VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For Catholics, studying Scripture and archaeology in the land of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection must be more than a scholarly exercise, Pope Francis said; it should have the pastoral dimension of helping others know and live the Gospel.

“In this time, in which the Lord asks us to listen and know better his word, to make it resonate in the world in an ever more comprehensible way, your discreet and impassioned work is more valuable than ever,” the pope told students and staff of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, a Jerusalem-based graduate school of Scripture and archaeology studies.

Pope Francis met the group at the Vatican Jan. 15 in a special audience celebrating the 100th anniversary of the institute founded and run by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and Franciscan Father Massimo Fusarelli, minister general of the order, joined the group.

The institute has been involved in the archaeological excavation of sites featured prominently in the New Testament, including Bethany, Bethlehem, Cana, Capernaum, Emmaus, Magdala, Nazareth, Mt. Nebo, Tabgha and Mt. Tabor, according to the institute’s website.

Pope Francis noted how, since the Israeli-Hamas conflict began in October, “we cannot go there easily because the war zone prevents it.”

“The current situation of the Holy Land and of the peoples who inhabit it concerns and pains us. It is very grave from every point of view. It is very grave,” the pope said. “We must pray and act tirelessly so that this tragedy may end.”

Pope Francis thanked the Franciscans for their continued presence and work in the Holy Land, urging them to “go forward with courage.”

And he urged the students and staff to approach the Scriptures like St. Francis of Assisi taught. For the saint, the pope said, “knowledge of the word of God, and its study, are not simply matters of erudition, but experiences of a sapiential nature, whose purpose, in faith, is to help people to live the Gospel better and to make them good.”

“Let the rigorous and scientific study of biblical sources, enriched by the most updated methods and disciplines, always be united with contact with the life of the holy people of God and aimed at their pastoral service,” the pope told them. “Outside the body of the church, these studies serve nothing. What counts is the heart of the church, of the Holy Mother Church.”