Synodal Fathers will be addressed by the Chief Rabbi of Haifa Shear-Yashuv Cohen, who will lead a discussion for synod members on the Jewish interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Much of what Christians call the Old Testament also serves as the basis of Jewish faith.

A variety of special events are scheduled during the Assembly. Some are already included in the agenda, information about others will be announced later. All the events are intended to promote love towards the Word of God and as an expression of respect for those people who have made significant contributions to spreading and making more widely understood the Good News. This is particularly the case for the Pontiffs Pius XII, John XXIII and John Paul II. On 9 October the Holy Father Benedict XVI will preside over Holy Mass to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Pius XII. Furthermore, two films will be screened during the Synod: one celebrating the Blessed John XXIII on the 50th anniversary of his election as Pontiff, the other celebrating Servant of God John Paul II on the 30th anniversary of his election as universal Pastor of the Church.

Special Councils

Following the XI Ordinary General Assembly and in line with the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation a number of Special Councils of the General Secretariat have held meetings to continue reflection on the ecclesial and social situations in individual continents.

The Special Council for Africa met twice: 23-24 February 2006 and 15-16 February 2007. Both meetings focused on the drafting of the Lineamenta for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

As is known, Pope John Paul II had planned for the Assembly to take place in 2004. Subsequently the Holy Father Benedict XVI reconfirmed the meeting and scheduled it from October 4-25 2009 in the Vatican. The theme of the Special Assembly will be "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: 'You are the salt of the earth. ... You are the light of the world." (Mt 5: 13-14). The Lineamenta for the Special Assembly were presented at the Holy See's Press Office on 27 June 2006 by H.E., Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Member of the Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, and by H.E., Msgr. Nikola Eterovi, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. The text was published in 4 languages: English, French, Italian and Portuguese. Subsequently the Episcopal Conferences oversaw production of versions in other languages, including Arabic and Swahili. All interested bodies, in particular the 36 Episcopal Conferences, should deliver their contributions, providing reference to the Lineamenta, by next month, November 2008. A meeting of the Special Council for Africa is scheduled on 27-28 November 2008. The meeting will be dedicated to preparation of the Instrumentum laboris for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

The Special Council for Europe held two meetings, on 15 May 2006 and 23 April 2007. These were followed by written consultations on the future activities of the Special Council. As a result of the disagreements among Council members, and because its current format seemed to have run its course, the Special Council for Europe, while still existing formally, has not been summoned in 2008.

The Special Council for Oceania also met twice: on 4-5 August 2006 in Suva, Fiji in preparation for the Assembly of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Oceania. H.E., Msgr. Nikola Eterovi, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops was a special guest at this meeting. The second meeting took place on 14-15 February 2008 in Rome. The Members of the Special Council for Oceania. decided that the next meeting, scheduled for May 2010, will be its last, at least in its current format.

The Special Council for America met on two occasions: 2-3 October 2006 and 9-10 October 2007. The next meeting has been scheduled for 18-19 November 2008.

The Special Council for Asia also met twice: 17-18 November 2006 and 20-21 November 2007. The next meeting has been set for 11-12 December 2008.

The structure of the Special Councils of the General Secretariat is regulated by the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, which gives each Council a mandate ad quinquennium. The Holy Father may renew the mandate according to ecclesial requirements and pastoral necessity.


The activity of the General Secretariat was enrichened by the following publications.

I am pleased to announce the publication of the third volume of the Enchiridion of the Synod of Bishops which brings together all the documents from 1996 up until 2007. This third volume contains the documents from 4 Special Assemblies (for America in 1997; for Asia and for Oceania in 1998; for Europe in 1999), and for 2 ordinary General Assemblies, X in 2001 and XI in 2005. The volume concludes with the Holy Father Benedict XVI's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops would also like to express its gratitude to the publishing house Edizioni Dehoniane of Bologna for the publication of the three monumental volumes dedicated to four decades of activities by the Synod of Bishops from 1965 to 2007. The excellently compiled index allow for easy consultation of all the important themes covered during synod discussions.

Also published, by the Lateran Unversity Press, was L' Eucaristia: fonte e culmine della vita e della missione della Chiesa ( The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church ) by Fr. Roberto Nardin, O.S.B. Oliv. The book brings together all the documentation concerning the preparation and the celebration of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Included are all the texts from the Assembly, with summaries of the speeches from the Synodal Fathers and, crowning the reflections of the Synod, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. The index is well compiled and makes for rapid and easy consultation.

With publication of this book, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops intends, with the help of the Lord, to continue the series begun under the editorship of the late Fr. Giovanni Capril S.J., so that Synod documentation may be freely available not only to Pastors and specialists but also to all those interested.

V. Conclusion

" The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (Rom 10:8). The Word of which St. Paul is speaking is the Message of salvation represented in the face of one person, Jesus Christ: " That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom 10:9). The Word from the mouth of God was already piercing in the Old Testament - it did not return to Him void, but had accomplished what He wished (cf. Is 55:11) - how much more incisive will be the o,goj the Word par excellence, whom God with his great love sent into the world to save it: " For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (Jn 3:17)!

Jesus Christ, the Logos made flesh, is the personification of the salvation which God intends for man. He brings it to fulfilment and is its true meaning. For us it is possible to understand it in the grace of the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ, after receiving it from the Father (cf. Acts 2:33), which He then shed abundantly on the Apostles and on the community of the faithful, the Church (cf. Tit 3:6). The Message of salvation is written in the Holy Scriptures and transmitted by means of the Tradition. Entrusted by Divine Providence to the ecclesial community, it is authentically interpreted by the Magisterium. The Church, animated by the Holy Spirit, guards it jealously and spreads it faithfully, obedient to the mandate of its Lord: " Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Ghost." (Mt 28:19).

This Synod should help to rediscover the Word of God in its Christological and pneumatological aspects, to help foster a renewal of the Church, a new spring, which by listening to each word from the mouth of God (cf. Mt 4: 4) understands itself to be continually young and dynamic: "The Church must constantly renew itself and rejuvenate itself and the Word of God, which never ages or wears out, is the necessary means towards that end." This rediscovery will inevitably bring significant consequences for missionary work and will naturally enlarge the ecclesial communion: communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that joy may be full (cf. 1 Jn 1:4). All those who discover the richness, the beauty, the power of conversion and the grace of transformation of the Word of God spontaneously become convinced witnesses and authentic messengers of the Good News: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Rom 10:17).

The mission is precisely the vocation of christians, the beloved of God who, through baptism, have received the vocation towards holiness. The history of salvation offers numerous examples of people who in exemplary fashion have known how to hear the Word of God, live according to that Word and make it known to others. It is enough to mention just some of the great figures, first listeners then evangelizers, in the Old Testament: Abraham, Moses, the Prophets; and in the New Testament: Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the other Apostles, the Evangelists. Every Saint is in some way a witness to the potency of the Word of God which fell on the fertile ground of his heart and bore its fruit "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." (Mt 13:23). Witnesses also are the Blessed whom the Holy Father Benedict XVI will canonize on Sunday 12 October 2008.

In such a communion of holiness there is a uniquely special place for the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the Word made flesh. Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, is also the Listening Virgin. She shows the fecondity of the Word of God lived in obedience to faith (cf. Lk 1:38). Through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the welcoming will of God, in her breast the Word was made flesh. Mary became the first Tabernacle; in her the miracle of the eternal Word made flesh, become man, was completed; and brought the Message of salvation to our history. A similar miracle occurs at every celebration of the Eucharist, when through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the words of the priest spoken in persona Christi capitis, the bread becomes the Body and the wine becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ; the Word incarnate that becomes the food for eternal life (cf. Jn 6:27).

By putting our trust in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, we are expressing a vow that this Synodal Assembly may make a valid contribution towards the rediscovery of the Word of God, foster the path towards holiness of all its Members and arouse renewed energy for evangelization and human development. It is christian hope that the Church is called upon to live constantly and to announce near and far with the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit."] (Rom 15:13).

Thank you for listening with patience and may you work well in the name of the Lord!


