I was recently doing some research on Bible publishing and distribution in order to compose this answer over on the Skeptics Stack Exchange site. In spite of the result being well received, I have a nagging doubt that I might have missed something. The one I'm wondering if I under-estimated is related to the Catholic church.

I realize the United Bible Societies specifically prints Bibles in many languages that include the Deuterocanon and works with both Catholic and Orthodox groups for distribution. What I was unable to determine is if this was the primary source for Bibles in Catholic circles around the world. If not, the sheer size of the Catholic church must place a pretty high demand on some other publisher.

I found some references to a Catholic Biblical Federation but didn't find any evidence that they were a major player in print or distribution of Bibles. A related article in Newadvent talks a lot about Protestant Bible societies and historical movements but doesn't specifically mention the role Catholic church. Are primarily Protestant societies listed because that was the point of the article or because that's primary what is out there?

Does the Catholic church have any in house publishing operations or an independent publishing/distribution source that handles high volume in any worldwide region or do they typically piggy back on the regional Bible societies that are summed up under the UBS umbrella?

  • It might be helpful to discuss preferred translations, and whether you are looking for English, Spanish, or all languages Apr 6, 2013 at 11:02
  • @AffableGeek: Definitely all languages worldwide, no preference on translation, just volume. Whatever they use a lot of -- where do they come from?
    – Caleb
    Apr 6, 2013 at 11:15
  • Do you consider Nanjing Amity Printing a part United Bible Societies? My Czech Jerusalem Bible was printed by them, and I suspect they print English version of the Jerusalem Bible too, which would mean a big portion of Catholic Bible production worldwide.
    – Pavel
    Apr 6, 2013 at 11:29
  • @Pavel I think the issue for me would be whether UBS is including them in their publishing statistics. Considering that on the front page of their website they claim that to be "a joint venture between Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies" I would suspect that UBS gladly counts them in their figures. In any case, their numbers are < 5 million copies per year, so I'm not too worried about it. If that is a major source for Catholics, that might make a valid answer, but it should be noted that it is a UBS source.
    – Caleb
    Apr 6, 2013 at 11:31
  • Mod Notice: Keep the comments on topic guys! Suggest improvements or request clarifications to posts but don't debate topical issues. The running discussion of whether Catholics do/should read their Bibles is utterly irrelevant to this question.
    – Caleb
    Jan 25, 2018 at 14:33

6 Answers 6


Catholic Bibles do not come from just one publisher. They contract with hundreds of publishers to produce Catholic Bibles and other works. Although the Vatican does have a printing office it seems to only be used for Anthologies and other more recent publications.

Here are a few examples





To sum up the church uses large and small publishers to fill their needs throughout the world. It appears that the publishers are selected by region so they can meet the needs of the local Churches quickly and reduce cost on shipping and storage. Which of these publishers is the largest would be almost impossible to determine as I doubt the Catholic church publishes that information. But I hope this helps in some way.

  • Describing it as "the church uses ... publishers" suggests a relationship where the the Church commissions works from the publishers. I don't think that's quite the relationship. Much of the publisher's market will be private individuals, schools and colleges, etc. They will presumably still want a "nihil obstat" and "imprimatur" from the Church, but I would assume they are making a speculative investment as with any other publishing project, rather than publishing to order. Aug 28, 2018 at 21:04

I can answer the question about Catholic Bibles in Spanish: they are published by Catholic publishing houses, which have no connection whatsoever with UBS.

I list below some of those Catholic publishing houses and the Bibles they printed, giving the year of their first edition:

Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (BAC), created in 1943 as a branch of the privately-owned Editorial Catolica (Edica), Madrid, Spain:

  • Nácar-Colunga (1944),

  • Bóver-Cantera (1947),

  • Cantera-Iglesias (1975) [1],

  • "La Sagrada Biblia. Versión Oficial de la Conferencia Episcopal Española" (2010).

Editorial Cristiandad, privately owned, Madrid, Spain:

  • "Nueva Biblia Española" (Schökel & Mateos, 1975) [1].

Editorial Verbo Divino, of the Catholic religious congregation "Society of the Divine Word" (SVD), Pamplona, Spain:

  • "La Biblia. Edición pastoral, Latinoamérica", a.k.a. "Biblia Latinoamericana" (Ricciardi & Hurault, 1972),

  • "La Biblia. Libro del Pueblo de Dios" (Levoratti & Trusso, 1981) [2].

Ediciones Universidad de Navarra (EUNSA), of the Opus Dei-owned Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain:

  • "Sagrada Biblia", a.k.a. "Biblia de Navarra" (5 volumes, 2004).

[1] For the benefit of Spanish speakers, an article on these two remarkable 1975 Bibles by the foremost Spanish-speaking scholar on the Septuagint: http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/35687/1/La_Biblia_de_Cantera-Iglesias.pdf

[2] Spanish version on the Vatican web site: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ESL0506/_INDEX.HTM


I should add to the other answers the Officina libraria editoria Vaticana, the official publisher of the Holy See, which has been printing bibles and other texts since 1926. Here is the current catalogue of books they produce and sell. Beside several editions of the Bible in Italian, they provide bibles in Latin, including the Nova Vulgata and the Vetus Vulgata (see page 140 of catalog).


I emailed the Catholic Book Publishing Company, but they haven't gotten back to me yet (not that I could award myself my bounty). I wanted to know if they could show they were the #1 supplier of Bibles to the USA.

Basically, my thinking was that in every church I've ever been in (unless they have a plethora of student Bibles published by various sources) has the St. Joseph Bible (ISBN 0899429505) with a picture of the Holy Land on it and the plain bible with a red cover (ISBN 0529064847).

