Catholics encouraged to give emphasis to the Bible
Roman Catholics throughout Britain are being encouraged to reaffirm the Bible as foundational for their faith, and to make its critical appreciation a key part of their discipleship and church identity.
This week a major new teaching document from the Catholic Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland is being presented in Rome. It is going to delegates attending a congress celebrating forty years of Dei Verbum, the ground-breaking statement about the Bible issued by the Second Vatican Council (1963-65).
Vatican II has been widely seen as reconnecting the Catholic Church with the modern world, unleashing a range of reforms - including widespread lay participation - which some conservatives have begun to rue in recent years.
Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, along with Bishop Daniel Mullins, who guided the production of the new document, invited the four hundred delegates gathered from across the world to use it in their own work of biblical formation.
Entitled The Gift of Scripture, the publication is also being presented personally to Pope Benedict XVI, himself a noted theologian.
The Gift of Scripture provides an explanation of Catholic teaching on the Bible. The 60-page booklet outlines the basic principles by which it is interpreted, and gives guidance on some difficult questions which arise, says the Catholic Communications Network.
The bishops encourage a deeper appreciation of Scripture through catechesis, liturgy and prayer. They also warmly acknowledge the contribution of Jewish and other (non-Catholic) Christian scholars to the work of biblical understanding.
Father Adrian Graffy, who assisted the bishops in their work, commented: "[This document] will be a major help in fostering the familiarity and love of the Bible which have grown so strongly since Vatican II."
Over the past forty years the Vatican has clashed with a variety of Catholic movements and theologians whose understanding of Scripture and tradition as varied from the official line on issues such as political engagement (liberation theology), the role of women and birth control.
But shared appreciation of the Bible has also been a major force in ecumenism, and in bringing together Catholics and other Christians on questions of peace, justice and common witness.