Pope opens 12th Synod of Roman Catholic bishops
Pope Benedict XVI marked the opening of a 20-day long
gathering in Rome of the world's Roman Catholic bishops, with a Mass during
which he urged the faithful to read the Christian bible more closely and more
frequently, dpa reported.
"He who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God. Ignorance of Scripture, is ignorance of Christ," Benedict said in his homily, quoting the writings of a father of the early Christian church, St Jerome.
The pontiff presided over the morning ceremony in Rome's Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, before a congregation, which according to the Vatican, included 52 cardinals, 45 archbishops and 130 bishops.
During his homily, Benedict repeatedly referred to the Synod's theme: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.
"Only the Word of God can deeply change the heart of man, and it is thus important that individual believers and communities increasingly acquaint themselves with it," Benedict said.
Benedict also cited the Second Vatican Council reform process of the 1960s when the Roman Catholic Church began to encourage its members to read the Christian Bible's Old and New Testaments.
Later Sunday, Benedict was set to read, on Italian television, a passage from the Book of Genesis. Following the pontiff, are some 1,250 other readers - including soccer stars and politicians - scheduled to participate in a non-stop, six-day, seven-night televised reading of the Bible from beginning to end.
For centuries, before the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church had taught that the holy scriptures should be left for the clergy to interpret on behalf of the faithful.
This year's general Synod - a gathering which is as close as the Catholic Church gets to a parliament - marks the 12th such gathering since Pope Paul VI introduced it by decree in 1965, as part of the innovations ushered in by the Second Vatican Council.
During the Synod which lasts until October 26, participants are called to express their opinions on matters on an individual basis. The Pope may also approve and promulgate decrees or resolutions stemming from the discussions.
For the first time in its history, the Synod will feature a Jewish cleric, Rabbi Shear Yashyv Cohen of Haifa, Israel, who will lead a discussion on how Jews read and interpret their Bible, which consists of the Old Testament.
Last Friday, the Vatican said no bishops from mainland China would be attending the Synod, an absence highlighting the Holy See's strained relations with Beijing's Communist authorities.
China appoints bishops to the state-sanctioned Catholic Church, and while in recent years some of those bishops have received the Vatican's tacit approval, many of China's estimated 12 million Catholics practice in underground congregations loyal to the pope.