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The Sunday of the Word of God

Author: Vivatdeus.org
Subject: Sunday of the Word of God
Language: English, Spanish
Year: 2022
, 2022
Sunday of the Word of God - 2022
Sunday of the Word of God - 2022

On the Sunday of the Word of God we meet Fr. Jan Stefanow, General Secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF).

Vivatdeus.com: Will you please say a few words about the CBF: What is it? What are its principal aims?

The CBF is an organization that was created in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, in 1969. It is usually referred to as “a daughter of the Council”. The title is mostly due to CBF’s relation to Chapter VI of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum. This chapter speaks of the role of the word of God in the ecclesial community. In order to bring the word of God closer to the communities of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Augustinus Bea, who had been acquainted with the United Biblical Societies, made a suggestion to Pope Paul VI that a similar organization should be created in the Catholic Church. So, in 1969 the CBF was created. Its headquarters were moved to Germany in 1972.

Vivatdeus.com: Who belongs the Federation?

Gradually two types of membership have been established: full members, that is, Bishops’ Conferences, and associate members – which means, any institution engaged in activities related to the Bible. Currently, the CBF has around 350 affiliated institutions from 126 countries around the world.

It is important to highlight the difference, I would say, a rather significant difference that exists between the United Bible Societies of the Protestants and the CBF of the Catholic Church. The United Bible Societies are a corporation: they have a common source of finance and editorial policy. Whereas the Federation is, as I said in the beginning, a platform that coordinates independent institutions. We cannot impose anything on anybody. All the decisions and statements that CBF agrees upon have first of all the “moral” significance, they are designed to convince and inspire, not to organize in an administrative way. To follow or not to follow them depends on the willingness of the institution affiliated to the CBF. This limitation, as well as the diversity and idiosyncrasies that exist in the Catholic Church, sometimes make it difficult to get on with some resolutions; however, even with these limitations, the CBF has managed, in the course of more than 50 years of its existence, to make a considerable contribution to the Catholic Church. Suffice it to mention the convocation of the Synod of the Word of God, or the fact that Biblical Pastoral Ministry is now active in the Church.

Vivatdeus.com: In what way the Sunday of the Word of God is important in this task of Bible-related activities?

All the work of the CBF is aimed at promoting Bible-related activities. We are not an academic institution, we are a pastoral platform. One of our undertakings, that unfortunately was not positively answered on the part of the Holy See, was to proclaim year 2019 as a Year of the Word of God, which would as well have coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Federation and the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome. But it seems that the idea survived, and a year later, in 2019, on St. Gerome’s memorial day, Pope Francis proclaimed the establishing of the Sunday of the Word of God with the document “Aperuit illis”. In the liturgical calendar this is now permanently the third Sunday of the Ordinary Time.

Vivatdeus.com: But it seems to me that Sundays of the Bible had already been celebrated in many countries?

They had. In fact, some people were asking: Why introduce the Sunday of the Word of God, we already have a Sunday of the Bible? The Sundays of the Bible have Protestant origin. After Biblical Societies were created in the Protestant world, a Sunday of the Bible was introduced in order to collect means for the spreading of the Holy Scripture. Afterwards, this custom was accepted in some Catholic countries, were it has an ecumenical character and focuses on the Bible, therefore, there are Sundays of the Bible, Biblical Weeks and so on and so forth. But the Catholic Church has a wider understanding of the word of God. It is contained in the Bible, but not exclusively. God speaks in the reality surrounding us, in the church community, in the tradition of the Church. To have a Sunday when we remember and celebrate it all is of utmost importance. Let us consider the following fact: the Catholic Church celebrates the Eucharist every day, but we have the Feast of the “Corpus Christi” in order to bring attention to and celebrate the presence of God in the Eucharist. In the same way, we read the word of God, we live the word of God, we practise it every day, but now we have a special day celebrated in the liturgy, when God solemnly comes to us in His word. I believe this is extremely important. And the fact that the day of the Word of God is mentioned in the liturgical calendar makes it possible that everyone: the bishops, the priests, the people of God – understands its importance; we can see that it is not an invention of some enthusiastic Bible scholars, but a decision of the Holy Father for the entire Church.

Vivatdeus.com: What is the relationship between the Sunday of the Word of God and the Family of St. Arnold?

We have been saying for quite a long time that “Our name is our mission”. During the last General Chapter we spoke of the fact that our mission comes from our being rooted in the word of God. Pope Francis says in one of his documents that one can’t proclaim the word of God has he not heard it before. We should not merely repeat the ideas, but we should  follow what Pope Paul VI said in his “Evangelii nuntiandi”: “The world of our days doesn’t need teachers, it needs witnesses”. And the testimony arises from personal experience, which, in its turn, comes from hearing the word of God. In the tradition of the Family of St. Arnold the word in its various dimensions is of utmost importance: it is the Word that became flesh (Jesus Christ), the Holy Scripture, and – God, who speaks to us in different ways, as I have said earlier. However, at times I have an impression that the word has not yet penetrated the whole of our spirituality and mentality. For example, our “Ordo” book, that contains the instructions on liturgy in the Society of the Divine Word on special occasions, has not yet included the Sunday of the Word, though three years have passed since it was introduced. We, the Verbites, work in quite a number of dimensions of the pastoral ministry, so, probably, there are people who are not so much involved in this topic. Therefore, for us, the Sunday of the Word of God is a call to focus our attention on the Word, it is an event that will help us to remember, celebrate and bolster our listening to the Word and our union with it.


Fr. Jan J. Stefanów is a missionary of the Society of the Divine Word, Polish by birth. He studied Theology in Madrid and obtained the Licentiate degree in Biblical Theology in the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome). He worked in Ecuador and Poland. Since the beginning of 2014 Fr. Jan J. Stefanów is the General Secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation with the headquarters in Sankt Ottilien (Germany).

Fr. Jan Stefanow, SVD
Fr. Jan Stefanow, SVD

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