New Catechism: Gift to the Church
LA SANTA CHIESA (New Catechism: Gift To The Church)
Pope John Paul II
Address during the official release of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (December 7, 1992)
The Holy Church of God rejoices today because, as a special gift of divine providence, she can solemnly celebrate the promulgation of the new "catechism," presenting it officially to the faithful of the whole world. I give great thanks to the God of heaven and earth because He has allowed me to experience with you an event of incomparable richness and importance.
A cause for profound joy for the universal Church is this gift which the heavenly Father gives to His children today, offering them with this text the possibility of knowing better, in the light of His Spirit, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love (cf. Eph 3:19).
I am deeply grateful to all those who collaborated in any way in the drafting of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In particular I cannot fail to congratulate and rejoice with the members of the Editorial Commission and Committee, who during the course of these six years have worked in a unity of sentiment and intention under the wise guidance of their President, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. From my heart I thank all of you individually.
Your concern to explain the contents of the faith in a way that conforms to biblical truth, to the Church's genuine Tradition and in particular to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council; your effort to highlight what is basic and essential in the Christian message; your commitment to express the perennial Catholic truth anew in a language which better responds to the demands of today's world, are all crowned with success today.
Your tireless work, sustained by the charity of Christ which "impels us" (2 Cor 5:14) to be faithful and courageous witnesses of His Word, made possible an undertaking which, at the beginning and even during the process, seemed to quite a few people absolutely impossible.
DESIRE OF SPECIAL ASSEMBLY OF SYNOD OF BISHOPS
I set the work in motion, gladly acceding to the request of the Synod Fathers who had been convoked in 1985 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council.
Indeed, in that request I recognized the desire to fulfill once again, in a renewed manner, Christ's perennial command: "Euntes ergo, docete omnes gentes ... docentes eos servare omnia quaecumque mandavi vobis" (Mt 28: 19-20).
The catechism of the Catholic Church is a qualified, authoritative instrument which the Church's pastors desired first of all for themselves, as a valuable help in fulfilling the mission they have received from Christ to proclaim and witness the Good News to all people.
The publication of the text must certainly be counted among the major events of the Church's recent history. It is a precious gift because it faithfully reiterates the Christian doctrine of all times.
It is a rich gift due to the topics treated with care and depth. It is an opportune gift, given the demands and needs of the modern age.
Most of all, it is a true gift, a gift, that is, which presents the Truth revealed by God in Christ and entrusted by Him to His Church. The catechism explains this Truth in the light of the Vatican Council as it is believed celebrated, lived and prayed by the Church and does so with the intention of fostering unfailing adherence to the Person of Christ.
Such a service to the Truth fills the Church with gratitude and joy, and imparts to her new courage to fulfill her mission in the world.
Furthermore, the catechism is a gift deeply rooted in the past. Drawing abundantly on sacred Scripture and the inexhaustible apostolic Tradition, it collects, summarizes and transmits that incomparable richness which, despite difficulties and even differences, throughout 20 centuries of history has become the Church's ancient but ever new patrimony. Thus once again the bride of Christ jealously fulfills her mission to guard the precious treasure which comes from on high and diligently works to make it bear fruit. Nothing ever changes in the eternal Catholic doctrine. Whatever was fundamental and essential in it still remains.
However, the living treasure of the past is explained and formulated in a new manner with a view to a greater fidelity to the integral truth about God and mankind, in the awareness that "the deposit or the truths of faith are one thing, and the way in which they are explained is something different, although their meaning and profound sense are always the same."1
A HARMONIOUS SYNTHESIS OF THE CHURCH'S TRADITION
Therefore, this compendium of Catholic faith and morals is a privileged gift in which we have a convergence and collection in a harmonious synthesis of the Church's past, with her Tradition, her history of listening, proclaiming, celebrating and witnessing to the Word, with her councils, doctors and saints.
Thus through successive generations, resounds the enduring and ever timely evangelical magisterium of Christ, light of mankind for 20 centuries.
The catechism is a gift for the Church's present. The bond with what is essential and venerable in the Church's past allows her to fulfill her mission among human beings today.
With a renewed self-awareness coming from the light of the Spirit, in this authoritative text the Church presents to her children the mystery of Christ in which the splendor of the Father is reflected.
It is the Church which expresses and implements, through this appropriate instrument, her constant desire and tireless search to rejuvenate her own countenance, so that the face of Christ, the one who is eternally young, can better appear in all its infinite beauty.
