Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Bible, the most widely translated book in the world but little read in Italy

Do you read the Bible? Often, sometimes or perhaps never? One of the downsides of our Catholic culture is the widespread ignorance of and lack of interest in the Holy Scriptures.
The following survey, reported in Vatican Insider, shows that this phenomenon is widespread throughout the Catholic and Orthodox world.

Here are the results of an Eurisko survey published in 2008, a survey which has become current once again by pronouncement of Pope Benedict XVI

vatican insider staff


The Pope spoke of the Bible, inviting the faithful to rediscover and read it during the holiday season, in order to better understand the Christian message. It is the most widely distributed and translated book in the world, available in a record 2,400 different languages.

But in Italy – as in other Catholic countries – the Bible remains a mysterious object. So in 2008 an Eurisko survey, commissioned by the Catholic Biblical Foundation and presented to the Vatican, photographed the level of knowledge of the sacred text which is a cornerstone of Christian religion and three years later it is evident that little has changed.

The survey is based on a sample of 13,000 respondents, divided into nine countries: United States, Great Britain, Holland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Russia. For example, only 14% of the Italians interviewed, managed to answer some of the questions about the Bible correctly: Are the Gospels part of the Bible? Did Jesus write any of the Bible’s books? Between Moses and Paul, who of the two is a figure from the Old Testament? Who among Luke, John, Paul and Peter wrote a Gospel?

The results in fact, were not much better for other countries either: only 17% scored full marks in the United States and Great Britain, 15% in Germany, 11% in France and 8% in Spain. The most talented in this classification were the Poles with 20% and the most ignorant were the Russians with just 7%. Italy ranked in last place also for the number of people reading the Bible in general: In comparison to 75% of Americans who claim to have read a biblical passage over the last 12 months, only 27% of Italians can say the same. The worst are the two Catholic countries, France (21%) and Spain (20%). Italians prefer to listen to homilies and sermons, follow religious programs on TV and pray in their own words, rather than spend time reading holy books.

However, Italians, 88% of whom proclaim themselves Catholics, did not even stand out in terms of participation in religious rites: only 32% attend Church, against 55% of Poles and 45% of Americans. Among the Russian Orthodox, only 6% go to Mass every Sunday. However a very high percentage of Italians believe and have the feeling that they are protected by God (79%), as does Poland (79%) and Russia (78%). In France, by contrast, only 47% do.

Another piece of interesting data, is that regarding nations’ ideas on how the Bible should be interpreted, whether in a fundamentalist way (that is, taken literally) or in a critical way: according to 27% of Americans, 23% of Italians, 34% of Poles and 21% of Russians, biblical texts should literally be considered the “Word of God.”

If the statistical survey portrays a present marked by a lot of confusion and ignorance, Italians seem willing to improve in terms of their Biblical knowledge in the future: 28% believe that the Bible should be studied at school, and 34% are rather in favor of this idea. Only 11% were totally opposed to such a project, while 10% declared they “mostly disagreed.”

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