The Bible and ecumenism
Conscious that the Church has her foundation in Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the Synod wished to emphasize the centrality of biblical studies within ecumenical dialogue aimed at the full expression of the unity of all believers in Christ. The Scriptures themselves contain Jesus’ moving prayer to the Father that his disciples might be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). All this can only strengthen our conviction that by listening and meditating together on the Scriptures, we experience a real, albeit not yet full communion; “shared listening to the Scriptures thus spurs us on towards the dialogue of charity and enables growth in the dialogue of truth”. Listening together to the word of God, engaging in biblical lectio divina, letting ourselves be struck by the inexhaustible freshness of God’s word which never grows old, overcoming our deafness to those words that do not fit our own opinions or prejudices, listening and studying within the communion of the believers of every age: all these things represent a way of coming to unity in faith as a response to hearing the word of God. The words of the Second Vatican Council were clear in this regard: “in [ecumenical] dialogue itself, sacred Scripture is a precious instrument in the mighty hand of God for attaining to that unity which the Saviour holds out to all”. Consequently, there should be an increase in ecumenical study, discussion and celebrations of the word of God, with due respect for existing norms and the variety of traditions. These celebrations advance the cause of ecumenism and, when suitably carried out, they represent intense moments of authentic prayer asking God to hasten the day when we will all be able at last to sit at the one table and drink from the one cup. Nonetheless, while it is praiseworthy and right to promote such services, care must be taken that they are not proposed to the faithful as alternatives to the celebration of Holy Mass on Sundays or holydays of obligation.
In this work of study and prayer, we serenely acknowledge those aspects which still need to be explored more deeply and those on which we still differ, such as the understanding of the authoritative subject of interpretation in the Church and the decisive role of the magisterium.
Finally, I wish to emphasize the statements of the Synod Fathers about the ecumenical importance of translations of the Bible in the various languages. We know that translating a text is no mere mechanical task, but belongs in some sense to the work of interpretation. In this regard, the Venerable John Paul II observed that “anyone who recalls how heavily debates about Scripture influenced divisions, especially in the West, can appreciate the significant step forward which these common translations represent”.Promoting common translations of the Bible is part of the ecumenical enterprise. I would like to thank all those engaged in this important work, and I encourage them to persevere in their efforts.