THE Episcopal Commission on Biblical Apostolate (ECBA) was organized by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in July of 1978. Before that the CBCP had a Bible translations committee functioning under the Commission of Ecumenical Affairs. This Committee had become necessary since the CBCP wanted translations of the Bible in the various indigenous languages for the celebration of the Liturgy in the vernaculars.
ECBA is a pastoral commission of the CBCP. Its area of competence and service is the biblical-pastoral ministry in its five-fold concerns, namely: Animating Biblical-Pastoral Formation; Organizing Bible Celebration; Promoting Bible Translations; Assisting Bible Production; Coordinating Bible Distribution.
ECBA supports and fosters the work of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF) for biblical-pastoral ministry, which throughout the world, collaborate with the bishops to make the Word of God available to all (DV c. VI, No.22), as expressed in:
All of these activities are geared toward the pastoral thrust of the Church in the Philippines as decreed by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II)—the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).
ECBA is supervised and governed by a Board of Trustees consisting of Bishop Commission members, the Executive Secretary, and the Regional Directors. It communicates with the Catholic Bible Federation and the Office of Evangelization of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) and maintains relations with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and other interconfessional entities involved in the Biblical Apostolate.
ECBA is also a full member of the Catholic Biblical Federation, which is “a Catholic world fellowship of administratively distinct international local organizations committed to biblical-pastoral ministry”. The Federation is a public association of Christ’s faithful. It relates to the Holy See through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Its office is situated in Stuttgart, Germany.
When the Episcopal Commission was formally formed in 1978 there was only one Catholic Bible Center in the country, the one in Manila. Today the ECBA is organized into ten regions, each with its duly organized Regional Biblical Center and a Regional Director. The said biblical centers are responsible for the implementation of on-going biblical formation programs for their region. These include:
In cooperation with the Philippine Bible Society, eight “Common Bible” translations have finally emerged.
From 1971 to 1986, National Bible Week has been celebrated each year, in cooperation with the Philippine Bible Society, to enhance awareness of the Bible. Today this celebration is held every last week of January
For the past 28 years, the Biblical Apostolate developed steadily in the spirit of Dei Verbum. The biblical-pastoral activities of the local Church were strengthened through the different biblical formation programs that have been developed in the different regional biblical centers. Several biblical-pastoral modules have been developed for the on-going formation of lay bible animators and facilitators that are distributed throughout the year.
The most popular biblical module is the “Basic Bible Seminar” (BBS) which was developed by John Paul I Biblical Center. This booklet is translated into Ilokano, Tagalog, Cebuano and in twenty languages in Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Many other modules have been developed either as an introduction or a follow-up of BBS.
Some of the modules from the regional centers are: Bible Orientation Seminars, Core Team Formations, Trainers’ Training Seminars, Biblical Institutes, Bible Youth Camps, Children’s Bible Camp, Basic Bible Seminar 2-3, Calapan Biblical Modules, Cebu Values & Leadership Seminars for Policemen with BBS, Bibliodrama Workshops, Recollections, Retreats and many more.
Some dioceses have their regular Bible on the Air radio programs. All these attempts of growing in the Word function more efficiently when good coordination exists among the existing and functioning Episcopal Commissions in the regional and/or diocesan levels.
The launching of the Year of Social Concerns last May highlighted even more the role of the Biblical Apostolate in the daily life of the faithful. A social doctrine with a socio-pastoral action is better acknowledged and lived when done in the light of the Word of God.
Mr. Aries Aguilar, the promotion officer of PBS Marketing Department believes that “the Bible is the life of any community that aspires to grow together in faith. …it is the Word of God that guides, teaches, comforts, and strengthens people in all circumstances”
It is the Word of God that inspires the members of the community to reflection and action to combat poverty, injustice, violence etc. The main spiritual power in the transformation of a nation is none other than the Word of God that is shared and lived in the basic ecclesial communities.