Pope Francis has unexpectedly released a new Apostolic Letter to mark the 1600th anniversary of the death of St Jerome.
In the letter, published 30 September, the Pope praises Jerome’s “devotion to the Sacred Scripture” which was, Francis states, “a ‘living and tender love’ for the written word of God”.
Jerome (347- 420AD) a Doctor and Father of the Church, is best known for his translations of the bible, which formed the majority of the text later known as the Vulgate bible - for centuries, the Church’s official translation. A prolific writer of bible commentaries, homilies, and letters, he is the patron saint of translators, archaeologists, archivists and bible scholars. Pope Francis’s new letter, Scripturae Sacrae affectus ("Devotion to Sacred Scripture"), praises him as a model of learning, faith and spirituality.
“Jerome’s profound knowledge of the Scriptures, his zeal for making their teaching known, his skill as an interpreter of texts, his ardent and at times impetuous defence of Christian truth, his asceticism and harsh eremitical discipline, his expertise as a generous and sensitive spiritual guide”, the Pope writes, “all these make him, sixteen centuries after his death, a figure of enduring relevance for us, the Christians of the twenty-first century.”
The Pope drew particular attention to Jeromes “humble” but “diligent” study of the Bible, which he presents as a model to Christians studying scripture today. Jerome’s study was carried out in a spirit of obedience “to those in the Church who represent the living Tradition that interprets the revealed message”. But, the Pope argues , “The ‘obedience of faith’ is not, however, a mere passive reception of something already known; on the contrary it demands an active personal effort to understand what was spoken.” In a world where many people lack the skills needed to interpret the texts of scripture, “Jerome can serve as our guide… because he leads every reader to the mystery of Jesus”.
And in this - the Pope writes - Jerome presents a challenge and a call to young Christians in particular. “Begin exploring your heritage” - the Pope concludes - “Christianity makes you heirs of an unsurpassed cultural patrimony of which you must take ownership. Be passionate about this history which is yours. Dare to fix your gaze on the young Jerome, who, like the merchant in Jesus’ parable, sold all he had in order to buy the ‘pearl of great price’.”