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What distinguishes Christianity

It may be a coincidence but at a closer look it is not insignificant that the Papal Message to the Cardinal Archivist and Librarian on the occasion of the reopening of the Vatican Library, the oldest and most valuable cultural institution of the Church of Rome, was published on the same day as the document resulting from the Synodal Assembly on the Word of God, entitled Verbum Dominum.

Indeed both texts, although they cannot be compared, gravitate around the theme that is Christianity's distinguishing feature: the proclamation that the Eternal Word was made flesh.

The Synod — a contemporary expression of Catholic collegiality — met in 2008 with this theme, in accordance with the wishes and with the assiduous participation of Benedict XVI.

One of those who spoke at the Synodal Assembly was Patriarch Bartholomew who gave a meditation. And for the first time a Rabbi was invited to explain the special bond that unites the Church to Judaism. This “bond”, the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini thus reaffirms, “must never be overlooked” — just as the “profound and radical difference by no means implies mutual hostility” — in a desire for exchange and friendship, which the document extends to Muslims and to other religions.

The Divine Word, revealed in the Scriptures and above all incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, is not a word of the past. On the contrary it is living Word to be interpreted in accordance with Tradition and within the Church.

And the Word returns to be incarnate in the heart of those who encounter Christ — he is the Kingdom of God ( Autobasileia ), in Origen’s evocative image — and listen to his words. For this reason Christianity is not a religion of the book; even though the need to communicate and to pass on the Word ( Logos ) immediately made it a religious tradition linked to books. This is demonstrated by the history of the many Christian libraries, often unfortunately dispersed, and by that of the institution bound to the Church of Rome in particular The Library was conceived of and desired by Nicholas v in a modern way in the splendour of humanism and it was renovated for contemporary society by Pius xi, in the golden age of Cardinal Ehrle and Cardinal Mercati.

It was renovated with unchanging generosity and breadth for anyone who “seeks the truth”, as we read in the Papal Message — which in a plurality of words invites us to look at the one Word which never fades.




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 20, 2020