[1]Among them are 4 Patriarch Cardinals, 1 Major Archbishops Cardinal.
[2]"neque posse eum verba deficere, qui credidisset in Verbum" Saint Gerolamus Epistola I, ad Innocentium, De Muliere septies percussa, PL 22,327.
[3]The following Churches sui iuris did not reply: the Patriarchy of Babylonia of the Chaldeans, the Major Archbishopric for the Syro-Malabar, the Major Archbishopric for Romania, the Ethiopian Metropolitan Church sui iuris and the Slovakian Metropolitan Church sui iuris, newly founded on 31 January 2008.
[4]The 8 institutions from which responses were not received were as follows: The Congregation for the Causes of Saints and The Congregation for Catholic Education, The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, The Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, for Social Communications, for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
[5]The following 11 Episcopal Conferences did not reply: Burundi, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, The Episcopal Conferences of Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Uruguay did not reply
[6]The Episcopal Conferences of Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Uruguay did not reply.
[7] The only Episcopal Conference not to reply was Iran.
[8] The Episcopal Conferences of Greece and Malta did not reply.
[9] The Episcopal Conferences of the Pacific (C.E.P.A.C.) and of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Isles did not send contributions.
[10] L'Osservatore Romano, 7-8 November 2005, p. 5.
[11] AAS 97 (2005) 957.
[12] Ratzinger J., Jesus of Nazareth, Rizzoli, Milan 2007.
[13] AAS 98 (2006), pp. 755-779.
[14] Ibid., 756
[15]Benedict XVI, Speech to participants at the international Congress marking the 40th anniversary of "Dei Verbum", L'Osservatore Romano, 17 September 2005, p. 5.
[16] Cf. l'Instrumentum laboris N. 25.

[Original text: Latin]



« To the angel of the Church in Smyrna write : 'These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again… Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches » (Rev 2:8,10-11).

We are united in the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to listen to what the Spirit says to today's Churches concerning « the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church ». We share the conviction of the Fathers of the Church, expressed by Saint Caesar of Arles that « the light of the soul and its eternal nourishment are none other than the Word of God, without which the soul cannot rejoice in its light nor in its life; our body dies, for the lack of absorbing food; in the same way, our soul perishes, for the lack of the Word of God ».[1]

The goal of the Synod is primarily a pastoral and missionary one. It consists in, together, listening to the Word of God to discern how the Spirit and the Church aspire to respond to the gift of the Word made flesh through the love of the Holy Scriptures and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God to all humanity. Let us make Saint Paul's prayer ours, which plunges us to the heart of the mystery of the Revelation:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Eph 3:14-21).

The Synod will propose pastoral orientations to « reinforce the practice of the encounter with the Word of God as the source of life », in focusing on the point of the reception of Vatican Council II regarding the Word of God in its relationship with renewed ecclesiology, ecumenism and dialogue with nations and religions.

Apart from the theoretical discussions, we are invited to embrace the Council's attitude : « Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: 'We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ' (1 Jn 1:2-3) » (DV 1).

Thanks to the Trinitarian and Christocentric vision of Vatican Council II, the Church renewed consciousness in its own mystery and mission. The Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, and the pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, develop an ecclesiology of communion that relies on the renewed concept of Revelation. In fact, the dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum marked a real turning point in the manner of dealing with Divine Revelation. Instead of privileging, as before, the noetic dimension of truths to be believed in, the Council Fathers emphasized the dynamic and dialogic accent [2] of Revelation as personal self-communication of God. Thus they put down the bases for a more vivid encounter and dialogue between God who calls and His people who respond.

This turning point was vastly welcomed as a decisive fact by theologians, exegetes and pastors.[3] However, one generally recognizes the fact that the Constitution Dei Verbum was not sufficiently received and that the turning point still has not achieved all the fruits desired and expected in the life and mission of the Church.[4] Taking into account the progress to date, the question should be: why has the model of personal communication [5] not penetrated the Church's conscience, prayer, and pastoral practices as well as the theological and exegetical method? The Synod should propose concrete solutions to bridge the lacunae and find a remedy to the ignorance of the Scriptures which adds to today's difficulties in evangelization.

We must recognize, in fact, that the life of faith and the missionary impulse of Christians are deeply affected by the socio-cultural phenomena such as secularization, religious pluralism, globalization and the explosion in means of communication, with consequences like: primarily the growing gap between rich and poor, the blossoming of esoteric sects, the threats to peace, without forgetting the actual assaults against human life and family.[6]

To these phenomena, we must add the Church's internal difficulties dealing with the transmission of faith in the family, the weaknesses in catechetical formation, the tensions between the ecclesial Magisterium and university level theology, the internal crisis of exegesis and its relationship with theology, and in a more general way «a similar separation sometimes exists between biblical scholars and the pastors and everyday people of the Christian community » (IL 7a).
The Synod must face this great challenge of the transmission of faith in the Word of God today. In a pluralistic world, marked by relativism and esoterism, [7] even the notion of Revelation poses questions [8] and calls for clarification.

Convocatio, communio, missio. Around these three keywords that translate the triple dimension (dynamic, personal and dialogic) of Christian Revelation, we will show the thematic structure of the Instrumentum laboris. The Word of God convokes, it activates communion with God's plan through obedience to faith and sends the chosen people towards nations. This Word of Covenant culminates in Mary, who embraces the Word made flesh in faith, the Desired one of nations. We will return to the three dimensions of the Word of Covenant as the Holy Spirit incarnated them in the history of salvation, the Holy Scriptures and ecclesial Tradition.

We ask the Holy Spirit to amplify this desire to rediscover the Word of God, ever new and never old. This Word has the power to « return to the world », to rejuvenate the Church and to incite new hope in view of the mission. Benedict XVI reminded us that this great hope is based on the certitude that « God is Love » [9] and that « in Christ, God manifested himself » [10] for the salvation of all.



« In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum » (Jn 1:1s). To begin, we must start from the Mystery of a God that speaks, a God who is Himself the Word and gives himself to be known by humanity in many ways (Heb 1:1). Thanks to the Bible, humanity knows it has been called upon by God ; the Spirit helps it to listen and welcome the Word of God, thus becoming the Ecclesia, the community assembled by the Word. This community of faithful receives its identity and its mission from the Word of God that founds it, nourishes it and engages it to the service of the Kingdom of God.[11]

Let us clarify from the start the many meanings of the Word of God. John's prologue offers the highest and most embracing perspective to bring about these clarifications. With the term Logos, the evangelist designated a transcendental reality that was with God and that is God himself. This Logos is « with God, and the Word was God. » (Jn 1:1) in the beginning, in other words before all things, in God himself ( ). The end of the prologue points out the divine, personal nature of the Logos with these words : « No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known » (Jn 1:18).

In his letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians, Saint Paul expresses the Mystery of Christ, the Word of God, in more or less the same way : « He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by him and for him. » (Col 1:15-16). In his plan for salvation, God wanted « to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory » (Eph 1:10-12).


The Word of God therefore means, in the first place, God Himself who speaks, who expresses in Himself a Divine Word belonging to his intimate mystery. This Divine Word gives origin to all things, because « without him nothing was made that has been made » (Jn 1:3). He mentions many languages, more specifically the language of material creation, of life and of the human being. « In him was life, and that life was the light of men » (Jn 1:4). He also speaks in a particular and even dramatic way about the history of man, through the choosing of a people, through the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

Finally, after having spoken of the many ways (cf. Heb 1:1), He summarises everything and crowns it all in unique, perfect and definitive way in Jesus Christ. «Et Verbum caro factum est er habitavit in nobis» (Jn 1:14). The Mystery of the Divine Word made flesh is the core of the prologue and all of the New Testament. « For this reason Jesus 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. Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us » (DV 4).

The Word of God, witnessed by Scripture, consequentially has different forms and harbors different levels of meaning. She shows God Himself who speaks, His Divine Word, His creative and saving Word, and finallyHis Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, « the mediator and the fullness of all revelation » (DV 2). For Luke, the Word of God is identified also with the oral teachings of Jesus (Lk 5:1-3), as can be seen in the Paschal Message, the kerygma, which, through the apostles' preaching, « grows and multiplies » in keeping with a living organism (Acts 12:24). This Word of God, one and multiple, dynamic and eschatological, personal and filial, lives and enlivens the Church through faith. She is deposited in the Holy Scriptures as a historical and literary witness, as the sacred repository destined to all humanity. Hence this new and decisive modality of the Word of God, the sacred text, the written form that the people of Israel held as testimony of the first Covenant. Hence also, the Writings of the New Testament that the Church received, in turn, from the Holy Spirit and Apostolic Tradition, Scriptures, she considers as norms and definitive to her life and mission.

Briefly, the written or transmitted Word of God is a word of dialogue and also trinitarian. Offered to man in Jesus Christ to introduce him to trinitary communion and to find his full identity. According to John's prologue, this personal Word of God calls to humanity and immediately poses the question of reception : « But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God » (Jn 1 :12).

