CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (EWTN News/CNA) — Pope Benedict XVI has urged Catholics to read the Bible while on vacation, particularly the lesser known books of sacred Scripture.

“This seems to be a good thing to do on the holidays — take a book of the Bible — so you have some relaxation and, at the same time, enter into the great expanse of the word of God and deepen your contact with the Eternal,” said the Pope in his Aug. 3 general audience address at his holiday residence 15 miles south of Rome. 

Pope Benedict noted how “each of us needs time and space for meditation, reflection and calm,” adding, “Thank God it’s so!”

He said this tells us that “we are not made only for work, but also to think, reflect or simply to follow a story with our minds and hearts.” Hence, many books are read “mostly for escapism.”

The Pope, however, challenged pilgrims to attempt some “more challenging” reading.

“Why not discover some books of the Bible which are normally unknown? Or of which we have maybe heard some passages during the liturgy, but we never read in its entirety? In fact, many Christians have never read the Bible and have a very limited and superficial knowledge of it.”

The Pope even gave those gathered in the small hilltop town’s Liberty Square suggestions as to which books of the Bible to read, reminding them that “the Bible — as the name implies — is a collection of books, a small ‘library,’ born over a millennium.”

From the Old Testament, he suggested some of the shorter books, which “can be read through in one hour.” These include, he said, the Book of Tobit, “a story that contains a very high sense of family and marriage,” the Book of Esther, “in which the Jewish queen, with faith and prayer, saved her people from extermination,” and the Book of Ruth, about “a foreigner who knows God and experiences his providence.”

He also emphasized the worth of “more challenging” Old Testament books, which the Pope deemed to be “authentic masterpieces.” 

“The Book of Job, which tackles the great problem of innocent suffering; Ecclesiastes, for its disconcerting modernity which questions the meaning of life and the world; the Song of Songs, a beautiful poem symbolic of human love.”

Turning to the New Testament, the Pope reminded pilgrims of “the beauty of reading one Gospel straight through,” as well as the merits of other books such as the Acts of the Apostles.

In conclusion, he suggested that pilgrims keep a Bible “on hand during the summer or during breaks.” 

“In doing so, they can become moments of relaxation, as well as cultural enrichment, even nourishment of the spirit, capable of fostering knowledge of God and dialogue with God — prayer.”

The Pope then imparted his apostolic blessing before descending from the balcony of his papal apartment to personally meet and greet the sick in the town square below.