CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Beijing symposium marks 50th anniversary of Chinese-language bible

Hong Kong (UCAN): Various Church groups from mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have been organising seminars and symposiums in honour of the 50th anniversary original translation—of the Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek sources into Chinese by the Studium Biblicum OFM in Hong Kong.
 
The Studium Biblicum Version, is the predominant Chinese-language translation of the Bible used by Chinese Catholics.
 
Blessed Gabriele Allegra, a Franciscan friar, began the work in 1935 and it was completed and published in 1968 as The Holy Bible: Translated and annotated by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (OFM) Hong Kong.
 
One of the key events, a symposium, took place on October 18 at the Beijing Friendship Hotel, organised by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), according to chinacatholic.org.
 
There were some 40 participants, including representatives of the eight major seminaries in China, and the Faith Institute for Cultural Studies and the Faith Press. 
 
Special guests included Ke Wei, director of the United Bible Societies; Divine Word Father Jan J. Stefanów general secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation; Qiu Zhonghui, board director of the Amity Foundation, and director of the board at the Nanjing Amity Printing Co Ltd; and Dr. Monica Romano, a lecturer at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
 
Discussions focused on how the text was translated, Bible teachings, evangelization, and spirituality.
 
Also present were Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Yanan (Yulin) and Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde in Hebei Province, who also serves as secretary-general of the BCCCC. Both men were at the recent Synod for Bishops in Rome. 
 
Bishop Guo, in the opening address, said that from the first edition of the version published on the Chinese mainland from 1993 to 2018, there have been 4.5 million copies of different editions of the Studium Bibicum Version printed. He also thanked the Studium Biblicum O.F.M. of Hong Kong for providing free copyright to the text to the Catholic Church in China.
 
However, Studium Biblicum, did not attend the event. In a post on its Facebook page on October 23, it excused itself from the celebrations.
 
“Even though this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Studium Biblicum Version, our institute has decided not to organise any special celebration and only expresses our gratitude to God in prayers, (religious) works and daily life as Christ teaches in Luke 17:10, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’,” the post read.
 
“Therefore, the institute has not participated in the recent celebrations held in the name of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Studium Biblicum Version in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan; in other words, the institute is neither the host nor the co-organiser and has no direct relation with these activities. Moreover, please note that the institute is not raising funds or appealing for donations through any groups,” it continued.
 
At the Beijing symposium, some particapants drew attention to certain shortcomings in the Chinese translation, including a lack of standardised studies, a paucity of materials to help Chinese interpret and understand the text and a need to tidy up grammatical errors, typos, incoherent sentences, strange terms that did not translate well, and other “strange” passages.
 
They suggested the Church is not paying enough attention to these issues and cited a lack of learning infrastructure, the inconsistency of related texts, Chinese seminarians’ occasional lack of understanding of the Chinese Bible, and the need for ongoing formation studies for clergy.
 
Other participants expressed their desire to set up a Biblical Society and a training institute to improve the way the text is taught. They called for more seminars on the Chinese Bible and requested a special journal be published to clarify and expand on its teachings.
 
They also urged that biblical resources be shared, a theological platform be set up to foster more exchanges and strengthen communication among Chinese Christian groups, dioceses or seminaries and that newer versions of the Chinese Bible be published in different languages to cater to ethnic minorities in the country. 
 
They also asked that more copies be published with annotations explaining some of the more obscure references of instructions contained within it, that more workshops be held on public holidays for seminary lecturers and that more attention be paid to the use of social media, for example the Chinese multi-purpose messaging app, WeChat. 
 
At conclusion of the symposium, Bishop Joseph Shen Bin, the standing vice-president of the CCPA and BCCCC, said he hoped to collect people’s opinions during the symposium and implement those with value at some point in the future.
 
Meanwhile, the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association plans to hold the 11th World Chinese Bible Conference from November 22 to 26 in Hong Kong, with the theme, Walk with the Holy Words, Live in Faith, Hope and Love.
 
Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong, will preside at the opening Mass, while Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing and three other priests will give talks on special topics.
 
Open tickets for the four-day event cost $1,500 (US$190).
 
The Macau Catholic Biblical Association had earlier invited Bishop Ha to the commemorate the 50th anniversary by giving a talk on the life of Blessed Father Allegra.

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