God speaks and, because of this, man is a called-upon being. This anthropological dimension of Revelation is laconically expressed in the Constitution Dei Verbum 2 : « through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature ». The Fathers of the Church have used the traditional doctrine of Imago Dei on this anthropological theme. For example, Saint Irenaeus, commenting on Saint Paul, speaks of the Son and the Spirit as the « hands of the Father » which make man in « the image and semblance of God ».[12]

It is important to maintain this anthropological dimension of Revelation, because it plays an important role today in the hermeneutics of Biblical texts. Vatican Council II redefined the dialogic identity of man, starting from the Word of God in Christ. The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. "For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear." (GS 22 § 1). Thus it appears that, in this Christological light, in embracing this supreme vocation through faith and love, man reaches his full personal identity in the Church, the mystery of communion, "people assembled in the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." [13]

On the pastoral level, should we not verify that this dialogic and filial anthropology founded on Christ occupies its proper place in the Liturgy, in catechesis and in theological teaching? DV reminds us: "For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life" (DV 21).

We have stated that the Divine vocation of man is enlightened in the mystery of the Word made flesh, the new Adam. This vocation confers upon him a transcendental dynamism, under the mode of a deep desire for God, inscribed within his own being. Man is a being of desires who aspires to the infinite, but he is also a being of service who obeys the Word of God: "I am the Lord's servant" (Lk 1:38). All anthropology is played in this passage from desire to service that makes man an ecclesial being, an anima ecclesiastica.


1. The Daughter of Zion and the Church

« In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God » (Roman Canon).

A woman, Mary, perfectly accomplishes the divine vocation of humanity by her "yes" to the Word of Covenant and her mission. Through her divine motherhood and her spiritual motherhood, Mary appears as the permanent model and form for the Church, like the first Church. Let us look briefly at the flesh-and-blood dimension of Mary, between the old and the new Covenant, who accomplishes the passage from Israel's faith to the Church's faith. Let us contemplate the Annunciation, which is the unsurpassable origin and model for self-communication with God and the experience of faith in the Church. This will be used as a paradigm to understand the dialogic identity of the Word of God in the Church.

The God who speaks clarifies the Trinitarian dimension of Revelation. The Angel of the Annunciation speaks in the name of God the Father, who takes the initiative to address his creature to show his vocation and mission. This is an event of grace whose content is communicated despite the fear and astonishment of his creature: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God". In the ensuing lively dialogue, Mary asks: "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?". The angel answers: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Lk 1:35).

Apart from this Trinitarian dimension of the event, Mary's dialogue with the angel shows us, at the same time, the vital reaction of the person called upon, her fear, her perplexity, and her asking for an explanation. God respects the freedom of his creature, this is why he adds the sign of the fertility of Elizabeth which allows Mary to agree in a way that is at the same time supernatural and fully human. "I am the servant of God. May it be to me as you have said » (Lk 1:38). Spouse of the living God, Mary becomes the mother of the Son through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

As soon as Mary agrees unconditionally to the angel's announcement, the Trinitarian life enters her soul, her heart and her bosom, inaugurating the mystery of the Church. Because the Church of the New Testament begins to exist where the Word made flesh is embraced, cherished and served with full availability to the Holy Spirit. This life of communion with the Word in the Spirit begins with the Angel's announcement and extends to Mary's existence. This life includes all the stages of the growth and the mission of the Word made flesh, in particular the eschatological event of the Cross where Mary receives from Jesus himself the announcement of the fullness of her spiritual maternity: "Woman, here is your son" (Jn 19:26). In all its stages, through "her initial and permanent YES",[14] Mary communes with the life of God who gives himself and she collaborates fully with his plan for salvation for all humanity. She is the new Eve sung by Irenaeus, who participates as the spouse of the Lamb to the universal fertility of the Word made flesh.

The event of the annunciation and Mary's life illustrate and recapitulate the structure of the Covenant of the Word of God and the responsorial attitude of faith. They emphasize the personal and Trinitarian nature of faith, which consists in a gift of the person to God who gives himself through revealing himself.[15] "This attitude is the attitude of saints. It is the same as the Church's who never ceases converting to her Lord in response to the voice addressed to her".16 This is why attention to the figure of Mary as model and even archtype17 of the Church's faith appears to be capital to concretely operate a change of paradigm in the relationship with the Word of God. This change of paradigm does not obey the philosophy of the day, rather it is the rediscovery of the original source of the Word, the vital dialogue of the Trine-God with the Church, his Spouse, achieved in the holy Liturgy. "Effectively, for the accomplishment of this great work by which God is perfectly glorified and men sanctified, Christ is always associated with the Church, his truly-loved Spouse, who invokes her as the Lord and who goes through him to give her worship to the Eternal Father".[18]

2. Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium

To speak about the Liturgy as the Church's vital dialogue with God, means speaking about tradition in its first perception, that is to say, the living transmission of the mystery of the new Covenant. Tradition is constituted by apostolic preaching, it precedes the Scriptures, elaborates and accompanies always: The Word of God preached engenders faith, which will be expressed at its summit by baptism and the Eucharist. This in fact is where God in Christ offers his life to men "so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself." (DV 2). This is also where the Church, on behalf of all humanity, answers the God of the Covenant by offering herself with Christ for His glory and for the salvation of the world.

In the living tradition of the Church, the Word of God takes first place: it is the living Christ. The written Word testifies to this. In effect, Scripture is a historical assertion and a canonic reference that are necessary for prayer, the life and the doctrine of the Church. However, Scripture is not all the Word, it is not totally identified with her, from which stems the importance of the distinction between the Word and the Book, like between the letter and the Spirit. Saint Paul asserts forcefully that we are the ministers "of a new Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit,; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). It is clear that the letter of the Scripture plays a primordial and normative role in the Church, but "Christianity is not truly a 'religion of the book'. It is the religion of the Word - but not solely or mainly of the Word in its written form. It is the religion of the Word - and not of a written and mute word, but a Word made flesh and living".[20] This religion of the Word however is inseparable from the written Word, maintaining with it a complex but essential relationship.

The unity of living tradition and Holy Scriptures rests on the Holy Spirit's assistance to those working in the pastoral ministry. "But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one repository of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed" (DV 10).

The assistance given to the Magisterium by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Tim 1:14) completes the action exercised in creation and the history of salvation. In fact, the Holy Spirit is at work in history, inciting "actions" and "words" that have interpreted events and that were handed over in the written form in the Holy books (DV I, 2). The historical and critical exegesis made us more conscious of the complex human mediation that intervened in the elaboration of the holy texts, nevertheless the Holy Spirit guided all the history of salvation, he inspired the oral and written interpretation and created its culmination in Christ and the Church. Saint Paul poetically describes "the Word of God" as the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17). He excels in giving value to the role of the Spirit in God's plan, especially in the magisterial synthesis of the Epistle to the Ephesians (cf. 1:13, 2:22, 3:5). We should note however that the Holy Spirit's action does not oppose the dialogic dimension or the doctrinal dimension, as the Magisterium of the Church attempts to recall, all placing the accent in DV on the personal, dialogic dimension, starting from self-communication of God in Christ.

"It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls" (DV 10). Despite this delicate balance that has many ecumenical implications, tensions exist and the reflection is to pursue these fundamental questions that determine the way of reading the Scriptures, interpreting them and making them fruitful to the life and mission of the Church.

Convocatio: God convokes his creatures to living by his Word. He calls man to dialogue in his Son and calls the Church to share his Divine life in the Spirit. We wished to conclude this part on the identity of the Word of God with a section on the Church, the Spouse of the Word made flesh. Despite the complexities of the relationship between Scriptures, Tradition and Magisterium, the Holy Spirit assures a unity to the whole, especially if we maintain the responsorial and even nuptial dynamic of the relationship of the Covenant. In placing the ecclesial functions of Scriptures, Tradition and Magisterium within a Marian ecclesiology, we invite a change of the paradigm where the emphasis passes from the Noetic dimension to the personal dimension of Revelation. The archetypical figure of Mary allows emphasizing the dynamic dimension of the Word and the personal nature of faith as a gift of oneself, all while inviting the Church to live under the Word and open to all actions by the Holy Spirit.


In this second part, we will deal with the Word of God in the life of the Church, beginning with the Church's dialogue with God in the holy Liturgy, which is the crib of the Word, its Sitz im Leben.[21] Then we deal with the Lectio Divina and ecclesial interpretation of Holy Scriptures, placing the accent on the research for a spiritual meaning, thus inviting to renewal with the exegesis of the Fathers of the Church.


1. The Sacred Liturgy

The Liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ, exercise in which the integral public worship is practiced by the mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is to say the Head and His members (cf. SC 7). This is why the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium insists on the different modalities of the presence of Christ in the Liturgy. "He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross, but especially under the Eucharistic species". "He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church" (SC 7).