Thus she fulfills her mission to know ever more deeply, in order to witness to, in its harmonious whole, the unfathomable riches of that Word which she serves. "She teaches only what has been handed on to her. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, she listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that she proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."2
Last of all, the catechism is a gift looking to the future. From the meditative reflection on the mystery of Christ springs a courageous, generous teaching which the Church addresses to the future opening onto the third millennium.
It is not easy to see what developments this catechism will bring about. However, it is certain that, with the grace of God and the goodwill of the pastors and faithful, it could be a valuable, fruitful instrument for deeper knowledge and an authentic spiritual and moral renewal.
Conscious adherence to revealed doctrine, genuine and entire, which the catechism presents in synthesis, will not fail to foster the progressive fulfillment of the plan of God who wants "everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4).
A GIFT TO ALL CHRISTIANS AND ALL PEOPLE OF GOODWILL
Unity in the truth: this is the mission Christ entrusted to His Church, for which she works actively, invoking it first and foremost of Him who can do all things and who, when His passion and resurrection were imminent, first prayed to the Father that all believers might be "one"(Jn 17:21).
Once again, through the gift of this catechism, it is made clear that this mysterious, visible union cannot be pursued without an identity of faith, a sharing in the sacramental life, the resulting consistency in moral life and continuous, fervent personal and communal prayer.
Outlining Catholic doctrinal identity, the catechism can be a loving appeal even to those who are not part of the Catholic community.
May they understand that this instrument does not limit, but rather broadens the field of unity in multiplicity, offering new momentum on the path towards that fullness of communion which reflects and in some way anticipates the total unity of the heavenly city "in which truth reigns, charity is law and whose extension is eternity."3
A gift for everyone: this is what the new catechism is meant to be. In regard to this text, no one should feel a stranger, excluded or distant. In fact, it is addressed to everyone because it concerns the Lord of all, Jesus Christ, the one who proclaims and is proclaimed, the Awaited, the Teacher and the Model of every proclamation. It seeks to respond to and satisfy the needs of all those who, in their conscious or unconscious search for truth and certitude, seek God "even perhaps grope for him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us" (Acts 17:27).
People of today and of all times need Christ. Through many sometimes in comprehensible ways, they seek Him insistently, invoke Him constantly, desire Him ardently.
Guided by the Spirit, may they find Him, too, by means of this instrument, the catechism.
In order to bring that about, all of us, particularly pastors of the holy People of God, must work together.
Just as the broad, fruitful cooperation of the episcopate was fundamental in drafting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so too for its use, implementation and effectiveness, the contribution of the bishops, teachers of the faith in the Church, will above all be indispensable.
Yes, the Catechism is a gift entrusted to us bishops in particular. In you, venerable brothers, chairmen of the doctrinal commissions of the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world, gathered here near the tomb of Peter, is expressed the joy of your brothers and the sons of the Church whom you represent. They are grateful to God that they can avail themselves of this instrument for the proclamation and witness of the faith. At the same time, your participation in this solemn gathering expresses their firm desire to use this document in the varied ecclesial and cultural contexts which, as I have already noted on other occasions,4 must constitute the "point of reference," the "magna carta" for the prophetic message, and especially for catechetical proclamation, in particular through the preparation of local, national and diocesan catechisms, whose mediation should be considered indispensable.
MAY MARY HELP US ACCEPT AND APPRECIATE THIS GIFT
These sentiments and determination of yours were already expressed by your representative, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, whom I cordially greet and thank.
Now, before concluding, I want to turn my thoughts with sentiments of filial love and due gratitude to her who accepted, meditated upon and gave the Word of the Father to humanity. On this solemn occasion, we recall the exhortation of the great Saint Ambrose: "Sit in singulis Mariae anima ut magnificet Dominum; sit in singulis Spiritus Mariae ut exultet in Deo. "5
May the Blessed Virgin, whose Immaculate Conception we celebrate tomorrow, help us to accept and appreciate this precious gift and be a model and support for us in giving others the divine Word which the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents to the faithful and to the whole world.
1. Vatican Council I, dogmatic constitution "Dei Filius," chapter 4.
2. Vatican II, "Dei Verbum," n. 10.
3. St. Augustine, "Epist." 138, n. 3.
4. Cf. Address to the Roman Curia on June 28, 1986; Discourse on the Approval of the Catechism, June 25, 1992.
5. St. Ambrose, "Exp. in Luc.," II, 26; PL 15, 1642.
From "THE POPE SPEAKS" May/June 1993
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