Church teachings in your pocket

VATICAN CITY — The U.S.-based Apostolate for Family Consecration is offering bishops attending the world synod on sacred Scripture a free MP3 video player preloaded with commentaries on church teaching.

a logo from the Apostolate for Family Consecration

A logo from the Apostolate for Family Consecration.

The black, pocket-sized video player has more than 45 hours of Cardinal Francis Arinze giving colorful commentaries on Scripture, catechetics, and Vatican II teachings. The Nigerian-born cardinal is prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The gift is part of an wider initiative the international lay movement is promoting during the monthlong synod. They have invited synod bishops to attend a one-and-a-half-hour presentation Oct. 8-10 to hear and ask questions about the movement’s catechetical materials and formation programs.

Apostolate members came to Rome after visiting Hong Kong and Myanmar, where they spoke with church leaders about offering catechetical training to local Catholics and bringing their materials into local dioceses so as to help families bring Scripture into their daily lives.

If you feel left out because you are not a synod bishop, not to worry: many of the apostolate’s materials are available for free online, and videos and audios are easy to download onto your own MP3 player at the apostolate’s Web site,

Worth a look during the synod

As you follow the world Synod of Bishops on Scripture at the Vatican this month, here are two Web sites that might be worth your time:

– On our synod page we’ve posted a link to a new slideshow of photos by David Maung, who spent a day inside a Mexican prison following the ministry of the Missionary Servants of the Word.  As one of the captions in the photo slideshow notes, nuns from the Missionary Servants offer Bible study several times a week to the prisoners. We hired David to illustrate a synod-related story on how organizations like the Missionary Servants of the Word might be an example for the church as it seeks to find fresh ways to make the Bible important in Catholics’ lives.

– Chris Gunty, associate publisher of the Florida Catholic, which serves most of Florida’s dioceses and its one archdiocese, has launched a new blog on the synod aimed particularly at “what the synod means to you and me.” The latest post (as of this writing) tells how one parish found blessings for its members by organizing a way for the parish to read the Bible in manageable chunks rather than all at once.

The synod and images from The Saint John’s Bible

VATICAN CITY — The world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, which starts with Mass Sunday, will involve some 400 people, if you count members, experts, observers and support staff.

And each one of them, on several occasions, will be praying with the help of images coming from Minnesota.

CNS photo from St. John's University 2004

Seven vertical slices represent the days of creation in this illustration from The Saint John's Bible. (CNS photo from St. John's University, 2004)

Art from The Saint John’s Bible, a newly hand-copied and hand-illuminated version of the Scriptures, was chosen to adorn the separate booklets for the Masses and prayer services that will be celebrated during the Oct. 5-26 synod.

In addition, a portion of the Bible and six illustrations from it will be on display in the atrium of the Vatican’s synod hall for the next three weeks.

The Bible was commissioned by the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey and by St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. The project began in 1996 and is expected to be completed in 2010 when it should total more than 1,000 parchment pages.

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.

Getting ready for the synod on the Bible

Many Catholics in the pews don’t realize the significance of next month’s world Synod of Bishops in Rome on the Bible. We’ve been giving it extra attention this summer and fall with numerous articles and a new section of our Web site devoted to the synod.

For instance, you can read Rome bureau chief John Thavis’ examination of why Pope Benedict thinks attention to the Bible is “an area he has long considered crucial and in need of revitalization.” Or, you can read a primer from our Faith Alive! religious education series on what a synod of bishops is and how it operates.

This blog also has had several items on the synod already. And, just this morning, bloggers and news agencies around the world are linking to our story from our correspondent in Jerusalem on the Israeli rabbi who says the Vatican invitation to him to participate in the synod is a sign of hope.

Our clients are also examining the importance of the synod. One interesting example of that is the podcast I listened to last evening on my way home from work. Jesuit Father Drew Christensen, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, opened the podcast (you can download it or listen to it here) with one of the best explanations of the synod that I’ve heard so far. Even if you can’t listen to the entire half-hour broadcast, just the first few minutes are worth your while.

Record number of women for Bible synod

VATICAN CITY — The Oct. 5-26 world Synod of Bishops on the Bible will have the largest number of women ever participating in a Catholic synod, as forecast in an earlier post.

Pope Benedict XVI has named six female scholars to be among the 41 experts to serve as resource people for the synod members as they discuss the importance of the Scriptures in the life of the church, look at the Bible’s role in Catholic prayer and liturgy, evaluate its role in ecumenical and interreligious relations and discuss ways to improve biblical literacy at every level of the church.

The list was published with the experts’ names given in alphabetical order, but it seems fitting that the first woman on the list was Sister Sara Butler, a professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY. A member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sister Butler was one of two women Pope John Paul II named to the International Theological Commission in 2004. They were the first women ever named to the body that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The other women experts named to the synod today were:
— Sister Nuria Calduch Benages, a professor of the biblical theology of the Old Testament at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
— Bruna Costacurta, also a professor of Old Testament theology at the Gregorian.
— Marguerite Lena, a professor of philosophy in Paris and director of theological formation for young adults at Paris’ St. Francis Xavier Community.
— Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Mary Jerome Obiorah, a professor of Sacred Scripture at the University of Nigeria and at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria.
— Trappist Sister Germana Strola, a member of the monastery at Vitorchiano, Italy.

Pope Benedict also named 19 women to be among the 37 synod observers; the observers attend all synod sessions, participate in the synod working groups and are given an opportunity to address the entire synod assembly. Like their male counterparts, most of the women observers are professors or leaders of religious orders, Bible-based Catholic lay movements or large Catholic organizations.

Topping the list of all observers — again, because the list is given in alphabetical order — was Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.

CNS will carry a complete story on the papal nominations Monday.

UPDATE: Click here for the full CNS story.

Opening the synod at St. Paul’s, not St. Peter’s

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI will open the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God with an Oct. 5 Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The choice of location — the site of the Apostle Paul’s tomb — highlights the connection between the synod’s focus on the Bible and the special celebrations of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, traditionally recognized as the author of 14 New Testament letters.

The Vatican put out the pope’s autumn liturgical calendar today and it made it quite clear the decks have not been cleared just because he’ll be meeting Monday through Saturday with synod members Oct. 5-26.

The October calendar also includes:

– An Oct. 9 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, the object of continuing controversy because of his words and actions during World War II.

– An Oct. 12 Mass in St. Peter’s Square to canonize: Italian Father Gaetano Errico, founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart; Swiss Franciscan Sister Maria Bernarda Butler, a missionary to Ecuador and Colombia; Indian Franciscan Clarist Sister Alphonsa Muttathupandathu, a mystic; and Narcisa Martillo Moran, an Ecuadoran laywoman renown for her dedication to prayer.

– An all-day visit Oct. 19 to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompei, Italy, for a morning Mass and evening recitation of the rosary.

– The Oct. 26 Mass closing the synod in St. Peter’s Basilica.


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