"He is speaking as we read the Holy Scriptures in the Church". We cannot insist enough on the pastoral implications of this solemn council assertion. It reminds us that the primary subject of the holy Liturgy is Christ Himself, addressing his People and offering himself to his Father as sacrifice of love for the salvation of the world. Even if in the achievement of liturgical rites the Church seems to have a primary role, in truth, she only plays a subordinate role, at the service of the Word and He who speaks. Church -centricism is alien to the Council reforms. When the Word is announced, it is Christ speaking in the name of His Father, and the Holy Spirit makes us embrace His Word and be in communion with His life. The Liturgical assembly exists inasmuch as it is centered on the Word and not on itself. Otherwise, it degenerates into any sort of social group.

Because of this insistence, the Church teaches us that the Word of God is above all God who speaks. Already in the first Covenant, God speaks to His people through Moses, who returns with the answer of the people to the words of Yahweh "everything Yahweh has asked of us, we shall do" (Ex 19:8)[22] God speaks to us less to teach than to communicate Himself and "introduce us to His communion" (DV 2). The Holy Spirit realizes this communion in assembling the community around the Word and in practicing the Paschal Mystery of Christ, where he gives himself up in communion. Because, according to the Scriptures, the mission of the Word made flesh culminates in the communication of the Divine Spirit [23]. In this Trinitarian and pneumatological light, it is made clearer that the holy Liturgy is the living dialogue between God who speaks and the community that listens and answers with praise, acts of grace and engages in the life and the mission. How to cultivate in the faithful the conscience that the Liturgy is the practice of the priestly function of Jesus Christ to whom the Church is associated as the beloved Spouse? What consequences should arise from the rediscovery of this original place of the Word on the Biblical hermeneutics, on the celebration of the Eucharist and in particular in the place and function of the Liturgy of the Word, including the homily?

a) Word and Eucharist

"The Church has always venerated the Sacred Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body" (DV 21).

In comparing the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist at two "tables", DV wished to underline, rightly so, the importance of the Word. This expression goes back to a traditional given that we find strongly asserted by Origen, for example, when he exhorts respect of the Word as to the Body of Christ. "While speaking of his body, you rightly bring many precautions, why would you be negligent with the Word of God by granting any less chastisement than that of the Body?"[24]

If we wish to maintain the metaphor of two tables, shouldn't we nuance the way of worshiping them?[25] Shouldn't we underline also and above all their unity for they serve the same "Bread of life"! (Jn 6:35-58) to the faithful? Be it under the form of the Word to be believed or the Flesh to be eaten, the proclaimed Word and the Word pronounced on the oblates participating at the same sacramental event. The Liturgy of the Word bears in itself a spiritual force that is strengthened by its intrinsic bond with the practice of the Paschal Mystery: the Word of God that becomes sacramental Flesh through the power of the Spirit. This sacramental mystery is achieved through words, as was recalled at the Council of Trent,[26] and also through the action of the Holy Spirit, who rests on the ordained minister and is explicitly invoked in the epiclesis.

The Spirit confers on the Word proclaimed in the Liturgy a performative virtue, in other words, "living" and "active" (Heb 4:12). This means that the liturgical Word, such as the Gospel " is not merely a communication of things that can be known--it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing.".[27] This performative virtue of the liturgical Word depends on the fact that He who speaks does not wish to teach his Word, rather he would communicate of himself. He who listens and answers does not adhere only to abstract truths; they engage themselves personally with their whole life, thus manifesting their identity as a member of the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the key to this vital piece of communication. He is the one who models the sacramental and ecclesial Body of Christ, just as he modeled in Mary His Body of flesh and according to Origen's word, the "body of Scriptures".[28] Thus, with the Son and the Spirit, "the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them" (DV 21). How can we shape disciples and ministers capable of underlining the Trinitary and responsorial dimension of the Liturgy? These pastoral incidents do not only require a reform in studies, but also a re-evaluation of contemplation of the Scriptures.

b) The homily

Despite the renewal that the homily was made subject of the Council, we still feel great lack of satisfaction on the part of many faithful with regards to the ministry of preaching. In part, this lack of satisfaction explains why many Catholics turned towards other groups and religions. To resolve these problems in preaching, we know that it does not suffice to give priority to the Word of God, because it must also be interpreted correctly in the mystagogic context of the Liturgy. Nor does it suffice to turn towards exegesis or the use of new pedagogical means or technologies, nor does it suffice that the minister's personal life is in close harmony with the proclaimed Word. All this is very important, but may remain extrinsic to achieving the Paschal Mystery of Christ. How can we help homelists place the life and Word in relationship with this eschatological event that surges in the heart of the assembly? The homily must reach spiritual "depth", that is to say the Christology of Holy Scriptures.[29] How can we avoid the tendency towards moralism and cultivate the calling to a decision of faith?

The Instrumentum laboris underlined a passage in Luke 4:21 that mentions the "first homily" by Jesus in the Synagogue in Nazareth: "Then he began to speak to them, 'This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening". Luke's Gospel introduces this sequence in a solemn way, by making a summary of Jesus' preaching and destiny. In a certain way, the scene in the synagogue in Nazareth was a symbol of His life. The people were astounded by the message of grace that came from his mouth, but at the end, they were ready to throw him into the precipice. The beginning of his preaching was the prologue of the Paschal Mystery.

"This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening" (Lk 4:21). Between the today of the Risen One and the today of the assembly, there is the mediation of Scriptures brought by the Spirit on the lips of the homelist. "They were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips" (Lk 4:22). Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the text, explained rather simply and in a familiar way, is useful as a mediation for the encounter between Christ and the community. Thus, the accomplishment of Scriptures comes about in the faith of the community that embraces Christ as the Word of God. The today that is of interest to the preacher is the today of faith, the decision of faith to abandon oneself to Christ and to obey Him to the moral needs of the Gospel..

The priest as minister of the Word completes what is missing in the preaching of Jesus for His body, which is the Church. He shares the suffering of preparation, the difficulties of communication, but above all the joy in being an instrument of the Holy Spirit in the service of a radical event: "man's welcome to the offering of God's love that presents itself to him in Christ".[30]

c) The Divine Office

God continues to speak with His people through His Son, in the Spirit, "not only by celebrating the Eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office" (SC 83). "Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise." Saint Augustine writes: "Thus, our Lord Jesus Christ, only Savior of his mystical Body, prays for us, prays in us and receives our prayers. He prays for us like our priest, He prays in us like our chief, He receives our prayer as our God. Therefore let us recognize that we speak in Him and He speaks in us".[31]

The divine Office is part of the practice of the priestly function of Jesus Christ, to whom the Church is intimately associated as the Spouse of the Word made flesh. The renewal of the Divine Office, realized by the Council, produced great fruits in the Church thanks to the development of a vaster practice in simplified forms that allow frequent and praying contact with the Word of God. This monastic and conventual practice, with Patristic readings, is a constitutive element of ecclesial tradition and represents, in consequence, an important reference for interpreting Scriptures in the Church.

This ecclesial practice embodies the spiritual finality of the Holy Scriptures and underlines the unsurpassed prayer in the Psalms. "For although all our Scripture, both the Old and New, is divinely inspired and useful for doctrine, as it is written, the Book of Psalms", St. Athanasius writes, " like a paradise containing in itself (the fruits) all the others, gives forth songs, and with them also shows its own songs in psalmody."[32] He who sings the psalms is in front of a "mirror", where he can find his true feelings, like St. Augustine who confessed: "These voices poured into my ears and truth became clear in my heart and then feelings of piety grew warm within me and my tears flowed and it was well with me for them".[33]

The Synod should recall at which point the fervent practice of the Divine Office, according to each community's norms, resides a precious leaven of community life and joy.[34] She embodies the Sequela Christi, the union of the two Spouses in the praise of love and intercession for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

2. Lectio divina

The Church's tradition also sees the practice of the Lectio Divina as a savory contemplation of the Holy Scriptures, in the way Mary meditated all the mysteries of Jesus in her heart. "Mary sought the spiritual sense of the Scriptures and found it, associating it (symballousa) with the written words, the life of Jesus and the moments of discovery in her personal history." In this, "Mary becomes an example of faith for all of us, from the most simple soul to the most scholarly of the Doctors of the Church, who seek, consider and set forth how to bear witness to the Gospel."[35]

Pope Benedict XVI writes: "Above all, I would like to evoke and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina. Frequent reading of the Divine Scriptures, accompanied by prayer, achieves intimate dialogue in which, while reading we listen to God who speaks and by praying we answer Him with the openness of a trusting heart". (cf. DV 25). "If this practice is promoted efficiently, it will bear a new spiritual spring to the Church. I am convinced of this."[36]

For the practice of the Lectio Divina to be lived more fruitfully, the text from DV 23 puts us in the right light by calling upon the Church, the Spouse of the Word made flesh, that is enlivened and taught by the Holy Spirit. This ecclesiological marriage introduces the climate of love and reciprocity that favor the contemplation of Scriptures. This precious indication helps us become conscious of ecclesiological presuppositions that play a role, more important than it would seem, in the dialogue with God to even the Holy text. In the measure that the Church, in her members, perceives herself as a beloved spouse, the object of a chosen love, it becomes natural to turn lovingly to the Holy Scriptures as towards the never-ending source of Divine Love.[37]

"In this matter, the outstanding exegesis of the Church Fathers should be taken up again and properly understood as well as the great medieval institutions of the 'four senses of Scripture', and interest in them kept alive".[38] The practice of the Lectio Divina will bear fruit as long as it is bathed in an atmosphere of trust towards the Scriptures, which presupposes an exegesis of the text " in the sacred spirit in which it was written" (DV 12). In this context, we cannot encourage enough "the study of the holy Fathers of both East and West and of sacred liturgies" (DV 23).

