24.07.2006 @ 21:00
Message for 60 years of the Franciscan Biblical Study Centre of Hong Kong
To my beloved Brother in Christ
BR. LIONEL GOH, OFM
Director of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Hong Kong
Peace and health in the Lord!
In accordance with Chinese tradition, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Hong Kong this year celebrated the 60 years of its foundation during the first year of its anniversary. It was on the distant 2nd of August 1945 that the Studium Biblicum began its activity in the city of Beijing, thanks to the intuition and human and spiritual gifts of the Venerable Br. Gabriele M. Allegra.
The Founder of the Studium had received as one the vocation to China and the call to translate of Sacred Scripture into Chinese. Enthused by a conference given in the Antonianum in Rome during the academic celebrations on the occasion of the VI centenary of the death of John of Montecorvino, he decided to translate the Bible into Chinese. From that decision there flowed the whole logic of his life, totally given over to China and the Word of God, to be spread and made known to all.
The wonders of Pentecost were renewed in the XX century, thanks to his work, through which â€œthe Word of the Lord spreadâ€¦ more widely and successfullyâ€ (Acts 13, 49; 19,20). Faithful to the inspiration of St. Francis, Br. Gabriele would willingly repeat: â€œwherever they find the divine written words, let them venerate themâ€¦ honouring in words the Lord Who spoke themâ€ (LtOrd 36).
If it was sixty years ago that Br. Gabriele began the Biblical Study Centre, it was fully forty five years ago that he, with his co-workers, finished the translation of the Bible into Chinese with the publication of the final volume of the New Testament on the 2nd of August 1961, a date that could not pass in silence!
The intimate bond of missionary vocation and service to the Word of God was sustained in Br. Gabriele M. and in his collaborators, through a strong sense of fraternity and franciscan simplicity. The Biblical Study Centre, before being an academic institution and a research centre, was a family and a small church: it prayed daily, with a special place for the Virgin Mary in the mystery of her Immaculate Heart and for Blessed John Duns Scotus, the special patron of the Centre; that family fraternity which Francis wanted to flourish among his Friars Minor was alive there. Br. Gabriele would remember the early times of the Study Centre in the Hsiao Shi Kiao quarter as â€œthe days of Rivotortoâ€.
It was in this spirit that Br. Allegra wrote clearly in his â€œMemoirsâ€ that â€œwe really were not solitary monads, but constituted a family, the â€œfamily of Godâ€. The life and activity of the Study Centre were characterised, right from the beginning, by this integral franciscan spirit, through which â€“ according to the words of the Founder himself â€“ â€œthe Study of Sacred Scripture, and that means all the material which has to be applied to it, what is a part of our or of a similar Institute, is reduced to charity, that is, to the love of God and of His holy Churchâ€.
The reference to the Church give testimony to the profound spirit of Catholicism that animated Br. Gabriele, who wrote in his Memoirs: â€œLet us offer our work to Holy Church, in accordance with the words of our Father St. Francis, who always wished us to be humble and subjectâ€.
During its sixty years of life and activity, the Biblical Study Centre wished to remain faithful to this orientation of early times, both during the earthly life of the founder and afterwards. It is because of this that we find the original inspiration intact and can draw wisdom and enthusiasm for up-dating the institution of the beginning.
Because of known historical events, the Franciscan Biblical Study Centre is today celebrating its sixty years in the city of Hong Kong, the crossroad between the East and the rest of the world, a sign of the prodigious economic development of present-day China and the cradle of a vivacious Christian community. The linguistic and cultural particularities of this great city makes it particularly suitable for confronting a reality in rapid evolution. The announcement of the Word of God in such a context has a greater need than ever of the testimony of life and charity, on the one hand, and of adequate cultural means, on the other. Therefore, the forms of popularising the Bible, which the Biblical Study Centre continues to offer, are all the more precious. At the same time, it would be important to take up once again the original task of the Chinese translation of Scripture, in view of an integral revision of the text, in order to come close to the present-day evolution of the language, so that the Word of God may be opportunely known and announced in words that are understandable to the man of today in that thousands of years old culture.
The Biblical Study Centre will be able to face these challenges in the measure that its members live in a spirit of collaboration and profound fraternity, overcoming every individualistic temptation. The link with the entire Order, which still looks with interest and hope on this reality, with the Province and with the other Entities of the Far East, will be a guarantee of stability and of authentic franciscan inspiration for the Study Centre and its research. In the same way, a profound sense of Church will help it to look beyond its own confines in order to serve the People of God, satisfying its hunger and thirst: â€œa hunger not for bread, a thirst not for water, but for hearing the word of the Lordâ€ (Am 8, 11).
I address these simple reflections and these best wishes to all the Friars and lay collaborators who work in the Studium Biblicum today: I address a special greeting to Br. John Baptist Tse, who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination and entry into the Order. I wish him all the best and may he continue to serve the Word of God with joy and for a long time.
A word of thanks to the Province of â€œThe Queen of Chinaâ€ and to the Foundation of Hong Kong, for supporting, in many ways, the House and Fraternity, in which the Study Centre is housed.
May the Lord, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, of our Father St. Francis and of Blessed John Duns Scotus, continue to guide the path of the Franciscan Biblical Study Centre so that it may fully live and fulfil today its vocation and mission to announce and spread the Word of God in that noble country.
Given in Rome, at the General Curia,
On the 21st July 2006
Br. JosÃ© RodrÃguez Carballo, OFM
Br. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM
Secretary General for Formation and Studies