The Bible is so dangerous that some Christians risk persecution to have one. But for Pope Francis, its life-changing role in daily life is important too.
“The Bible is not meant to be placed on a shelf, but to be in your hands, to read often – every day, both on your own and together with others,” he wrote in the prologue to a Bible for youth in Germany.
He encouraged young people to read the Bible together the way they play sports or go shopping together.
“Why not read the Bible together as well – two, three, or four of you? In nature, in the woods, on the beach, at night in the glow of a few candles … you will have a great experience!”
“Read with attention! Do not stay on the surface as if reading a comic book! Never just skim the Word of God!” he exhorted, according to a translation by the news site Aleteia.
The Pope encouraged young people to ask what God says to them through the Bible.
“Has he touched me in the depths of my longing? What should I do?” he encouraged them to ask. “Only in this way can the force of the Word of God unfold. Only in this way can it change our lives, making them great and beautiful.”
The Pope’s comments come in the prologue to the German edition of the YouCat Bible. The youth Bible is from the makers of the YouCat catechism for youth. The new Bible edition includes the text of the Bible packaged in a modern layout with a storyline, line drawings, and color photographs accompanied by explanations and quotations. The YouCat Bible was proved popular at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Fifteen publishers from countries including the U.S., Poland, and Argentina signed agreements to publish the Bible.
Bernhard Meuser, project manager at YouCat, said the youth Bible is among the top ten most valuable licenses at the book fair. YouCat has printed six million copies of its youth catechism, published in 2011. The catechism is now available in 39 languages.
In the prologue to the YouCat Bible, Pope Francis reflected on his own much-used Bible.
“If you could see my Bible, you would not be particularly impressed,” he said. “What – that’s the Pope’s Bible? Such an old, worn-out book!”
But he would not trade it for a new one.
“I love my old Bible, which has accompanied me half my life. It has been with me in my times of joy and times of tears. It is my most precious treasure,” he said. “I live out of it, and I wouldn’t give anything in the world for it.”
Pope Francis praised the new Youth Bible for its testimonies from saints and young people.
“It is so inviting that when you start to read at the beginning, you can’t stop until the last page,” he said.
He encouraged readers not to let the Bible disappear on a shelf and collect dust.
“There are more persecuted Christians in the world today than in the early days of the Church. And why are they persecuted? They are persecuted because they wear a cross and bear witness to Jesus. They are convicted because they own a Bible,” he said.
The Pope described the Bible as a “highly dangerous book.” Some countries treat someone with a Bible “as if you were hiding hand grenades in your closet.”
He questioned whether the Bible can be just a piece of literature or a collection of old stories, given how many Christians are persecuted for it.
“By the word of God has Light come into the world, and it will never go out,” he said.
Pope Francis also recounted his own Bible reading habits.
“Often I read a little and then put it away and contemplate the Lord. Not that I see the Lord, but he looks at me. He’s there. I let myself look at him. And I feel—this is not sentimentality—I feel deeply the things that the Lord tells me,” the Pope said.
“Sometimes he does not speak. I then feel nothing, only emptiness, emptiness, emptiness…. But I remain patiently, and so I wait, reading and praying.”
The Pope said that sometimes he falls asleep while praying.
“But it does not matter. I’m like a son with the father, and that is what’s important.”