Briefly, the Lectio Divina can bring much to the Church's dialogue with God, the formation of disciples and Christian communities, and even towards closeness between the Churches and ecclesial communities through the "common spiritual reading of the Word of God".[39]

We hope the Synod will encourage the search for new strategies, simple and attractive, adaptable to the whole of the Christian people or to particular categories of faithful, to develop the taste and the practice of continuous reading, community as well as personal, of the Word of God.

B. Ecclesial interpretation of the Word of God

1. Elements of problematics

Since apostolic times, interpretation of the Scriptures in the Church gave way to conflicts and recurring tensions. Schisms and separations also added other obstacles. Parallel to these unhappy events, exegesis and theology separated, not only one from the other, but also from the spiritual interpretation of Scriptures that was current during the Patristic Age .[40] The contemplative model of monastic and patristic theology gave way to a speculative and often polemic model, under the influence of errors to be fought and historical, philosophical and scientific discoveries. Let also add the anthropocentric turning-point of modern thought, which has discarded the metaphysics of being in favor of an immanent epistemology. Prisoner of the enchanting enclosure of the "cogito" (Ricœur), man is fascinated by his own speculative feats (Hegel), however he loses the feeling of wonder when facing the mystery of being and Revelation..[41]

In this context of separation and conflict between faith and reason, we see a questioning of the unity of the Scriptures and excessive fragmentation of interpretations. From now on, the internal relationship of exegesis and faith no longer creates unanimity, and tensions against exegetes, pastors and theologians increase.[42] Certainly, we complete, more and more, the historic and critical exegesis through other methods, where some retie with the tradition and history of exegesis.[43] However, in a more general fashion, after several decades of concentration upon human meditations on the Scriptures, should we not find again the divine depth of the inspired text, without losing the precious acquisitions from new methodologies?

We cannot overemphasize this point because the crisis of exegesis and theological hermeneutics has a profound effect on the spiritual life of the People of God and their trust in the Scriptures. It also affects ecclesial communion, because of the climate of often unhealthy tension between university theology and ecclesial Magisterium. Faced with this delicate situation, and without getting into the debates on schools, the Synod must give a direction, to heal relationships and favor integration of acquired knowledge from biblical and hermeneutical sciences into the ecclesial interpretation of Holy Scriptures[44]

In this sense, dialogue promoted by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, should be intensified, so as to study the contrasting points in a multi-disciplinary way and with respect towards the various competencies , and thus to prepare the judgment of the Church that must carry out "the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God." (DV 12). The Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission play an important role, which is greatly appreciated. The Synod should recognize the precious contribution of these organisms and encourage joint sessions[45] to intensify dialogue between pastors, theologians and exegetes. It could also suggest regional encounters of the same kind that would help cultivate a healthy atmosphere of communion and service of the Word of God. Also, the Synod could propose using the spiritual meaning of Scriptures as axis of integration in this search for unity.[46]

2. The spiritual meaning of Scripture

Father de Lubac writes: "The attentive theologian recognizes, without hesitation, that the existence of a dual literal and spiritual meaning is an inalienable given of tradition. It is part of the Christian patrimony. It [the spiritual sense] is, let us reiterate with the Fathers, the New Testament itself, with all its fruitfulness, reveals itself to us as the accomplishment and transfiguration of the Old Testament"[47] According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the spiritual sense presupposes the literal meaning and is based upon it.[48] However, any symbolic or spiritual interpretation must maintain homogeneity with the literal meaning. Because, "admitting heterogenous meanings would mean cutting the Biblical message away from its roots, which are the Word of God proclaimed historically, and opening the door to uncontrollable subjectivism".[49]

This fear of subjectivism and the lack of contemporary reflection on scriptural inspiration explains the slowness of contemporary Catholic exegesis in being truly interested in the spiritual meaning of Scriptures.[50] However, a significant evolution is coming forth in this sense: the PBC writes, "In general, we can define the spiritual sense, understood according to Christian faith, as the sense expressed by the Biblical texts, when read under the influence of the Holy Spirit in the context of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and the resulting new life"[51] This definition truly follows the orientation given in DV 12, which asks to interpret the Biblical texts in the same Spirit as they were written.

In effect, the Spirit prepares the events in the Old and New Testaments according to a progression going from the promise to the achievement; through the Spirit these events have been interpreted with prophetic or knowledgeable words, to lead the People of God, through purification and subsequent searches, to the encounter with Jesus Christ, the fullness of Revelation. In the end, the spiritual meaning of Scriptures, "the true meaning remains that of the Holy Spirit".[52] Saint Bernard writes: "As for me, as the Lord taught me, I will look in the deep recesses of the holy word for his Spirit and his living meaning; this is my part, because I believe in Jesus Christ. How could I not draw from a dead and insipid letter a savory and healthy spiritual food, as we separate the grain from the husk, the nut from its shell or how to extract the marrow from a bone? I have nothing to do with this letter having the taste of flesh and that gives death to those who swallow it. But with what is hidden under its envelope comes from the Holy Spirit"[53].

The practice of spiritual exegesis of the Scriptures here requires once again a pneumatological search. It is not enough to read "influenced by the Holy Spirit", one must try to perceive the Spirit that is contained in the letter. Thus, the Holy Spirit is no longer simply an extrinsic agent of the creation of the Holy Scriptures, he is the one who, in the Bible, expresses himself in concert with the Word of God, which is Jesus Christ. In prolonging this search, it would be opportune for the Synod to ask itself about the pertinence of a possible encyclical on the interpretation of Scriptures in the Church.

3. Exegesis and theology

Exegesis and theology deal with the same object, the Word of God, but from different and complementary perspectives. The exegete studies the "letter" of the Scriptures "in the sacred spirit in which it was written"[54] for "the meaning of the sacred texts to be correctly worked out" (DV 12). He pays attention to the historical genesis of the texts, their literary genre, their structure, but also to the relationship between the different books of the Bible and between the two Testaments. The Synod should welcome the renewed interest in the canonic approach to Scriptures and the efforts to propose syntheses of common Biblical theology as interesting steps forward towards a global knowledge of the Scriptures. The theologian, also, makes efforts to interpret the "letter" for "unity of the whole of Scripture", keeping in mind "the living tradition of the whole Church" (DV 12), philosophical and other languages that mark the culture of his time, while respecting as much as possible the particular sensitivities of his contemporaries.

Exegetes and theologians know that "the Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and since they are inspired, they truly are the Word of God; and so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology" (DV 24). This Word of God is always and simultaneously the Word of Faith, the witness of a people and its inspired authors. Therefore, the exegetical and theological methods should reflect interdependence of the "letter", of the Spirit and of the faith in the work of interpretation. The Covenant relationship between God and His people lives within the text itself and commands not only a noetic interpretation, but one that is also dynamic and dialogic. In brief, either the exegetes and the theologians rigorously interpret the Bible in faith and listening to the Spirit, or they hold to the superficial characteristics of the text, limiting the considerations to historical, linguistic or literary ones.

Among the urgent tasks of the study, it is important to research theological epistemology, aided by the Fathers of the Church and the saints. By their personal and methodical attitude of contemplative faith , they open themselves up to the depths of the text, that is to say to the presence of God who speaks now to this person and calls upon the listener. From this stems their witness of a "science of love[55]"in which dwells the path of access "par excellence" to the knowledge of God. "The inspired justice which the less speculative saints insist upon for certain aspects of Christian life could have unforeseen effects on the living theology of the Church. Remember the rule of St. Benedict, the testament of St. Francis of Assisi, the Exercises by St. Ignatius"[56].Even if the aforementioned saints are not theologians by profession, the accents true to their life are used as "canons" and rules of interpretation of Revelation, because "it is those who love who know the most about God. This is who the theologian must listen to". [57] Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus knew that her path of spiritual childhood was an example to be imitated and St. Paul, in the Christian Bible, also gives of himself as a model.

