On 15thJanuary, the Holy Father Francis received a delegation from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF) of Jerusalem on the occasion of its centenary in the picturesque Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace.
The Studium Biblicum Franciscanum , today the Faculty of Biblical Studies and Archaeology of the Pontifical University Antonianum of Rome, was founded on 7 January 1924 at the Shrine of the Flagellation in Jerusalem.
The private audience in the Clementine Hall
Pope Francis gave a warm welcome to all the participants in the private audience, lecturers and students and former students of the Studium: among the latter, also the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa. The Custos of the Holy Land, Fra Francesco Patton, Fra Rosario Pierri Decano of the SBF and Fra Claudio Bottini, Emeritus Professor, were also present and the last-named gave the Pope a precious Byzantine lantern decorated with symbols in an olive-wood box inlaid with mother-of-pearl, engraved by a craftsman from Bethlehem. This lantern is part of the collection of the Archaeological Museum of the Terra Sancta Museum.
“Your love for the Biblical texts,” began the Pope in his speech “is for you founded on the same will of St Francis, for whom Knowledge of the Word of God and also its study, are not matters of simply erudition, but experiences of a sapiential nature, whose purpose, in faith, is to help men live better the Gospel and to make them good.”
Studying and reflecting on biblical texts, all in the heart of the Church
The Holy Father encouraged and urged continuing the mission of the Studium without losing sight of the type of approach to the Scripture for the purpose of the wider mission in the heart of the Church. “Let the rigorous and scientific study of biblical sources,” the Pope continued, “always be for you united with contact with the life of the Holy People of God and aimed at their pastoral service, in harmony with and to the benefit of your specific charism in the Church. Study, meditation, reflection on the Bible and biblical texts, all in the heart of the Church, which is the holy, faithful people of God on their way .”
The Pope’s tone grew gloomier in speaking of the conflict underway: “The current situation of the Holy Land and of the peoples who inhabit it concerns and pains us. It is very grave from every point of view. It is very grave. We must pray and act tirelessly so that this tragedy may end. May this spur you all the more to explore the reasons and the quality of your presence in those martyred places, of your presence there, in the martyrdom of that people, in which the roots of our faith are rooted.”
Studying the Word where it became flesh
“The meeting with the Pope was stimulating,” Fra Francesco Patton said at the end of the audience. “Love for the Word of God is exactly what took Francis to the Holy Land eight centuries ago: he has a particular love for the Word born to Mary and also for the written Word. For 100 years, thanks to the SPF, we have been able to study it in the Holy Land, in the place where the Word became flesh: for this reason, our Faculty takes on a totally different importance. The incredible and unique value of the SBF is combined with another essential aspect, which is archaeological research, which continues with modern scientific methods - and excavating means seeking the truth and exploring our faith in greater depth.”