ZENIT - Looking at the Bible With a Universal Lens: "Looking at the Bible With a Universal Lens
Representatives of Continents Give Overview to Synod
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The synod fathers gathered in Rome are studying the word of God in the life and mission of the Church -- which means they are looking at the Bible through a universal lens.
The 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops included Monday on its first full day a report from representatives of the five continents. Benedict XVI was there to hear the statements, as were 245 synod fathers.
The text from the representative of America, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was not available.
Africa's representative, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, noted how Africa can boast of being a biblical land in a way many Christian nations cannot. He mentioned the great martyrs and confessors from African centers like Alexandria, Carthage and Hippo.
But, the archbishop lamented, actually finding a Bible in Africa today is not so easy.
'The cost of a Bible may be minimal in many parts of the world,' he said. 'In Africa, it can be as high as a month's wages in many places. The result is that many people do not have enough money to own a Bible.'
Then, he noted, there's the problem of translation into African tongues. 'Many languages still do not have an adequate translation of the Bible text. [...] But even after hearing the word of God read in our languages, there is still the task of interpreting this word so as to imbibe the true meaning of the message that the Holy Spirit intends for those to whom the word is addressed. Here comes the task of interpretation, of exegesis both at the scientific level and at the popular level.'
'From this synod,' Archbishop Onaiyekan said, 'we are hoping that the enthusiasm for the word of God which we experience now in our continent will be strengthened and sustained. We are hoping too that having told our story about the challenges we face and the limits of our resources, we can look forward to more support from those who have been helping us in the areas of need already mentioned.'
Archbishop Tomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India, lauded an aspect he said he considers characteristic of the word of God in Asia -- preaching is accompanied by testimony.
'Mother Teresa is a recent example,' he said. 'Missionaries have remained creative and kept entering into new areas of work. Their services in the fields of education and health are greatly esteemed. [...] They are active in the struggle for justice for oppressed groups; in the work for social change, cultural promotion, protection of environment, defense of life and family; in advocacy on behalf of the weak, downtrodden and the marginalized, and giving voice to the voiceless. [...] Even where the Gospel is resisted most, the evangelical witness of socially relevant works find welcome.'
He noted that the Church is growing in Asia, where missionary groups have found what he called 'responsive communities.' Among those he noted are Christian communities growing in China, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand, as well as his native India.
Religious life is also well understood in Asia, Archbishop Menamparampil affirmed. 'Religious values like renunciation, austerity, silence, prayer, contemplation and celibacy are highly regarded. [...] Religious persons are considered the guardians of religious and human wisdom in Asia. With adequate formation, young religious can grow up as effective announcers of the Christian message.'
Still the archbishop noted, Asian Christians have to be convinced about their faith -- because they are likely to be persecuted for it.
'In many countries in Asia, Christians are under heavy pressure,' he said. 'Freedom is restricted, new converts are harassed, and the believing community is persecuted as happened in Orissa, India, recently. However, the patience manifested by the community, the restraint shown, the moderation in response, the spirit of forgiveness -- all these have an evangelizing power.'
The representative of the Old World had a different story to tell.
Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia, affirmed that there is 'an indissoluble bond between the Bible and Europe.'
'All that has made European culture and civilization great [...] found its origins in the Bible,' he said. And, the cardinal contended, today 'there are signs of a renewed interest in the Bible.'
But a Europe without God, he said, 'risks becoming a nest of anguish and builds a civilization of fear. […] Also, Europe goes into crisis when it does not accept the interpreting force of the word of God, which finds in faith and inspiration its main foundation. This is an arduous task in all the scientific disciplines and especially for theology.'
The representative of the Church Down Under called attention to the cultural clash sometimes found between Oceania's peoples and the word of God.
Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville, Australia, noted that the work of missionaries has borne much fruit. But, he said that 'this fruit was not without its ambiguities because as was pointed out in 'Ecclesia in Oceania,' the missionaries also at times introduced elements which were culturally alien to the people.'
Bishop Putney added: 'It is also true that sometimes elements of the welcoming culture inconsistent with the word of God continue to influence the lives of people. Faced with these challenges, there is always a need for competent staff to teach in seminaries and higher institutes of learning in the many countries of Oceania.'
He said the Churches of the Pacific face challenges as cultures shift from village communities to urban life. 'Because of this transition there can be stress on family life and a breakdown of the social fabric. As well, at times they can struggle to deal with the Western political process which most of them have inherited from their European colonizers, and increasing environmental threats because of climate change.'
And, like his African counterpart, Bishop Putney noted the challenges of so many languages yet to be used for the word of God.
'Overall,' he noted, 'there are as many as 1,200 quite different languages in Oceania.'
Furthermore, he lamented: 'Australia is one of the most secular countries in the world. New Zealand has many more Pacific Islander people who tend to be much more religious, but the predominant European culture is as secular as it is in Australia.
'After World Youth Day, some Australians and New Zealanders have a sense that the promise of a new evangelization may finally be underway despite the apparent impermeability of the secular culture.
'The challenge confronting Australia and much of Oceania is to find new ways to enable this gift of the Gospel to be heard.'"