"For an anthropological ethic, the honesty with which Saint Paul shows in himself the Christian holiness - to demonstrate the dogmatic truth - and presents the analysis of his own existence before the whole Church and before the world will always be shocking, But this is but the exact and docile reflection, on the ecclesial plane, of the extraordinary assertion of Christ, that he is himself in his existence living the truth of God".[58] "The way St. Francis understands the Scriptures can be distinguished by some essential points, from those of his biographers. They are familiar with the scientific methods of that time and engage in a symbolic exegesis where no limitation is imposed on imagination. It is completely different in Francis: he has no idea about the hermeneutical principles accepted during his era. His exegesis is realistic, concrete, his imagination is tied to the letter of the Scriptures".[59] Briefly, the saints contemplate the depths of God that emerge from the Holy Scriptures with the eyes of the Spirit.[60] "The saints are to the Gospel as is a sung partition in relationship to a noted partition", Saint Francis de Sales writes.[61]


We have placed the Word of God in the life of the Church under the sign of Communio, because the Word embraced with faith introduces us into Trinitarian communion. The experience of this communion leads to an ever deeper conversion to Love and participation in the missionary and eschatological dynamism of the Word of God. Enlivened by the Spirit of Pentecost, this Synod wishes to echo this dynamism.

"The Word of God began to spread and to gain followers", says the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12:24). It made adepts among the Jews and the pagans, as witnessed by Peter himself to the community of Jerusalem in speaking about the effusion of the Holy Spirit over the pagans. "In this powerful way the word of the Lord spread more and more widely and successfully" (Acts 19:20), building up the Church and communicating the peace of the Kingdom (cf. Acts 9:31).

A. Proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God

1. The Church, Servant of the Word

The Church "has a vivid awareness of the fact that the Savior's words, "I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God," apply in all truth to herself: She willingly adds with St. Paul: 'Not that I boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty that has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it' (1 Cor 9:16). The heart of the mission of the Church is to evangelize. Evangelizing means: "to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection." (EN 14). "For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: 'Now I am making the whole of creation new' (Rev 21:5)" (EN 18).

In achieving her evangelizing mission, the Church welcomes and holds the Word of God. Through prophecy, the Liturgy and the diaconate, she testifies to the personal dynamism of the Word made flesh. Bishops, priests, deacons, laity and consecrated persons all dwell under the Word and act concertedly with it, according to the charism they received from the Spirit. Thus collaborating with the Word of God, the Church participates in the mission of the Spirit that assembles the "scattered children of God" (Jn 11:52) "under Christ, as head" (Eph 1:10).

2. The historical Jesus of the Gospels

As during Apostolic times, the Church proclaims the Kingdom of God, that is to say Jesus Christ, as presented by the Gospels. Now, this task has been put aside because of the influence of currents of exegesis that dug a trench between the Jesus in history and the "Christ of faith". These exegetic currents have questioned the historical worth of the Gospels, thus undermining the credibility of the text. "Such a situation is dramatic for faith, because the true balancing point upon which all depends - intimate friendship with Jesus - remains uncertain", Benedict XVI declares. [62] It is true that for the past few decades, Biblical studies have re-established the historical value of the Gospels[63] and even re-asserted their biographical characteristic[64]. These results are still not widely known and have not corrected the negative impact of rationalistic exegesis on spiritual life and the missionary witness of Christians.

In this context, the publication of the book "Jesus of Nazareth" by Pope Benedict XVI represents a major event that frees access to the authentic figure of Jesus. It shows that the divine identity of Jesus, historically recorded by the Gospels, emerges from the texts themselves and its coherent and credible witness in the New Testament. While enhancing the positive aspects of historical and critical exegesis, the Pope underlines his own methodological limits and hopes for the development of "canonical exegesis" to complete theological interpretation. The liberating attitude of Benedict XVI consists in "trusting in the Gospels", in presenting "the Jesus of the Gospels as a real Jesus", as an "historical Jesus" in the proper sense of the term[65].

In no way is this book "an act of the Magisterium"[66] , it remains nevertheless a beacon that protects from pitfalls and wreckage. Its witness is close to theology and exegesis through the harmonious union of scientific competence and personal witness by an ecclesial authority. It goes without saying that such a work helps dissipate the confusion sown by certain mediatic phenomena[67] and relaunch the Church's dialogue with contemporary culture. The Synod could recognize this book as an important place for the new foundation of a contemplative culture of the Gospels.

B. Incarnating the testimony of God-Love

1. The primacy of love

When the Spirit speaks to the Church today in recalling the Scriptures, He calls her to a new testimony of love and unity to raise credibility in the Gospel faced with a world more attuned towards witnesses than doctors: "It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples" (Jn 13:35). This sign of reciprocal love continues the witness of God, because it embodies the love of Jesus himself, who said: "you must love one another just as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34). This "just" means love each other with the same love that I love you. All the ministerial prayer of Jesus, synthesis of his Paschal offering, aims at associating humanity to the testimony of the unity of the Trinity: "I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me" (Jn 17:22-23). Gregory of Nyssa identifies the Glory with the Spirit[68], who also prays with Christ so that his disciples may be consecrated in the truth, that is to say consumed in the unity. This solemn prayer shows well that faithfulness to the commandment of love engages not only the salvation of the believer, but also and above all credibility of the Trinity in the world. "May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me" (Jn 17:21).

Consequently, the witness of the Word of God demands that the missionary disciples [69] be authentic witnesses of the primacy of love over science. Saint Paul states without hesitation in the hymn to love in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor:1-13) as well as in his exhortation to the Philippians: "make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind" (Phil 2:2) following Christ's example in his kenosis. "These are not arid manuals, even if full of indubitable truths, which can express the truth of the Gospel and make it plausible to the world, it is the existence of the saints taken over by the Holy Spirit of Christ. Christ did not foresee any other apologetics (Jn 13:35).[70]

2. Ecumenical testimony

After the official entry of the Catholic Church in the ecumenical movement, popes made a priority of the cause for Christian unity. Also, the ecumenical "rapprochement" allowed the Churches and ecclesial communities to question themselves together about their own faithfulness to the Word of God. Although the ecumenical encounters and dialogue have produced fruits of brotherhood, reconciliation and mutual aid, the situation today is characterized by a certain degree of discomfort that calls for a deeper conversion to "spiritual ecumenism"[71] . "This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name, spiritual ecumenism" (UR 8)

This orientation of the Council maintains its relevance as exhorted by the Holy Father: "Together listen to the Word of God, practice the Lectio Divina of the Bible, that is to say reading associated with prayer, marvel at the novelty that never ages and never fades, the Word of God, to overcome our deafness to those words that do not agree with our prejudice and our opinions, to listen to study in the communion of believers of all times, all this makes up a path to follow to achieve unity in faith, as a response to listening to the Word" [72].

Among the many ecumenical witnesses of our time, let us mention as an example, the Focolari movement founded by Chiara Lubich, whose spirituality of unity places the accent on "mutual love" and obedience to the Word of life". The pedagogy of this movement correctly gives priority to the dynamic element of love in relationship to the noetic element of the Word. This priority demands an ever deeper conversion to the plan of love of the Trinitarian God from all the ecumenical partners, that the Holy Spirit tries to achieve with the "groans that cannot be put into words" (Rom 8:26).

It is significant that this Catholic and ecumenical movement - should we not use "Catholic" only, that is to say ecumenical? - bears the canonic name of "Work of Mary". We can see happily and harmoniously drawn - as in other movements[73] the Biblical movement, the ecumenical movement, and the Marian movement, thanks to the resolute exercise of the Word of God, made flesh and shared.[74] This witness recalls that unity of Christians and its missionary impact are not our first "task", but the task of the Spirit and of Mary[75].

C. Dialogue with nations and religions

1. At the service of man

The missionary activity of the Church is rooted, as we have said, in the mission of Christ and the Spirit that reveals and spreads the Trinitarian communion to all cultures in the world. The universal salvific breadth of the Paschal Mystery of Christ calls the announcement of the Good News to all nations and also to all religions. The Word of God invites all men in Jesus Christ, the only mediator (1 Tim 2:5, Heb 8:6, 9:5, 12:24). The missionary activity of the Church testifies Her love for the whole Christ which includes all cultures. In Her efforts for evangelization of cultures, this activity aims towards the unity of humanity in Jesus Christ, but all in respect and integration of all human values.[76] "Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honorable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire - with whatever is good and praiseworthy" (Phil 4:8).

In Her liturgical dialogue with God, the Church intercedes for all humans and especially for the poorest ones. Her passion for the Word of God draws Her to the footsteps of the poor, chaste and obedient Jesus, to bring hope, reconciliation and peace to all situations of injustice, oppression and war. Like the "Good Samaritan", this care for man, however he may be, expresses the Church's compassion for all human suffering and Her availability to help the poor and afflicted. Conscious of the presence of Jesus by Her side, as on the road to Emmaus, She interprets Scriptures, as He does, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets" and explaining the mystery of Jesus the Savior to all men. "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?" (Lk 24:26).

