More on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Selections from Pope John Paul II’s Letter of Introduction
On that occasion the Synod Fathers stated: ‘Very many have expressed the desire that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals be composed, that it might be, as it were, a point of reference for the catechisms or compendiums that are prepared in various regions.’
A catechism should faithfully and systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition in the Church and the authentic Magisterium, as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers, Doctors and Saints of the Church, to allow for a better knowledge of the Christian mystery and for enlivening the faith of the People of God. It should take into account the doctrinal statements which down the centuries the Holy Spirit has intimated to his Church. It should also help to illumine with the light of faith the new situations and problems which had not yet emerged in the past.
This catechism will thus contain both the new and the old because the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light.
To respond to this twofold demand, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the one hand repeats the ‘old’, traditional order already followed by the Catechism of St. Pius V, arranging the material in four parts: the Creed, the Sacred Liturgy, with pride of place given to the sacraments, the Christian way of life, explained beginning with the Ten Commandments, and finally, Christian prayer. At the same time, however, the contents are often presented in a ‘new’ way in order to respond to the questions of our age.
The four parts are related one to another: the Christian mystery is the object of faith (first part); it is celebrated and communicated in liturgical actions (second part); it is present to enlighten and sustain the children of God in their actions (third part); it is the basis for our prayer, the privileged expression of which is the Our Father, and I represents the object of our supplication, our praise and our intercession (fourth part).
In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church we can perceive the wonderful unity of the mystery of God, his saving will, as well as the central place of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, sent by the Father, made man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be our Saviour. Having died and risen, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in the sacraments; he is the source of our faith, the model of Christian conduct and the Teacher of our prayer.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church… is a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illuminated by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium.
May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!
It [the Catechism of the Catholic Church] is offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation. It is meant to support ecumenical efforts… [and] lastly, is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.
I. The life of man – to know and love God
II. Handing on the faith: Catechesis
III. The aim and intended readership of the Catechism
IV. Structure of this Catechism
V. Practical directions for using this Catechism
VI. Necessary adaptations