VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A lack of enthusiasm for Scripture weakens well-established churches and stunts the missionary verve of newfound Christian communities, said Pope Francis in a written message shared with members of the Catholic Biblical Federation.
Meeting federation members — including representatives of bishops’ conferences and some 200 Catholic biblical institutions — Pope Francis spoke spontaneously, but gave them a copy of his prepared text in which he noted the importance of Scripture.
The audience June 19 came during the federation’s plenary assembly June 18-23 in Nemi, outside of Rome.
“The lack of support and vigor for the Word leads to the weakening of Christian communities of ancient tradition and halts the spiritual growth and missionary fervor of young churches,” the pope wrote.
Therefore, he said, there must be a pastoral commitment to make Scripture central to church life, and an “encounter with Jesus” through Scripture must be part of the habitual activities of all religious communities, parishes and movements, he added.
“Servants of the Word,” including bishops, priests, religious or laypeople, he said, must promote this encounter with Christ, which inspires faith and transforms lives.
Places exist where the Gospel has not yet been proclaimed, where it has not been “welcomed as the Word of salvation,” or where it has been “emptied of its authority,” Pope Francis wrote.
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” he said, citing St. Jerome. In order to proclaim the Word, people must have experienced it first: “listened to it, contemplated it, almost touched it with their hands,” he said.
Christians, he added, must “venerate, read, listen, proclaim, preach, study and diffuse the Word of God.”
The assembly was chaired by the federation’s new president, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.