Pope Francis meets with an ecumenical delegation of the United Bible Societies, and encourages their efforts to translate Sacred Scripture into many languages and distribute Bibles across the globe.
By Devin Watkins
The United Bible Societies (UBS) has translated the Bible into the mother-tongues of over half of the world’s population, and seeks to help people gain access Sacred Scripture so as to encounter the Word of God without any barriers.
On Thursday, Pope Francis lent his support for the efforts of the global fellowship which was founded in 1946 and operates in over 240 countries and territories.
Meeting with a UBS delegation in the Vatican, the Pope reflected on the spread of the Word of God as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.
“After Pentecost, with the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles spread the ‘kerygma’, explained the meaning of the Scriptures in light of the mystery of Jesus Christ, and warned against those who use it with bad dispositions or for petty interests.”
Persecution and spread of the Word
The early Church encountered many difficulties in this mission, noted Pope Francis, just as today’s Christians face hardship as we seek to proclaim the Gospel to “a world which is often deaf to the voice of God.”
He pointed out that the early Church lived the Word of God in their very depths, and then brought the Scriptures to the far corners of the world when persecutions broke out against them.
“Persecutions become opportunities to spread the Word, never to forget it.”
Example of early Christians
Pope Francis held out the example of the deacon Philip (later known as Philip the Evangelist) as an emblematic case.
When persecutions heated up against the followers of Christ, Philip traveled to Samaria and preached the Lord to the sick, bringing great joy to the city.
At the same time, Philip’s preaching also highlights two different ways in which people receive the Word. Simon the Magician, for example, sought to use the Scriptures for monetary gain, while the Ethiopian welcomed God’s Word, received Baptism, and carried on his way as a good Christian.
Treasuring the faith amid hardship
In our own times, said the Pope, Christians are forced to flee their homelands, carrying the Word with them.
“They conserve their faith as a treasure that gives meaning to the difficult, sometimes terrible circumstances they face. Embracing the cross of Christ, they venerate the Word of God that ‘endures forever’.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis thanked the United Bible Societies for their work to assist the diffusion of God’s Word.
“The distribution of the Bible by publishing texts in various languages and distributing them to different continents is a laudable work,” he said, adding his appreciation that many Catholics continue to assist their efforts.
“I ask the Holy Spirit always to guide and sustain your service,” concluded the Pope. “He is able to reveal the depths of God, so that all who hear the sacred text “may come to obedience of the faith” and the encounter with God through Jesus Christ.