TO INTERNATIONAL CATECHETICAL CONGRESS
Pope John Paul II
INTERNATIONAL CATECHETICAL CONGRESS, 10TH ANNIVERSARY CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Catechism is a sound tool for ecclesial communion
On Friday, 11 October, the Holy Father spoke to those gathered for the International Catechetical Congress held to observe the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The theme of the Congress was: "Nourish us with the Word, to be 'servants of the Word' in the work of evangelization: 'euntes in mundurm universum’". In the name of all those present, including Cardinal CastrilIón Hoyos, Cardinal Ratzinger greeted the Pope. In his address, the Holy Father underlined the success of the Catechism of the Catholic Church asa synthesis of Catholic doctrine, a presentation of the Person of Christ and the beauty of his message. "The ample room given to the Bible, the Eastern and Western Tradition of the Church, to the Holy Fathers, to the Magisterium, to hagiography; the central place given to the rich content of the Christian faith; the interconnection of the four parts that are the framework of the text and highlight the close connection between the lex credendi, lex celebrandi, lex agendi, lex operandi ... are but a few of the merits of the Catechism which allow us once again to be filled with wonder at the beauty and richness of the message of Christ". The Pope also noted that the Catechism is an authoritative text: "... the text was destined to become a sound and lawfully recognized tool at the service of ecclesial communion, with the hallmark of authority, authenticity and truthfulness that is proper to the ordinary pontifical Magisterium" and a sure reference for the local catechisms to be drawn up. "As is clearly indicated in the preface that sums up the content of the faith presented by the Catechism of the Catholic Church,it particularly offers norms and criteria for its presentation, and basic principles for drafting catechismsfor particular and local Churches". Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address.
1. I am particularly pleased to address this International Catechetical Congress, gathered to observe the 10th anniversary of the publication of the original edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of its Latin editio typica.
At the same time, at this important meeting, it is essential to recall other events of the past ten years that have had an impact on ecclesial catechesis: the 25th anniversary of the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of 1977 dedicated to catechesis, and the fifth anniversary of the publication in 1997 of the new edition of the General Catechetical Directory. Above all, I desire to stress that exactly 40 years ago Blessed John XXIII solemnly opened the Second Vatican Council. The Catechism so often refers to it that it might well be called the Catechism of the Second Vatican Council.The conciliar texts constitute a sure "compass" for the believers of the third millennium.
Thank you Cardinals and all who participate
2. I warmly thank Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his words that introduced our gathering and presented your work, and I thank Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who by mutual accord promoted and presided at this congress. I also address a cordial and grateful greeting to you, Brothers in the Episcopate, and to all of you, representatives of the various local Churches who are involved in different capacities but with the same enthusiasm and courage, in the various international and national organisms set up to promote catechesis.
Concern: how to proclaim the Good News Christ has given us
3. In these days you have prayed, thought and held a dialogue about the perennial but ever new concern of the Catholic Church: how to proclaim the Good News that Christ has entrusted to us. The theme chosen for this congress expresses it extremely well: "Nourish us with the Word, to be 'servants of the Word' in the work of evangelization: 'euntes in mundum universum’" (going into the whole world).
During these intense days of work, you have tried to put into practice what I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte:"to open [your] hearts to the tide of grace and allow the word of Christ to pass through [you] in all its power: Ducin altum!" (n. 38). For us to welcome and to share with others the proclamation of Christ, who is "the same yesterday, today, and for ever" (Heb 13,8): this is the incentive that must shape the life of every Christian and of every ecclesial community.
Catechism is a rich synthesis of Catholic faith
4. For the third millennium which has just begun, the Lord has given us a special instrument for the proclamation of his Word, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 10 years ago.
It has the nature of a privileged gift,at the disposal of the whole Catholic Church and offered "to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3,15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes", is what I wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum for the publication of the original edition of the Catechism.
As a complete, integral exposition of the Catholic truth, of the doctrina tam de fide quam de moribus (the teaching on faith and morals) that is always valid for all peoples, in its essential and basic content, it enables people to know and to know more deeply in a positive and serene way what the Catholic Church believes, celebrates, lives and prays.
By presenting Catholic doctrine genuinely and systematically, though in a synthesis (non omnia sed totum: not everything but the whole),the Catechism leads the entire content of catechesis to its vital centre, the Person of Christ the Lord. The ample room given to the Bible, the Eastern and Western Tradition of the Church, to the Holy Fathers, to the Magisterium, to hagiography; the central place given to the rich content of the Christian faith; the interconnection of the four parts that are the framework of the text and highlight the close connection between the lex credendi, lex celebrandi, lex agendi, lex operandi (the law of belief, celebration, acting and behaving), are but a few of the merits of the Catechism which allow us once again to be filled with wonder at the beauty and richness of the message of Christ.