St. Joseph Medium NABRE

These are both published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company and available from Bibles by the Case. In fact, it appears that all the Bibles on that site are ones coming from the Catholic Book Publishing Company, so I'd say that in English, for North America, at least - that's where the Catholic Church procures most of her Bibles.


The question implies that the Roman Catholic Church itself procures Bibles for its members and then distributes them. While there may be some number of Bibles that are procured and distributed this way, either directly by the Vatican or by local dioceses and parishes, I don't believe that the majority of Roman Catholics acquire their personal Bibles in this fashion (I am speaking a bit from experience here).

There is also the matter of what exactly should be considered a "Catholic" Bible. Another answer correctly stated that any "authorized" Catholic publication must have a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur, in accordance with Title IV of the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church. While Canons 822-824 specify the conditions for all publications in general, Canon 825 sets out special conditions for Bibles:

§1. Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations.

§2. With the permission of the conference of bishops, Catholic members of the Christian faithful in collaboration with separated brothers and sisters can prepare and publish translations of the sacred scriptures provided with appropriate annotations.

Given the formality specified in the canons, I would have thought a centralized list of approved Bibles would be available, but I hadn't been able to locate one. This explanation, from a director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressing the question, "Which Catholic Bibles have been approved by the Vatican?", may explain why:

Any Bible which bears an imprimatur may be used by Catholics for personal study and devotion. While the 1983 Code of Canon Law does include a provision for the Holy See to grant the imprimatur for translations of Scripture, I am unaware of any instance in which it has done so.

In addition to the Holy See, the 1983 Code allows conferences of bishops to grant the imprimatur to Scripture translations, a change from previous practice wherein the bishop of the place where the translation was made or published could grant the imprimatur.

Thus it would seem that not even the Vatican keeps track of all the Catholic Bibles that have been published or who published them. There do seem to be centralized lists of approved translations (like this one, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), in keeping with the letter of 825 §1, but no list or lists of publishers or specific ISBN's.

I think the correct answer to your question, assuming you mean Catholic Bibles procured both privately and by the Roman Catholic Church, is that they come from some of the same sources that Protestant Bibles do, as well as some dedicated Catholic publishing houses. The English-language Catholic Bibles sold on Amazon, for example, include offerings from Catholic publishers like Ignatius, St. Benedict, and even from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops itself, but there are also ones published by Oxford, Harper, and Zonderavan.

  • 1
    This almost completely misses the point of the question. I don't care who procures them or how the distribution works, all I care about is the sources where Bibles are coming from so I can estimate volume. Also I don't care what versions are endorsed or sanctioned, just what's out in circulation. The Bibles that Catholics have in their homes –however they came to own them and whatever versions they are– who is publishing them?
    – Caleb
    Jan 30, 2018 at 5:55
  • @Caleb - then your question is nearly as unanswerable as a question asking where the majority of Protestant Bibles come from. This is what I was trying to demonstrate, with some background information on the process of how a Bible becomes a "Catholic Bible" in the first place.
    – guest37
    Jan 30, 2018 at 12:00
  • I already did all the research figuring out where a majority of Protestant Bibles in circulation come from. In the processes I found a lot of Catholic and other traditions as well, but I've had doubts that I found them all, hence the Catholic specific question. I'm aware I'm not asking an easy question, but you haven't answered it at all.
    – Caleb
    Jan 30, 2018 at 12:19
  • @Caleb - the way you titled your question, "Where does the Catholic Church ....?", led me to believe that you were, in fact, interested in "endorsed or sanctioned" versions, since the Roman Catholic Church itself would never distribute Bibles without the Imprimatur. This was part of why I and others are describing the Imprimatur process to you. I suggest you edit your question to read something like, "Where do Roman Catholics procure the majority of their Bibles?", if you don't care whether the Bibles are Catholic.
    – guest37
    Jan 30, 2018 at 12:27
  • If this is for some professional or serious academic purpose, the way I would approach the problem would be to (1) identify the countries that together comprise more than 50% of Catholics in the world; and (2) email the particular conference of bishops governing each country (since they would have had to have granted the Imprimaturs) asking who they believe to be the principle publishers in their area, along with an estimate of share, if possible. With that data, you should be able to determine whether you need to sample more countries. Eventually a good picture should emerge.
    – guest37
    Jan 30, 2018 at 12:47

Oxford University Press prints large numbers of Catholic Bibles, But each diocese, Catholic Book/Bible supplier purchases such from their preferred supplier, there are 1.2 billion professed Catholics the sheer volume of Catholic Bibles and their various languages translation means there are numerous printers of bibles. Many Catholics myself included who are fascinated with Biblical translations have many different Bibles "Protestant" and "Catholic". Some "Protestant" (churches not in communion with Rome) still use the Catholic Canon (have all the "Catholic" books of the Old Testament in their Bible). A Catholic Bible translation must have a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur indicated to be an authorized Catholic Bible. We have free will but if we profess we are Catholics that also means we profess a belief in the historical teachings of the Church and as such our studies include what the Church teaches on a particular subject. Catholics believe the Revelation of Christ was complete at the time of His Death and Resurrection and the end of the Apostolic Age (i.e. scripture) but our understanding of that Revelation shall continue to deepen throughout time (tradition).

  • 3
    Welcome! We're glad you are here, but this answer would be much stronger if you focused more on the question (where does the Catholic church get its bibles) and less on related subjects. If you have a reference for the claims in the first half of your first sentence, that would also improve your answer. I hope you'll take a minute to review how this site is different from others, and better understand how your answer can be supported. Apr 19, 2016 at 19:25

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