The 45th Biblical-Theological Refresher Course (CABT) came to an end in Jerusalem on Friday22 April, after four intense days. The Course, supported by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF), started on Tuesday 19 April in the Immaculate Auditorium of St Saviour’s Covent and lasted four days, with lectures in the morning and guided visits in the afternoon. It came to an end on Friday with an excursion to the Negev desert.
The CABT was inaugurated in the 1970s on the initiative of the Italian Franciscan and archaeologist Camillo Bellarmino Bagatti, as an occasion of training for Italian-speaking religious men and women in Jerusalem, to be held the week after the Easter celebrations.
For decades, the Course has aimed to provide in-depth studies on the Bible or specific theological subjects–such as, for example, those gradually dealt with in the papal encyclicals – and to offer time devoted to theology in the panorama of the Hoy Land by qualified people, such as the lecturers at the SBF itself.
The CABT was recently included in the “catalogue of training initiatives” of the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) , encouraging the participation from Italy of teachers interested in this initiative.
The subject of reflection this year was that of Wisdom, not in reference to the book of the Old Testament, but to Wisdom as transversally understood in the scriptures. The lectures are given by teachers who are experts in exegesis and who focus on a subject and develop it, starting from a pericope or from a whole passage of a Biblical text.
There were fewer participants this year compared to previous years, for two types of reasons: the first due to the slow return to normality after the two years of the pandemic and the second related to the belated promotion of the event by the Franciscans who waited for the restrictions linked to the health situation to be eased to advertise the event and hold it in complete safety. Nevertheless, about 50-60 people attended daily.
Fra Alessandro Coniglio, ofm, secretary of the SBF and one of the lecturers and organizers of the initiative, spoke to us about the instruments that the CABT provides to the attendees and the added value that the lecture can contribute to each person’s faith. "Amongst the instruments that are offered there is certainly the combination of several theoretical lecturers on the Bible with the guided tour of the locations; very often these are visits to places that are more hidden, less usual, that lie outside the classic circuit of the pilgrimages. The stimulus that we want to give is to provide those listening with an instrument to reapproach the Biblical text again directly with a different awareness, or to return to it with instruments of analysis that allow them a deeper understanding of that text.”
As far as the spiritual aspect of the initiative is concerned, Fra Alessandro admits: "The plus in terms of faith depends on the capacity of the lecturers not to limit themselves to the purely theoretical and academic aspect;" a great deal depends on their skill of “being able to break down that work so that it is nourishment for those who listen." And he added, on the delicate task of the lecturers: "Although we ourselves, more exegetes and more Biblicists, lack a little the theological scope, over the past few days there have been ideas of an existential theological nature; I am thinking of the lecture given by Prof. Priottoon Job and the relationship with God in suffering, that of Prof. Rizzion the so-called “Testament of Job”, or Prof. Cavicchia, who spoke of John’s return to the topic of exodus through rereading the books of wisdom.”
Filippo De Grazia