Some pre-synod news

VATICAN CITY — Over the next four weeks, the Vatican’s synod hall will be the setting for close to 300 speeches about the Bible as the 253 “synod fathers” (cardinals, patriarchs, bishops and a dozen priests who head religious orders), a dozen “fraternal delegates” representing other Christian communities and some of the three dozen “observers” invited by Pope Benedict XVI address the world Synod of Bishops.

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the synod, told Vatican Radio Tuesday that Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew would be one of the “fraternal delegates.” Usually, the patriarchs of Orthodox churches send a representative to the synod rather than attending themselves.

But before any of them have a chance to speak, viewers of Italy’s government-owned RAI 1 television station and its satellite sister RAI Educational will hear dozens of people reading the Bible and famed tenor Andrea Boccelli singing J.S. Bach’s “Lodate Dio” (“Praise God”).

The tenor will sing Oct. 5 after Pope Benedict XVI, Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria and the Rev. Maria Bonafede, moderator of Italy’s Waldensian Church, have read the first chapters of the Book of Genesis. After Bocelli sings, the next section of Genesis will be read by the actor Roberto Benigni.

The recitations are part of RAI’s “The Bible Day and Night” project we wrote about earlier.

Another event connected to the synod was last night’s presentation of the Italian edition of “The Essential Guide to the Sacred Bible,” a 64-page book by Msgr. Pietro Principe, published by the Vatican publishing house. USCCB Publishing plans to release the English translation in early 2009.

The book is a brief introduction to the Bible. Among other things, it contains: a map of the Holy Land at the time of Christ, an explanation of what the Catholic Church means when it says the Bible is “inspired,” a brief introduction to the various books of the Bible, and short profiles of 45 men and 13 women who figure prominently in the Bible.

Msgr. Principe said he wrote the book for Catholics who do not want a scholarly tome, but want “to begin to approach this treasure” so that they would learn to love the Bible and to love God who continues to speak through it.

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