JOHN PAUL, BISHOP
SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
FOR EVERLASTING MEMORY
To my Venerable Brothers the cardinals, Patriarchs,
Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and to all the People of God.
IT IS A CAUSE FOR GREAT JOY THAT THE LATIN TYPICAL
EDITION OF THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS BEING PUBLISHED. It is
approved and promulgated by me in this Apostolic Letter and thus becomes the
definitive text of the aforementioned Catechism. This is occurring about
five years after the
Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum
of October 11, 1992, which, on the 30th anniversary of the
opening of the Second Vatican Council, accompanied the publication of the first,
French-language text of the Catechism.
We have all been able to note with pleasure the broad
positive reception and wide dissemination of the Catechism in these years,
especially in the particular Churches, which have had it translated into their
respective languages, thus making it as accessible as possible to the various
linguistic communities of the world. This fact confirms how fitting was the
request submitted to me in 1985 by the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of
Bishops that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding faith
and morals be composed.
Drawn up by the special Commission of Cardinals and
Bishops established in 1986, the Catechism was approved and promulgated
by me in the aforementioned
which today retains all its validity and timeliness, and finds its definitive
achievement in this Latin typical edition.
This edition was prepared by an Interdicasterial
Commission which I appointed for this purpose in 1993. Presided over by Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, this Commission worked diligently to fulfill the mandate it
received. It devoted particular attention to a study of the many suggested
changes to the contents of the text, which in these years had come from around
the world and from various parts of the ecclesial community.
In this regard one can certainly understand that such
a remarkable number of suggested improvements shows the extraordinary interest
that the Catechism has raised throughout the world, even among
non-Christians, and confirms its purpose of being presented as a full, complete
exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church
professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life. At the same time it
draws attention to the eager desire of all to make their contribution so that
the Christian faith, whose essential and necessary elements are summarized in
the Catechism, can be presented to the people of our day in the most
suitable way possible. Furthermore, this collaboration of the various members of
the Church will once again achieve what I wrote in the
Fidei Depositum: "The harmony of so many
voices truly expresses what could be called the 'symphony' of the faith" (no.
For these reasons too, the Commission seriously
considered the suggestions offered, carefully examined them at various levels
and submitted its conclusions for my approval. These conclusions, insofar as
they allow for a better expression of the Catechism's contents regarding
the deposit of the Catholic faith, or enable certain truths of this faith to be
formulated in a way more suited to the requirements of contemporary catechetical
instruction, have been approved by me and thus have been incorporated into this
Latin typical edition. Therefore it faithfully repeats the doctrinal content
which I officially presented to the Church and to the world in December 1992.
With today's promulgation of the Latin typical
edition, therefore, the task of composing the Catechism, begun in 1986,
is brought to a close and the desire of the aforementioned Extraordinary Synod
of Bishops is happily fulfilled. The Church now has at her disposal this new,
authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will
serve as a "valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" and as a
"sure norm for teaching the faith," as well as a "sure and authentic reference
text" for preparing local catechisms (cf.
Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, no. 4).
Catechesis will find in this genuine, systematic
presentation of the faith and of Catholic doctrine a totally reliable way to
present, with renewed fervor, each and every part of the Christian message to
the people of our time. This text will provide every catechist with sound help
for communicating the one, perennial deposit of faith within the local Church,
while seeking, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to link the wondrous unity of
the Christian mystery with the varied needs and conditions of those to whom this
message is addressed. All catechetical activity will be able to experience a
new, widespread impetus among the People of God, if it can properly use and
appreciate this post-conciliar Catechism.
All this seems even more important today with the
approach of the third millennium. For an extraordinary commitment to
evangelization is urgently needed so that everyone can know and receive the
Gospel message and thus grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ" (Eph 4:13).
I therefore strongly urge my Venerable Brothers in the
Episcopate, for whom the Catechism is primarily intended, to take the
excellent opportunity afforded by the promulgation of this Latin edition to
intensify their efforts to disseminate the text more widely and to ensure that
it is well received as an outstanding gift for the communities entrusted to
them, which will thus be able to rediscover the inexhaustible riches of the
Through the harmonious and complementary efforts of
all the ranks of the People of God, may this Catechism be known and
shared by everyone, so that the unity in faith whose supreme model and origin is
found in the Unity of the Trinity may be strengthened and extended to the ends
of the earth.
To Mary, Mother of Christ, whose Assumption body and
soul into heaven we celebrate today, I entrust these wishes so that they may be
brought to fulfillment for the spiritual good of all humanity.
From Castel Gandolfo, August 15, 1997, the nineteenth
year of the Pontificate.