12/16/2005, 00.00
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Church of Jerusalem: the Word of God is the Christian's guide

A meeting was held to mark 40 years since Vatican Council II. Cardinal Carlo M. Martini was among speakers on Dei Verbum: the Bible "is not only a text which says something to someone, it is Someone who talks to he who reads".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The pilgrims who went to the Holy Land in the early centuries used the Bible as a "guide": today too, even if in a different way, the Old and New Testament show Christians the path to follow. The perennial value of this statement, expressed in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, was highlighted during a meeting to recall 40 years since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, marked on 14 December by the Church of Jerusalem, "mother of all Churches", seat of the first council in history.

"The centrality of the Word of God in the life of the Church" was the fundamental theme of the meeting, tackled by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. The meeting was opened by Mgr Pietro Sambi, delegate and apostolic nuncio, who was behind the launching of the initiative. Practically all the representatives of the bishops' conference or "Assembly of the Ordinary Catholics of the Holy Land" were present, as were more than 400 priests, members of religious orders, and lay people.

"A fundamental principle of the Council," said Cardinal Martini in the Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem, "affirms that all Christian preaching and life should be nourished and regulated by the Holy Scripture". One consequence of this indicated by the cardinal for the biblical animation of pastoral service is the priority to be given the Divine Office, by both religious and lay people: "This is obviously a spiritual and prayerful experience because the Bible is not only a text which says something to someone but Someone who talks to he who reads and awakens in him a dialogue of faith and hope, of repentance, of self-sacrifice…" Knowledge of the sacred scripture, nourishing oneself of the Word is the path the Christian must follow in this daily life, said the Cardinal, drawing on his experience of 22 years of pastoral ministry in Milan.

The subject of "Vatican II and the church in Jerusalem" was tackled by the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, who gave an overview of those principles in diocesan life in which the Conciliar renewal is manifest: liturgy, catechesis, ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue and so on. He drew attention especially to the extraordinary event of the Synod of Catholic Churches of the Holy Land (1993-2000) which was a great moment of church unity, a pause to rethink the past, evaluate the present but above all to plan for a new future. The final document of the Synod was delivered to representatives of the clergy, religious and lay people by John Paul II during his historic visit to the Holy Land in March 2000, and it continues to be the reference point of pastoral ministry in the four nations of the diocese.

At the end of this "Latin" viewpoint, Mgr Paul Sayah, Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and Exarch of Jerusalem, presented a vivid perspective of what Vatican Council II brought into the life of the eastern Catholic Churches especially in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

The main presentations were alternated with three brief communications.

The "geography of salvation", the word of God in relation to pilgrimages in the Holy Land throughout the centuries, was scrutinised by the Franciscan, Fr Frédéric Manns, lecturer at the SBF, who demonstrated how in the first centuries, the pilgrims' guide was the Bible, the Old and the New Testaments.

A Dominican priest, Fr Jean-Michel Poffet, director of Ecole biblique, shared a brief reflection on how the Word of God animates preaching: "It is a creative word which sows life and joy, consoles, straightens, encourages all the faithful as much as the preacher".
Finally, a Jesuit priest, Fr David Neuhaus (in the name of the Custodian of the Holy Landa Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, indisposed) touched upon "Catholic communities of Hebrew expression in Israel". "Although small and fragile, they seek to serve as bridges in a time of division and walls, making intercession for peace, justice and unity their constant prayer."

Coordinated by two presenters, Fr Claudio Bottini OFM and Fr Gianni Caputa SDB, the meeting may have a "second episode", as was augured by Mgr Sambi and the Melchite priest Elias Chakkour.

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