Holy Spirit inspires Church’s interpretation of Bible, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While the text of the Bible is fixed, the same Holy Spirit that inspired its writing continues to inspire its proclamation and interpretation in the Church, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The Catholic Church’s understanding of the Bible grows through time thanks to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and to reflection, study, prayer and preaching, the pope said in a message to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, an international group of scholars who advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The commission met at the Vatican April 16-20 to continue its discussion and study of “inspiration and truth in the Bible.”

While the act of revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, Pope Benedict said, “the revealed word continues to be proclaimed and interpreted by the living tradition of the Church. For this reason, the word of God fixed in the sacred texts is not an immobile deposit within the Church, but becomes the supreme rule of its faith.”

Pope Benedict said no one can really understand the Bible without recognizing that it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

But, as he told the biblical commission last year, “it is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration or of absolute truth in a mechanical way, extrapolating a single phrase or expression.”

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the Bible as a whole is true and people’s understanding of it progresses “with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and grows with the reflection and study of believers, with the personal experience of a spiritual life and with the preaching of the bishops,” the pope said.

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

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A young woman studies the Bible at St. Mary of Celle Parish in Berwyn, Ill., in 2009. Pope Benedict XVI said that while Catholics believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it is true, one cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and say each one is literally true.(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catolico)