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Make the Word of God central to church ministries*

Group photo of ABP delegates taken after the October 8 Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Photo: Raymond Syms

by Fr Gerry Bernier, Archdiocese of Port of Spain

The IX Training Workshop of the Biblical Animation of All Pastoral Life (ABP) was held at the Emmaus Centre, Arima from October 9–13. This encounter/workshop was organised by the Council of Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) and the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC).

This continuous training was to update the knowledge and practice of English-speaking representatives of AEC dioceses, to assist them in moving forward with spreading the Gospels and making the bible a vital and constant presence and guide in the life of the Catholic Church and the people of this region.

There were nine participants from Trinidad and Tobago, one from Haiti, two from Suriname, four from Belize including Bishop Lawrence Nicasio of Belize City and Belmopan, three from Jamaica, two from Barbados, two from St Vincent and the Grenadines, one from St Lucia and two from Guyana. Two were expected from Dominica, but were unable to attend due to recovery efforts following the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Also in attendance were Fr Damian Nannini from Argentina, the new Co-ordinator of the Bible School of CELAM who oversees ABP in Latin America and the Caribbean; Fr John Persaud, AEC General Secretary based in Trinidad; Deacon Mike James and Maria Diaz-James of the Catholic Biblical Federation (FEBIC-LAC) based in Mexico; Msgr Mike Stewart, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Fr Thomas Dynetius of Jamaica. These were our presenters, along with Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, Chairman of the AEC ABP committee who made presentations via Skype.

All were welcomed on the first day by host Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain, who also celebrated Mass at the Cathedral on Sunday, October 8 with the participants.

Among the many different topics presented during the encounter were the history of the bible in the Church and its history in the AEC region, Catholic Church documents on the bible Dei Verbum of Vatican II, Verbum Domini of Pope Benedict XVI, Laudato Si and Evangelii Guadium of Pope Francis. Bishop Lafont spoke on evangelisation and Lectio Divina and its importance to evangelisation.

One issue stressed time and again during the encounter is that ABP is about the centrality of the Word of God to all ministries of the Church and, it is not an extra programme or group. Through ABP the Christian is invited into an encounter with the living Word of God in the person of Jesus Christ and is called to be a missionary disciple.

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI in the Post Synodal Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life of the Church, 2010: “The Synod called for a particular pastoral commitment to emphasising the centrality of the Word of God in the Church’s life, and recommended a greater ‘biblical apostolate’, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work.”

Participants were reminded of the words of St Jerome: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”, and so making the bible the inspiration of every ordinary and extraordinary pastoral outreach will lead to a greater awareness of the person of Christ, who reveals the Father and is the fullness of divine revelation.

ABP is asking us to not just read the Bible, but read it in a prayerful manner and living out the scriptures in our everyday life as we encounter the living Christ in the Gospels and in the people of God whom we serve.