Sunday Word of God to be celebrated in Australia this weekend

04 Feb 2021

By Contributor

The Church in Australia will celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God on the first Sunday in February each year, starting with February 7 in 2021.

Pope Francis last year instituted the celebration when issuing the apostolic letter Aperuit Illis. The letter encouraged the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.

The date for marking the Sunday of the Word of God was set as the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. However, in light of the regular coincidence of the Australia Day holiday or associated long weekend with the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have decided to assign the first Sunday in February as Sunday of the Word of God in Australia.

‘The bishops recognised the need to create a Sunday free from potential distraction when setting the date for the Sunday of the Word of God,’ said Archbishop Patrick O’Regan, chair of the Bishops Commission for Liturgy.

‘The date was chosen to retain close proximity to the international celebration, but to avoid the clash with the Australia Day observance. The choice of date also ensures it falls before the start of Lent.’

The National Centre for Evangelisation and the National Office for Liturgy have prepared a number of resources to help individuals, families, parishes, schools and other ministries commemorate the Sunday of the Word of God.

Click Here to download the resources.

‘The Church’s love for Sacred Scripture is often misunderstood or underestimated, so this occasion offers us the opportunity to celebrate the Word of God in new and diverse ways,’ Archbishop O’Regan said.

Among the ways that Catholics and Catholic communities are being encouraged to mark the day include a special display of Sacred Scripture or the Book of the Gospels, the establishment of Bible study groups or the adoption of lectio divina, a common practice of reflection on Scripture.

‘The Second Vatican Council explained that the proclamation of the Word is one of the primary ways the faithful encounter Christ’s sacramental presence during the liturgy,’ Archbishop O’Regan said.

‘May the first Sunday in February become a day when that presence is felt and celebrated in a particular way.’

Courtesy Archdiocese of Melbourne

Pope Francis presents a Bible to a person at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, at the Vatican on 24 January 2021. Pope Francis had been scheduled to celebrate Mass in St Peter’s Basilica to mark Sunday of the Word of God but was not present due to a bout of sciatica. Photo: Vatican Media/CNS.

Pope Francis hands out Bibles at Sunday of the Word of God celebration

At his celebration of Mass for Sunday of the Word of God on 24 January, Pope Francis presented a Bible to a professional football (soccer) player, a woman from Pakistan studying in Rome to be a Scripture scholar, and a physician specialised in infectious diseases.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, which coordinates the annual celebration, said others who received the Scriptures from Pope Francis included: two Rome parish catechists, two young people who were recently confirmed, a seminarian from South Sudan preparing for his formal installation as a lector, and a person who is blind and received a copy of the Gospel of Mark in braille.

The football pro is AS Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, who received the Bible with his family.

The theme for the 2021 celebration is “Hold on to the word of life”, which comes from the Letter to the Philippians.

Because of the ongoing need to observe precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Holy Father celebrated the Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica rather than at the main altar.

Only about 100 people were in the congregation, the pontifical council said in a statement on 22 January.

The Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019, is meant to encourage among all Catholics interest in knowing the Sacred Scriptures and their central role in the life of the Church and the Christian faith.