Passion for the Word of God and a Biblical Culture at Bishops’ ABP Encounter

By Mike James - Catholic Standard 29th January 2016

Thirty-five diocesan delegates from across the Caribbean cele-brated and reaffirmed their “Passion” for the Word of God and commitment to a “Biblical Culture” at their Biblical Anima-tion of all Pastoral Life (ABP) Evaluation and Planning Encounter at St. John Vianney Seminary 22-24 January 2016 on the theme “THE 72 DISCIPLES RETURNED FULL OF JOY” (LK 10:17)”

The APB delegates who came from the majority of Caribbean dioceses from Belize in the West to Cayenne in the East and led by Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, Chair of the Caribbean Bishop’s Conference’s (AEC) Biblical Animation of all Pastoral Life (ABP) Committee, took a Mission Pledge that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they “will promote the creation of a Bible Culture underpinning all liturgical, study, social and service activities, so that the peo-ple of God in the region may be drawn into an ever deeper and more intimate relationship with God and with one another in the midst of contemporary reality.”

Bishop Neil Tiedemann of Mandeville in Jamaica, another Episcopal Member of the AEC ABP Committee gave a moving testimony of the impact of Biblical Animation of his own life and his Ministry in parishes and the rural diocese.

Emeritus Archbishop of Kingston Don Reece was an enthusiastic member of the Archdiocesan delegation.

The participants were unanimous that “The Passion for the Word of God, the desire to evangelise and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” has been their driv-ing force. They were also emphatic in endorsing that the insistence of Pope Benedict in Synod Exhortation “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” ABP is,”not an apostolate alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral life” not a separate ministry but rather personal and community encounter with Christ through the Bible so that his presence and spirit through the Bible inspires all Pastoral activities and ministries.

The spread of the different forms of conducting Lectio Divina, a method of the prayerful reading of the Bible, was highlighted as a most important help to greater individual, community and diocesan encounter with Christ and ongoing conversion in daily life.

Bishop Lafont reported that over a period of 5 years, the AEC Bishop have increasingly committed to Lectio Divina as an integral part of all the Annual and Permanent Board Meetings. Dioceses reported that all diocesan and vicariate and community meetings begin with Lectio Divina.

Citing Jesus’ mission to sow the Word of God (Mk 4: 1-14) he repeated words from his own presentation represent-ing the AEC and French bishops at the 2008 Synod on the Word of God:”

We are called to preach the Word, Not Canon Law, Not the liturgical ritu-als, Not the Catechism of the Catholic Church…But the Word of God!

“So is my word that goes forth out of my mouth, it will not return to me idle, but it shall accomplish my will” (Isaiah 55:11)

The delegates warmly commended the example of dioceses like Bridgeton and Kingstown which have made the Word of God central to their Synod priorities

Many diocesan ABP evaluation reports underlined successful development of a biblical culture which echoed the following resolutions of the St. Vincent January 2015 Synod:

“that the Bible be reaffirmed as the foundation of the Catholic faith to encourage an encounter with the living Word, Jesus Christ by every Catholic individual, family, parish, ministry and institution” “that the diocese promote the enthronement of the Bible in the church, the homes of all Catholics and Catholic institutions”

“that the diocese at all levels promote the Bible as the inspiration of all pastoral work by implementing Biblical Animation of all Pastoral life (ABP)”.

The delegates also stressed the bene-fits of Bible Weeks or Months, the En-thronement of the Word of God in par-ish churches as well as homes.

Fr. Guillermo Acero, CELAM’s Biblical Centre Director, made presentations on the growing importance of the Bibli-cal Animation of all Pastoral life in Latin America where it was born and the many areas of biblical training that the AEC region continues to benefit from.

Fr. Jan Stefanow, General Secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation shared on the spiritual renewal of Bible ministry across the world being promoted through ABP and opportunities of training and exchange available through the Catholic Biblical Federation Latin America and Caribbean of which Deacon Mike James is Coordinator, while Maria Diaz-James is the Zone Coordinator for the Caribbean region.

The delegates were joined for the first day of the ABP Encounter by Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, President of the AEC, and bishop Luis Secco of Willemstad in Curacao, Bishop Ken Richards of St. John’s/Basseterre, and AEC General Secretary Fr. John Persaud.

The Chief Celebrant at the evening Mass on Friday 22 was Archbishop Joseph Harris of host Port of Spain and other concelebrants included Cardinal Kelvin Felix, Bishop elect of Kingstown St. Vincent, Trinidad born Fr. Gerard County.

In his homily Archbishop Harris pledged his support and that of the archdiocese for the growing biblical movement in the region.

In a draft vision statement which Bishop Lafont was requested to submit to the Annual Meeting of AEC Bishops for their consideration, the delegates recommended that over a period of 2016 - 2026, the AEC create, manage and evaluate ABP programmes which will contribute to Caribbean society “characterized by greater equity, compassion and harmony.”

Based on the fruits of ABP in the AEC over the last 2 years the delegates identified priority areas for greater Bible culture impact in Education and Mission

Proposed implantation strategies included:

“Catechesis of all age groups centred on the Bible and making use of such technologies and training to promote a deepened encounter with the living God in Jesus Christ”; and

“Familiarity with the Bible - Lectio Divina; Sustained reading of the Bible”

The AEC regional ABP Encounter was followed on Monday 25 by an ABP seminar for the Archdiocese of Port of Spain attended by 60 priests, religious and laity.