This exegesis of Jesus, continuously taken up by the Church, authenticates the Christological interpretation of the First Testament, which the Fathers, after Origen and Irenaeus, have largely developed. Today, bearing in mind the tragic history of the relations between Israel and the Church, we are invited not only to repair any injustice committed against the Jews, but also to a "new respect towards the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament"[77]. Respectful and constructive dialogue with Judaism may also be useful, on both sides, in studying the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures[78] .

2. Inter-religious dialogue

Among the partners of the different dialogues of the Church with nations, the Jewish people occupy a unique place as the heir of the first Covenant, whose Holy Scriptures we share. This common heritage invites us to hope, for "there is no change of mind on God's part about the gifts he has made or of his choice" (Rom 11:29), as passionately testified by Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans. "This is the truth and I am speaking in Christ, without pretense, as my conscience testifies for me in the Holy Spirit; there is great sorrow and unremitting agony in my heart: I could pray that I myself might be accursed and cut off from Christ, if this could benefit the brothers who are my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites; it was they who were adopted as children, the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises. To them belong the fathers and out of them, so far as physical descent is concerned, came Christ who is above all, God, blessed for ever. Amen" (Rom 9:1-5), "I want you to be quite certain, brothers, of this mystery, to save you from congratulating yourselves on your own good sense: part of Israel had its mind hardened, but only until the gentiles have wholly come in; and this is how all Israel will be saved. As scripture says" (Rom 11:25-26).

Then come the faithful to the Muslim faith, they too rooted in the Biblical tradition, believers in the one God. Faced with secularization and liberalism, they are allies in the defense of human life and in the assertion of the social importance of religion. Dialogue with them is more important than ever in today's circumstances "to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom" (NA 3). The testimony of the martyrs of Tibhirin in Algeria in 1996 raise this dialogue to a level never reached before in history, regarding the service of man and reconciliation of people. The audacious initiatives of Pope Benedict XVI plead for the persevering pursuit of dialogue with Islam.

Then finally come the humans "from every race, language, people and nation" (Rev 5:9), that are under the heavens, because the immolated Lamb shed his blood for all. The Word of God is especially destined to those who have never heard him, because, in God's heart and in the missionary conscience of the Church, the last have the grace of being the first.[79]

In a world on the path to globalization, with the new means of communication, the field of mission is open to new initiatives of evangelization with a spirit of authentic inculturation. We are in the era of Internet and the possibilities of access to the Holy Scriptures have multiplied[80]. The Synod must listen, discern and encourage the projects for the transmission and transposition of the Holy Scriptures in all these new languages that await serving the Word of God.


"Who can overcome the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? He it is who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with water alone but with water and blood, and it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is Truth. So there are three witnesses, the Spirit, water and blood; and the three of them coincide. If we accept the testimony of human witnesses, God's testimony is greater" (1 Jn 5:5-9).

Jesus always turns to the Church, "to bear witness to the Truth" and to communicate to all those who believe in his name knowledge of God, of which he is full. This message from John points out the first goal and the first concern of the Synod, once again, to listen to and to welcome the God who speaks and to ask for the grace of a renewed faith in his Word made flesh. Conscious of the ecclesiological renewal tied to the dynamic and dialogic concept of Revelation, we have suggested some paths to study the Word of God, beginning from Mary's faith such as she extends in the life of the Church, the Liturgy, preaching, Lectio Divina, exegesis and theology.

The application of this Marian paradigm presupposes a pneumatological study of the ecclesial tradition and the scriptural exegesis that account for the performative virtue of the Word of God, all while distinguishing it carefully from the Eucharistic presence. More than a library for the erudite, the Bible is a temple where the Spouse of the Canticle listens to the promises of the Beloved and celebrates his kisses (cf. Sg 1:1). Saint Siluane writes, "Who has learned from the Holy Spirit understands all, his soul should feel as if it were in Heaven, because the Holy Spirit Himself is in Heaven and on earth, in the Holy Scriptures and in the souls of all those who love God".[81]

This more dynamic rather than noetic perspective calls for a more contemplative theology, rooted in the Liturgy, the Fathers and the lives of the saints, exegesis practiced in a faith conforming to its object, and a philosophy of being and of love.

It opens to a more fruitful spiritual reading of the Bible, to an ecclesial interpretation of the Scriptures and to a revitalization of the missionary dialogue of the Church and Her love for man, imperfect image of God.

Saint Caesar of Arles frequently exhorts the people of his diocese to never neglect what he qualified as "nourishment for the soul for eternity. I beg of you, beloved brothers, to apply yourselves in consecrating as many hours as you can to the reading of the sacred texts".[82] Often, at the end of the day, he liked to ask his priests, about meditation on the Word of God, "What have you eaten today?" May we find the same availability, the same taste for the Word of God, and ask ourselves the same question: "What have we eaten today?".


