“Recent decades have been marked by a profound crisis which has shaken the very foundation of European culture,” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a member of the Society of the Priests of Saint-Sulpice and Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, when he addressed the Congress for “Sacred Scripture in the Church” in Madrid, Spain. The former reporter for the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God (October, 2008), who is a theologian in his own right, was the first speaker at the Congress, which was held for 800 participants, February 7 - 9, 2011 in the Spanish capital.
He added a cautionary word pertinent especially to the European context: “A new identity imposes its law and tries to relegate the Christian roots of Europe to a secondary level. It would seem that, in the name of secularism, the Bible must be relativized, to be dissolved in a religious pluralism and disappear as a normative cultural reference.”
He also observed that “…the crisis has also penetrated the interior of the Church, given that a certain rationalist exegesis has seized the Bible to dissect the different stages and forms of its human composition, eliminating the prodigies and miracles, multiplying the theories and, not infrequently, sowing confusion among the faithful.” In this way numerous unsettling questions arise, such as: “Is Sacred Scripture no more than a human word? Isn’t it true that the results of the historical sciences invalidate the biblical testimony and, hence, the credibility of the Church? How can we continue to believe? And, finally, whom should we listen to?”
Cardinal Ouellet went on to affirm the principle teachings of the 2008 Synod of Bishops which show the Church’s attempt to respond to these questions. He noted the Synod’s affirmation of the historical critical method but also the need to go beyond it in order to meditate on the Word of God. He used citations from Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, in which the Holy Father assembled and reformulated many of the conclusions of the Synod.
In his closing comments, Cardinal Ouellet stated, “In the face of the secularization of the Christian West and of Christianity’s identity crisis in pluralist environments, the Church responds with a new proclamation of the living Word of God in Jesus Christ, which invites us to a renewed act of faith in the Sacred Scriptures.” He also invited all the participants of the Congress to put this vision of the Word of God into practice in their own lives, and he expressed the hope that Spain would inspire the rest of Europe to follow their lead in accomplishing this mission.
[N.B. Some citations for this posting are based on reports in English and French from Zenit, 8 February, 2011, which contain a more complete summary of the Congress.]