CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Celebrating 40 years of living the word of God

HONG KONG (SE): The Hong Kong Catholic Biblical Association celebrated 40 Years of building bridges between the theology of the bible and the pastoral ministry of the word at St. Paul’s Convent School (Secondary), Causeway Bay, on January 27.

The former general secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation, Father Ludger Feldkamper, who was in Hong Kong to mark the anniversary, said that biblical pastoral ministry started later than biblical theology, so the building of a bridge is necessary to infuse the theological reflections into the pastoral ministry of the word.

He added that this ministry is a vital cog to the Year of Faith, as the bible is an indispensable partner in the challenge to witnessing to the faith in our daily lives, which is the basis of any evangelisation and is highlighted especially by Pope Benedict XVI in what is being termed the New Evangelisation.

“The bible recorded matters of the past and it also contains meaning for our times, which help us to open our minds and hearts,” the German priest from the Missionary Society of the Divine Word explained. He added that it can help people to ponder contemporary issues in society.

He suggested that a concrete way of doing this is to read the daily newspaper with the bible by its side, using the word of God to reflect on what is happening in the world today.

He explained that biblical formation is not simply absorbing knowledge of the faith, but rather speaking with God and pondering the response.

“It is not one-way traffic,” he stressed.

He said that the concept of the new evangelisation has its roots in the apostolic exhortation of Pope Paul VI, On Evangelisation in the Modern World, which was published on 8 December 1975.

The pope had a big hand in the preparation of the final document and it had a deep impact on the missionary outreach of the Church in the world.

The former general secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation pointed out that the general assembly of bishops of 1987 also took up the theme, reiterating the important role played by the laity in giving the Church and the faith a tangible face in society.

However, in order to use the word of God effectively, Father Feldkamper said that guided reading is essential, as the bible is not a textbook that gathers reflections on any given theme into one chapter, but is story-telling, detailing the experiences and reflections of the early communities of the Church.

As a result, he pointed out that if you want to know what the bible says on any particular topic, it may be necessary to go to dozens of different parts of the many books of the bible to obtain a comprehensive picture.

This he noted is the work of academics and something of which he makes particular use in his pastoral ministry of the word, which can point people to where to look for reflections on and stories of lived responses to different issues.

He said the process can help people to absorb the message of the bible and make part it of their life, thinking, decision-making process and their very being.

He stressed that for young Christians, it is important to introduce them to it early in life in order to help them to sustain their faith.

“It requires allowing the word to enter into their lives and to respond to the signs of the times,” he added. “It helps to avoid their first communion becoming their last. But,” he added, “it relies on three elements—bible study, interiorising faith and participating in word-centred communities.”

Father Feldkamper said this is the reason that a great emphasis has been placed on reading the bible in order to participate effectively in the Year of Faith.

The federation uses the image of Noah building his ark, which it describes as a scaled-down version of the cosmos, but capable of supporting all life in a space where violence had to be controlled to focus on the essential needs of all living beings.

The work of the federation is to make it possible to share the word of God with all men and women in the world today. This requires that the word of God be thought of not so much as a body of the written word, but a personal truth of Christ as the living word of God.

“For God’s revelation shows itself as an action of God, which shows itself in history. It is a living, personal social event that can only come to completion when it finds faith acceptance in the persons to whom it addressed,” Kurt Cardinal Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, says in the 2012 digital edition of the prestigious publication, Verbum Dei (The Word of God).

Seventy-five-year-old Father Feldkamper said that the Catholic Biblical Federation works to make the process available for people to enter into, and in this context, the first Catholic translation of the bible into Chinese, completed at the Studium Biblical Franciscanum in Hong Kong in 1968 by the recently beatified Father Gabriele Allegra and his team, has been of tremendous importance to Catholics in Hong Kong and China.

The bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon; the former bishop, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun; and the chancellor of the diocese, Father Lawrence Lee Len; were among the guests at the celebration of the work done by the local branch of the biblical federation in bringing the word of God to life.

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