By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Since the Bible is shared by all Christians, there’s a natural ecumenical dimension to this Synod of Bishops. That aspect was symbolized this morning by the presentation of a special-edition, multi-lingual Bible to Pope Benedict XVI published by the American Bible Society, an inter-denominational group based in the United States devoted to publishing and distributing the Bible around the world.
One thousand copies of the massive, hard-bound Biblia Polyglotta were published by the ABS especially for this Synod of Bishops at a total cost of $250,000. A copy of the Bible is being distributed to each participant.
In a special bit of chromatic flair, the edition being given to most synod participants is bound with a red cover. The copies presented this morning to Pope Benedict XVI, however, were bound in papal white.
The Old Testament in the special edition is presented in five languages in parallel columns – Hebrew/Aramaic, Greek, Latin, English and Spanish – along with extensive notes. The New Testament is presented in four languages – Greek, Latin, English and Spanish.
Rev. Dennis Dickerson, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the chair of the ABS board, said the gift of the Bible to the synod is intended to herald a “great future of collaboration with the Catholic church” in the promotion of Scripture around the world.
Dickerson emphasized that the special edition for the synod is “not typical of the Bibles we produce,” since the bread and butter of the ABS is producing low-cost versions of the Scriptures that can be widely distributed in various parts of the world. That includes mainland China, Dickerson said, where the ABS helps to subsidize a press that can churn out up to one million Bibles a month.
“There’s a great need and a great hunger for the Scriptures there,” Dickerson said, referring to China.
Speaking on behalf of the synod, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana told a press briefing this morning that he wanted to thank the ABS for this “great gift.”
Turkson offered a prayer that “there will be no hunger for the Word of God in the land.”
Publishing a special edition of the Bible for the Synod of Bishops was the brainchild of Mario J. Paredes, an American Catholic originally from Chile who serves as the “Special Liaison for Roman Catholic and Hispanic Latino Ministries” for the ABS. A former specialist in Latino affairs for the Reagan administration, Paredes is currently the president of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders in the United States.
Dickerson told NCR that Benedict XVI flipped through the pages of the Bible when it was presented to him this morning, thanking the ABS and expressing his approval of the project.