Introduction & 4 Pillars of the Compendium Catechism

From the Compendium Catechism:

MOTU PROPRIO

for the approval and publication
of the Compendium
of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

To my Venerable Brothers the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and to all the People of God.

Twenty years ago, work began on the Catechism of the Catholic Churchthat had been requested by the extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council.

I am filled with heartfelt thanks to the Lord God for having given the Church this Catechism, promulgated in 1992 by my venerated and beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

The great value and beauty of this gift are confirmed above all by the extensive and positive reception of the Catechism among Bishops, to whom it was primarily addressed as a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and, in particular, for formulating local catechisms.  But it was also confirmed by its vast favourable reception in all segments of the People of God, who have come to know and appreciate it in more than fifty translations which to date have been published.

It is with great joy that I now approve and promulgate the Compendiumof that Catechism.

The Compendium had been fervently desired by the participants in the International Catechetical Congress of October 2002, which gave voice to a need widely felt in the Church.  My beloved Predecessor, recognizing this desire, decided in February 2003 to begin preparation of the text by entrusting the work to a Commission of Cardinals, over which I presided, and which was assisted by various experts.  In the course of the work, a draft of the Compendium was submitted to all the Cardinals and the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops, the vast majority of whom evaluated the text favourably.

The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith, thus constituting, as my Predecessor had wished, a kind of vademecum which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.

In its structure, contents and language, the Compendium faithfully reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church and will thus assist in making theCatechism more widely known and more deeply understood.

I entrust this Compendium above all to the entire Church and, in particular, to every Christian, in order that it may awaken in the Church of the third millennium renewed zeal for evangelization and education in the faith, which ought to characterize every community in the Church and every Christian believer, regardless of age or nationality.

But this Compendium, with its brevity, clarity and comprehensiveness, is directed to every human being, who, in a world of distractions and multifarious messages, desires to know the Way of Life, the Truth, entrusted by God to His Son’s Church.

Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, may everyone who reads this authoritative text recognize and embrace ever more fully the inexhaustible beauty, uniqueness and significance of the incomparable Gift which God has made to the human race in His only Son, Jesus Christ, the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6).

Given on 28 June 2005, the vigil of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the first year of my Pontificate.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI 


INTRODUCTION

1. On 11 October 1992, Pope John Paul II presented the Catechism of the Catholic Church to the faithful of the whole world, describing it as a “reference text” for a catechesis renewed at the living sources of the faith. Thirty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the desire for a catechism of all Catholic doctrine on faith and morals, which had been voiced in 1985 by the extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,  came to fulfilment.

Five years later, on 15 August 1997, the Pope promulgated the editio typica of the Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae and confirmed its fundamental purpose “as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives and prays in her daily life”.

2. In order to realize more fully the Catechism’s potential and in response to the request that had emerged at the International Catechetical Congress of October 2002, Pope John Paul II, in 2003, established a Commission under the presidency of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was given the task of drafting a Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as a more concise formulation of its contents of faith.  After two years of work, a draft compendium was prepared and distributed among the Cardinals and the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops for their consultation. The draft, as a whole, was evaluated positively in the great majority of the responses that were received. Therefore, the Commission proceeded to revise the draft and, taking account of the proposals for improvement that had been submitted, prepared the final text.

3. There are three principal characteristics of the Compendium: the close reliance on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the dialogical format; the use of artistic images in the catechesis.

The Compendium is not a work that stands alone, nor is it intended in any way to replace the Catechism of the Catholic Church: instead, it refers constantly to the Catechism by means of reference numbers printed in the margins, as well as by consistent reliance on its structure, development and contents. In fact, the Compendium is meant to reawaken interest in and enthusiasm for the Catechism, which, in the wisdom of its presentation and the depth of its spirituality, always remains the basic text for catechesis in the Church today.

Like the Catechism, the Compendium has four parts, corresponding to the fundamental laws of life in Christ.

The first part, entitled “The Profession of Faith”, contains a synthesis of the lex credendi, the faith professed by the Catholic Church, as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed which is further elaborated by the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In the liturgical profession of the Creed, the Christian assembly keeps the principal truths of the faith alive in memory.

The second part, entitled “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery”, presents the essential elements of the lex celebrandi. The proclamation of the Gospel finds its authentic response in the sacramental life, through which Christians experience and witness, in every moment of their existence, the saving power of the paschal mystery by which Christ has accomplished our redemption.

The third part, entitled “Life in Christ”, recalls the lex vivendi, through which the baptized manifest their commitment to the faith they have professed and celebrated, through their actions and ethical choices. The Christian faithful are called by the Lord Jesus to act in a way which befits their dignity as children of the Father in the charity of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth part, entitled “Christian Prayer”, summarizes the lex orandi,the life of prayer. Following the example of Jesus, the perfect model of one who prays, the Christian too is called to the dialogue with God in prayer. A privileged expression of prayer is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus has taught us.

4. A second characteristic of the Compendium is its dialogical format, reflecting the ancient catechetical literary genre of questions and answers. The idea is to reproduce an imaginary dialogue between master and disciple, through a series of incisive questions that invite the reader to go deeper in discovering ever new aspects of his faith. The dialogical format also lends itself to brevity in the text, by reducing it to what is essential. This may help the reader to grasp the contents and possibly to memorize them as well.

5. A third characteristic is the inclusion of some artistic images which mark the elaboration of the Compendium. These are drawn from the rich patrimony of Christian iconography. The centuries-old conciliar tradition teaches us that images are also a preaching of the Gospel. Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message.

6. Forty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council and in the year of the Eucharist, this Compendium represents an additional resource for satisfying the hunger for truth among the Christian faithful of all ages and conditions, as well as the hunger for truth and justice among those who are without faith.  The publication of the Compendium will take place on the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, pillars of the Church universal and exemplary evangelizers of the ancient world.  These apostles saw what they preached and witnessed to the truth of Christ even unto martyrdom.  Let us imitate them in their missionary zeal and pray to the Lord that the Church may always follow the teaching of the apostles, from whom she first received the glorious proclamation of the faith.

20 March 2005, Palm Sunday.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
President of the Special Commission