A challenge for Pope Benedict: Leading more people to read the Bible

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When Pope Benedict XVI chose the Bible as the topic for this fall’s Synod of Bishops, he turned the church’s attention to an area he has long considered crucial and in need of revitalization. The pope’s concern touches several levels. For one thing, despite an upsurge in biblical interest after the Second Vatican Council, only a minority of Catholics read the Bible regularly. The pope views the lack of scriptural formation as part of a wider crisis of catechetics in the church. At a more academic level, the pope sees a danger in modern biblical interpretation that he believes diminishes the meaning of Scripture and erodes the bond between Bible and church. In particular, he has warned that various modern-day methods of interpreting the Bible are too limiting; for instance, some scholars read Scripture as if they are seeking to break a code and pluck out answers one by one. Instead, Pope Benedict believes the Bible must be seen as a whole and as the word of God, in which everything relates to everything else and offers the possibility of a spiritual journey, rather than being seen as a textbook on divine matters. So in convoking some 250 bishops for the Oct. 5-26 synod, the pope did not intend to host a forum for scriptural analysis. His primary interest is pastoral, and a main challenge is to lead more Catholics to the Bible.

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