[1] St. CAESAR OF ARLES, sermon VI.
[2] Instrumentum laboris, 4.
[3] The adjective "dialogic" is a neologism. It is used to express the personal and responsorial dimension of faith as dialogue with God. It corresponds in a certain way to the distinction between "theological" and "theologal", the first expressing the noetic aspect and the second the personal aspect.
[4] See J. Ratzinger, Commentary on Dei Verbum in LThK, 1967; A. Grillmeier in LThK Vat. II, vol. 2, Freiburg i. Br., 1967 ; H. de Lubac, Divine Revelation, Paris, Cerf, 1983, 190 p. ; A. Vanhoye, «The reception in the Church of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum. From Vatican Council II to the present day», in Esprit et Vie, n° 107, June 2004, 1re quinzaine, p. 3-13; H. Hoping: «Theologischer Kommentar zur Dogmatischen Konstitution über die göttliche Offenbarung. Dei Verbum», in P. Hünermann, B. J. Hilberath (Hrsg), Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil. Freiburg-Basel-Wien: Herder, 2005; 695-831; C. Théobald, « Revelation. Forty years after Dei Verbum», in Revue théologique de Louvain 36 (2005), p. 145-165.
[5] Instrumentum laboris, 6.
[6] M. Seckler, «Der Begriff der Offenbarung», in Handbuch der Fundamentaltheologie, Ed. W. Kern, vol.2, Freiburg i. Br., 1985, p. 64-67.
[7] Ibid.
[8] J. Rigal, «The gnostic phenomenon», in Esprit et Vie, no 192, April 2008 - 2e quinzaine, p. 1-10.
[9] P. Bordeyne et L. Villemin (dir.), The hermeneutic theology of Vatican II, Paris, Cerf (coll. «Cogitatio Fidei»), 2006, 268 p.
[10] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Deus caritas est.
[11] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Spe salvi, no 9.
[12] Jn 19, 25-27; Jn 20, 21-22; 1 P 2, 9-10.
[13] St Irenaeus of Lyon, Treatise against heresies, I, 3.
[14] St. Cyprian, De Orat. Dom. 23: PL 4, 553.
[15] Instrumentum laboris, 25.
[16] « We do not believe in formulas, but in those realities they express, which faith allows us to 'touch'. "The believer's act [of faith] does not terminate in the propositions, but in the realities (which they express)' (St.. Thomas Aquinas, S. th. 2-2, 1, 2, ad 2) » (CEC 170). The formal object of faith is the Person who announces and who gives Himself in His supreme announcement, Jesus Christ, and whom the Holy Spirit enables us to confess. Faith is essentially Trinitarian, it is an act of self-giving in response to the Tri-Personal gift from God. One can hear in the text of Dei Verbum that balance must still be achieved between the personal or dynamic aspect and the noetic aspect of faith.
[17] H. de Lubac, Scripture in Tradition, Aubier, 1966, p. 100.
[18] That is to say that Mary's life of faith is more than an example for the Church, She is mother, a permanent source of life for the Church.
[19] See Council of Trent, sess. XXII, 17 Sept. 1562, Decr. De Ss. Eucharist., c. 1."He wished to leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice." Lumen Gentium 4; Dei Verbum 8, 23; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7. See also : Eph 5: 21-32; Rev 22:17; Jn 2: Jn 19:25-27).
[20] H. de Lubac, Scripture in Tradition, Aubier, 1966, p. 246 ; The author is referring to St.Bernard, Sup. Missus est, h. 4, n. 11, Making Mary speak : « Nec fiat mihi verbum scriptum et mutum, sed incarnatum et vivum » (PL, 183, 86 B).
[21] On the expression see W. Rordorf, « The confession of faith and its "Sitz im Leben" in the Ancient Church » in Novum Testamentum, Vol. 9, book. 3 (Jul., 1967), pp. 225-238; A. Vanhoye, « The reception in the Church of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum. From Vatican Council II to the present day», Esprit et Vie, n° 107,June 2004, p. 9.
[22] This "responsorial" dimension is already emphatically expressed in the description of the rite founding the Covenant in Sinai (Ex 24:3.7) and also in the description of the preparatory phase. (Ex 19: 8).
[23] Jn 19: 30 ; Jn 20: 22 ; Acts 2: 1-13 ; Rm 8: 15-17; Gal 4: 6.
[24] Origen, Sermons on Exodus, 13, 3.
[25] The history of the drafting of this phrase shows that a nuance was lost in the final version. The expression sicut et was used in place of velut in order to avoid forcing the comparison towards the sense of identical veneration. See H. Hoping, op. cit., 2005; p. 791.
[26] « By the virtue of words the Body is found in the form of bread and the Blood in the form of wine. » Denz. 1640.
[27] Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, 2.
[28] Origen, Treatise on principles, IV, 2.8. ; cf. Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 12-13.
[29] See Light of the Word, the commentary of Sunday readings for years A, B and C by H. U. v. Balthasar, Culture et Vérité, 1990, which brings out the theological unity of the three readings. This commentary, which has been published in several languages, meets a need which is frequently expressed by homilists. The original in German Licht des Wortes. Skizzen zu allen Sonntagslesungen was published by Paulinus Verlag, Trier, 1987.
[30] J. Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, Op. cit., p. 50; cf. Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 46.
[31] St Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 85.
[32] St. Pius X, Apostolic Constitution Divino afflatu, 1911, Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 3, p. 1254.
[33] Ibid.
[34] We mention in the passage the welcome biblical renewal of several devotional practices that also help meditation on the Holy Scripture: worship of the Eucharist outside Mass, the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, etc.
[35] Instrumentum laboris, 25.
[36] Benedict XVI, « Ad Conventum Internationalem Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church» (16.09.2005) : AAS 97 (2005) 957. See also C.M. Martini, « The centrality of the Word of God in the Life of the Church - Biblical Life XXX» in Catholic Biblical Federation, no 76/77, 2005, p.33.
[37] Cf. H. U. v. Balthasar, Sponsa Verbi. Skizzen zur Theologie II, Johannes Verlag, 1961 ; XXXLa Dramatique divine. II. Dramatis personae. 2. The people in Christ, p. 209-367 ; H. Rahner, « Die Gott Geburt. Die Lehre der Kirchenväter von der Geburt Christi Aus dem Herzen der Kirche und der Gläubigen », dans Symbole der Kirche (O. Müller, Salzburg, 1964, 13-87) ; L. A. Schökel, Símbolos matrimoniales en la Biblia, Estella, Verbo Divino, 1997.
[38] Instrumentum laboris, 22.
[39] W. Kasper, « Dei Verbum Audiens et Proclamans » in Catholic Biblical Federation, no 76/77, 2005, p.11. See also Groupe des Dombes, For the conversion of Churches, Paris, 1991.
[40] H. U. v. Balthasar, Return to the Center, Desclée de Brouwer, 1998, p. 25-57
[41] H. U. v. Balthasar, Theologik 1. Wahrheit der Welt, Johannes Verlag, 1985, p. 11-23 ; Phenomenology of the Truth. The Truth of the World, Beauchesne, 1952.
[42] See I. de la Potterie, Christian exegesis today, Fayard, 2000, 220 p., especially J. Ratzinger, « The interpretation of the Bible in conflict. Fundamental problems and the contemporary direction of exegesis», pp. 65-109.
[43] Pontifical Biblical Commission , Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, 1.
[44] J. Ratzinger, « The interpretation of the Bible in conflict », in Christian exegesis today, Fayard, p. 65-109 ;I. De la Potterie, « Biblical exegesis, science of faith », in ibid., p. 111-160.
[45] The interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Acts of the Symposium promoted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 1999, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001.
[46] W. Kasper, op. cit., p. 11. « The spiritual reading of Scripture and scriptural exegesis are answers to the ecumenical and exegetic malaise»
[47] H. de Lubac, Scripture in tradition, Aubier, 1966, p. 201. For a study of the overall teaching contribution made by de Lubac's father , cf. R.Voderholzer, Die Einheit Der Schrift Und Ihr Geistiger Sinn, Johannes, 1998, 564 p.
[48] St. Thomas Aquinas, S. th. I, q. 1, a. 10, ad 1.
[49] Pontifical Biblical Commission, Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, 2.B.1.
[50] A. Vanhoye, op cit. p. 3-13.
[51] Pontifical Biblical Commission, op. cit., 2.B.2.
[52] H. U. v. Balthasar, « The Spiritual Sense of Scripture » in Christian Exegesis Today, op. cit., p. 184.
[53] St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs, 73, 2.
[54] Benedict XV, Encycl. Spiritus Paraclitus, 15 Sept. 1920, E. B., 469; S. Jérôme, On the Epistle to the Galatians, 5, 19-21, PL 26, 417 A.
[55] St. Theresa of Lisieux, Autobiography, B 1r°-v°; F.-M. Léthel, Know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, Carmel, 1989, 593p (The theology of saints as the science of love, p. 3-7).
[56] H. U. v. Balthasar, « Actualité de Lisieux », conference at Notre-Dame de Paris, in Teresa of Lisieux, Centenary Conférence 1873-1973, special edition of Nouvelles de l'Institut catholique, p. 112.
[57] H. U. v. Balthasar, « Only love is worthy of faith», Aubier, 1966, p. 11.
[58] H. U. v. Balthasar, « The Glory and the Cross», t. 1, Aubier, 1961, p. 194.
[59] A. Rotzetter, « Mystique and literal observation in the Gospel at the home of Francis of Assisi», in Concilium 169, 1981, p. 86.
[60] Cf. M. Ouellet, « Adrienne von Speyr and the Saturday saint of theology» in Hans Urs von Balthasar - Stiftung Adrienne von Speyr and spiritual Theology, Johannes, 2002, 145 p., p. 31-56.
[61] St. Francis de Sales, Letter CCXXIX [6 October 1604]: Œuvres XII, Annecy, Dom Henry Benedict Mackey, o.s.b., 1892-1932, p. 299-325.
[62] J. Ratzinger - Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Flammarion, 2007, p. 8.
[63] A. Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Paideia, 1986 ; J. Jeremias, The Problem of the Historical Jesus, Paideia, 1973.
[64] R. Burridge, What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Biography. Cambridge, University press 1992.
[65] J. Ratzinger- Benedict XVI, Op. cit., p.17.
[66] Ibid. p. 19.
[67] Cf. D. Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Jean-Claude Lattès, 2004, 574 p.
[68] S. Gregory of Nyssa, 5th sermon on the Song of Songs
[69] CELAM, « Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that in Him our people will have a life of plenitude» (Document of Aparecida), 5th Conference at Aparecida (Brasil) 13th to 31st May 2007.
[70] H. U. v. Balthasar, « The Glory and the Cross», op. cit., p. 418.
[71] UR and UUS ; see also W. Kasper, Manual of Spiritual Ecumenism , Nouvelle Cité, 2007, 96 p.
[72] Benedict XVI, Speech The world awaits the shared testimony of the Christians(25.01.2007): L'Osservatore Romano, E.H.L.F. 5 (30.01.2007) p. 3.
[73] Among others, communities and movements such as Sant'Egidio, Taizé, etc.
[74] C. Lubich, Thought and Spirituality, Nouvelle Cité, 2003, 510 p.
[75] M. Ouellet, Mary and the Coming of Ecumenism, Communio XXVIII, 1- Janvier-Février 2003, pp. 113-125 ; D.-I Ciobotea; B. Sesboue ; J.-N. Peres ; « Marie : L'oecuménisme à l'épreuve», L'actualité Religieuse dans le Monde, 1987, no46, pp. 17-24.
[76] AG 11 ; EN 20 ; RM 3.
[77] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible, 2001 : J. Ratzinger, Préface, p. 12.
[78] Ibid., nos 9, 11, 21-22,85-86.
[79] AG 10.
[80]As an example, the Biblia Clerus of the Congregation for the Clergy furnishes tools for the consultation that are truly precious, which are indebted to the Christian Bible written by Dom Claude-Jean Nesmy and Mother Élisabeth de Solms, Bénédictines de La Pierre qui Vire et Solesmes, published by Éditions Anne Sigier.
[81] St. Siluane of Mount Athos, Spiritual Writings, Eastern Spirituality no 5, Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1976/1994, p. 30.
[82] St. Caesar of Arles, Sermons VIII, 1; (Cf. SC 175, p. 349-351).