Yesterday the apostolic administrator celebrated the opening of the academic year at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. The institute “made history” through “its discoveries”. In looking at books, we find “the first response to the cry of the world”.
Jerusalem – Pope Francis “established a Sunday dedicated to the Word of God”, a way to “remind ourselves that the life of the Church, the service to the world […] must come from there, from the Eucharist and from the contemplation of the Word of God,” said Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in the homily he delivered at the opening Mass of the academic year at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.
Emphasising the value of studying, the prelate cited the work of the École Biblique, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. These three major institutes are joined by “minor study centres” but “no less important, dedicated to theological and biblical refresher courses of priests and lay people who spend sabbaticals here”.
The Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF) is a scientific institution for research and academic teaching of the Sacred Scripture and the archaeology of biblical countries. It was planned by the Custody of the Holy Land in 1901 and has been operating since 1924.
Since 1960 it is part of the Pontificia Universitas Antonianum in Rome. The two departments of the two levels of specialisation, Licenciate and Doctorate in Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, are located at the Convent of the Flagellation, in Jerusalem.
The SBF grants pontifical academic Licenciates and Doctorates in Biblical Sciences and Archaeology. It also awards three other diplomas: Higher Biblical-Oriental Sciences and Archaeology, Biblical Languages, and Biblical training.
In its teaching activity it gives particular importance to biblical languages and contact with the Eastern biblical world. It organises conferences and study days, biblical refresher courses and training courses for pilgrimage guides to the Holy Land.
Mgr Pizzaballa greeted the dean, Brother Rosario Pierri, the teachers, auxiliary staff, students and friends, noting that the SBF “literally made history” through “its archaeological discoveries and studies”, throwing “new light” on the Christian history of the Holy Land. The numerous religious institutions, “more numerous” than the “actual number of Christians” are “a clear sign of vitality,” he explained.
“In our small ecclesial community, we have a religious presence that is the expression of the plurality of languages and charisms [. . .] of the universal Church”. For the apostolic administrator, “There are many needs and activities to which we are called, the cry of those who await our attention, but everything must refer back to a centre”.
“It is not easy nor possible”, he warns, to understand a reality of life and the “complex” world without “room within us; room that is a presence. If this presence is missing, the nucleus capable of welcoming, examining, discerning, listening to reality,” i.e. “the criterion for reading what is happening around us,” is missing.
Hence, the study of theology and exegesis or Akkadian, Greek or Syriac grammars, Plato or Duns Scoto, “are not a time stolen from listening to the cry of the world” but, on the contrary, “the first necessary answer, indispensable” to give the world the “answer it needs”.
“Studying helps to give form and consistency to that unifying centre, which in our heart must be formed around the Word of God and the theological knowledge of Christ”.
To those who want to speed up the educational path, “which they feel useless and far from their sensibility,” he asks to “look at the books” which have the first serious, solid, radical answer to the cry of the world. This means bringing that cry to God, but also listening to it and responding to it according to God’s plan, not ours.”