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Catholic Biblical Federation To Focus On China


July 23 2008

The recent Seventh Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF) in Tanzania highlighted support for biblical pastoral ministry in mainland China as a priority for the next six years.

Cecilia Chui, CBF Northeast Asia subregional coordinator, says there is a "great hunger and thirst" for the word of God in mainland China and therefore pastoral workers from throughout the world are willing to assist in this field.


Cecilia Chui, Northeast Asia subregional coordinator of the Catholic Biblical Federation. 

In this commentary for UCA News, Chui also says this support for China will involve forming a network of mainland Chinese Bible experts who have undertaken biblical studies abroad. She considers this priority for China a witness to God´s word "with a Chinese face," and stresses the role of the laity in this endeavor.

About 230 delegates from 70 countries gathered for the June 24-July 3 CBF assembly in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The assembly´s theme was Word of God - Source of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.

The CBF´s Northeast Asia subregion, part of its Asia-Oceania region, comprises mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Macau and Taiwan, with a total of 15 member organizations. Nineteen delegates from this subregion attended the recent assembly including 11 from South Korea and three from mainland China.

CBF, founded in 1969, is a worldwide fellowship of international, national and local institutions engaged in biblical pastoral ministry, Bible study and Bible translation. It embraces more than 330 member organizations in 133 countries and holds a plenary assembly every six years.

Chui has been CBF Northeast Asia subregional coordinator since 1990, and she currently also serves as liaison secretary of the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association. An active member of the Hong Kong Catholic Biblical Association, she has been involved in biblical pastoral ministry more than 20 years.

Her commentary follows:

Mainland Chinese representatives have been taking part in CBF events since 1996, the year Hong Kong hosted the CBF´s Fifth Plenary Assembly. Participants from China have taken part in CBF meetings at the Asian and global levels, as well as in Chinese biblical meetings organized by the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association (UCCBA), a CBF associate member.

At the eighth UCCBA meeting, held in Macau Nov. 1-5, 2007, 11 of the more than 100 participants from 18 countries and territories were mainland Chinese -- nine priests, one nun and one seminarian.

During the Macau meeting, the China group collectively made these commitments:
- Encourage personal reading of the Bible;
- Animate clergy and laypeople to pray with and read the Bible fervently;
- Encourage the laity to read, learn and share the Bible together before or after Sunday Mass;
- Popularize biblical pastoral ministry through setting up biblical organizations on the diocesan level and leading parishioners in the apostolate, as well as nurturing core members of biblical prayer groups;
- Strengthen links among parishes or dioceses to facilitate sharing of resources, mutual learning and support; and
- Make the best use of locally available resources, learning from overseas Chinese communities involved in biblical ministry, and offer systematic formation materials to core members of Bible-reading groups and laypeople in general.
In the final statement of the plenary assembly in Dar es Salaam, the federation´s members and associates highlighted their support for biblical pastoral ministry in China as a priority for the next six years. This is an expression of "solidarity with the Catholic Church of China and God´s beloved Chinese faithful in the divine word."

We are aware of the great hunger and thirst for the word in the vast country of China, and our co-servants, particularly in the Asian region, in biblical pastoral ministry are willing to offer assistance wherever possible, in such areas as:
1) Biblical pastoral formation of clergy, Religious and laity;
2) Printing and distributing affordable bibles in various formats;
3) Providing biblical pastoral materials and experiential sharings, especially through networking with CBF and UCCBA;
4) Developing organized groups, associations or centers, and facilitating internal coordination of the biblical apostolate;
5) Promoting ongoing dialogue and service of love to help fulfil the historic mission of reconciliation in the light of God´s word (cf. 8th UCCBA Meeting Resolution No. 2); and
6) Supporting the setting up of a foundation to assist deficient regions (also addressed in 8th UCCBA Meeting Resolution No. 6).
To continue developing the biblical pastoral ministry in China, we have an idea to form a network to associate mainland Chinese who have undertaken biblical studies abroad. The objectives include supporting and promoting exchanges, encouraging young scholars and overseas studies, and upgrading Bible knowledge through research and publication.

Three mainland Chinese priests participated in the CBF plenary assembly in Tanzania, two of whom are currently studying Scripture abroad.

One of the priests took part in the 2005 international biblical congress in Rome, which CBF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity jointly organized to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Dei Verbum (word of God), the Second Vatican Council´s "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation."

Another priest took part in a biblical formation course in the Holy Land in early 2007, which was a joint project between the CBF and the Benedictines of St. Ottilien.

Our caring for China and mainland Chinese Catholics, centered on the word of God, echoes the loving words of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who told Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong and Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau during their recent ad limina visit: "Continue to support the Church of China. Don´t forget that Christ is also the pastor of Chinese people. The Church cannot remain silent about this Good News."

The emphasis on China could enhance our efforts to promote inculturated and life-context reading of God´s word by presenting the Chinese face of Jesus, the Word Incarnate. Facing the vast extent of the vineyards of biblical pastoral ministry, we see that CBF members´ concerted efforts can contribute in different ways to enable the third millennium to become more truly a "Millennium of the Word."

We shall pray for and follow developments at the Synod on the Word of God in October 2008. Once the apostolic exhortation based on the synod is released, we shall make it one of the principal guides for our biblical apostolate.

Moving forward, we are convinced that biblical animation of all pastoral ministries should be centered on the word of God. In this context the laity´s role and contribution in the ministry of the word is essential in building the Church of tomorrow.

Taking note that Jesus was a layperson born in Asia, our reading of the "signs of the times" inspires us to give priority to solid formation of lay animators, facilitators and coordinators for biblical pastoral ministry. They have a particular role in the "new evangelization."

We will continue to promote familiarity with Dei Verbum. We also will support the goal of creating and promoting a "culture of the Bible" and organized collaboration among lay communities to empower formation of competent lay ministers of the word, who in turn can form other laypeople.

In the prophetic style of Jesus of Nazareth, the proclamation of the word of God "ought to appear to each person as a solution to his problems, an answer to his questioning, a widening of his values and an overall fulfillment to his aspirations" (12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Instrumentum Laboris No. 51).

With the Church in China and throughout the world, we can pray that in the third Christian millennium, "a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vital continent of Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia, No. 1).

Our collective ministry will be like a hymn with many voices, proclaiming the word of God in a variety of ways and forms. We are filled with hope and confidence under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Saint Paul´s prayerful desire "that the word of God might spread and triumph" (2 Thessalonians 3:1) will continue to be fulfilled.