Collegial Magisterial Document
5. Nor should its nature as a collegial magisterial document be forgotten. In fact, suggested by the Synod of Bishops of 1985, drafted by bishops as a result of the consultation of the entire Episcopate, approved by me in its original version of 1992, and promulgated in the Latin editio typica of 1997, destined above all for the Bishops as the authoritative teachers of Catholic faith and those who have the first responsibility for catechesis and evangelization, the text was destined to become a sound and lawfully recognized tool at the service of ecclesial communion, with the hallmark of authority, authenticity and truthfulness that is proper to the ordinary pontifical Magisterium.
Moreover, the warm welcome and widespread distribution it has had in the past 10 years all over the world, even in non-Catholic circles, is a positive witness to its validity and continued timeliness.
All this should not allow us to lessen, but rather make us intensify, our zeal for a more widespread distribution, a more eager welcome and a greater use of it in the Church and in the world, as was generally hoped for and concretely advocated during the work of this congress.
Catechism of the Catholic Church is a sure, authentic reference text for local catechisms
6. The Catechism is called to play a special role with regard to the drafting of local catechisms. It is offered as a sure and authentic "reference text" for them in the sensitive work at the local level of mediating the unique and perennial deposit of faith. Indeed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary to bring together the marvellous unity of' the Christian mystery and the manifold demands and situations of those who are to receive the proclamation.
To achieve this goal, the revised edition of the General Catechetical Directory has been available for five years. As a revision of the 1971 Directory that the Second Vatican Council called for, the new text is an important document to guide and encourage the catechetical renewal that is indispensable for the whole Church.
As is clearly indicated in the preface that sums up the content of the faith presented by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it particularly offers norms and criteria for its presentation, and basic principles for drafting catechismsfor particular and local Churches. It formulates the essential lines and basic directions of a sound and rich pedagogy of the faith, inspired by the divine pedagogy and attentive to the multiple, complex situations of those who are the intended audience of the catechetical proclamation, who also live in a manifold cultural universe.
Pastoral priority of systematic, apologetic catechesis
7. I cordially hope that your work will contribute to giving greater emphasis to the pastoral priority of a clear, motivated, integral, systematic and when necessary, also apologetic, catechesis. Such a catechesis will be impressed on the minds and hearts to nourish prayer, shape a Christian life-style and direct the conduct of the faithful.
On the participants of the Congress and upon your work, I invoke the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect "Servant of the Word", who continues to walk ahead of us to show us the Way, to keep our eyes fixed on the Truth and obtain for us every grace of Life, which flows only from Jesus Christ, her Son and our Lord. With my Blessing.
Final Message of International Catechetical Congress
At the Vatican from 8 to 11 October, an International Catechetical Congress was held to observe the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the fifth anniversary of the General Catechetical Directory. The Congress put out a Final Message that was published in L'Osservatore Romano of the 14-15 October. The final message expressed the benefits of the Catechism for the Church today and, from the methods used for the catechumenate, drew concrete ways to enrich catechetical formation. The Congress also called for the preparation of national catechisms in accord with the Apostolic See. Here is a translation.
On the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the fifth anniversary of the publication of the General Catechetical Directory, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, men and women religious and laity participated in the Congress coming from many places around the world: 21 from African nations, 10 from Central and North America, 10 from South American countries, 14 from Asia, two from Oceania and 27 from European nations. We would like to communicate the following resolutions of the Congress to catechists and those who organize catechesis around the world.
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Catechetical Directory have had an overall positive reception, especially in the young Churches. New attention has been paid to catechesis and a renewed commitment has been brought to the new evangelization.
2. We want to highlight—as the General Catechetical Directory says—the vital relationship between the two texts. They are different and have separate roles, but they are complementary and interactive in achieving the goal of catechesis.
Reference for local catechisms
3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is "a sure and authentic reference text [and source] for teaching Catholic doctrine" (Fidei Depositum, n. 3) and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is "useful reading for all other Christian faithful" (CCC, n. 12). In fact, it expresses the unity of faith, the common language of faith and the catholicity of the Church.
4. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has not just an explicit value in itself, but has a properly theological relevance, and enjoys an important place in communicating the faith in a way that leads to the person of Christ and to His understanding of the Church.
Symphony of faith
5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses its full value as a symphony of faith in the different forms in which the Catholic faith is expounded: evangelization, catechesis, preaching, teaching of religion, the formation of the community, the formation of pastoral workers, ecumenical commitment and interreligious dialogue.
6. In many places, the publishing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the General Catechetical Directory has been a stimulus for a real process of inculturation of the Gospel, and, for this reason, one can hope that Churches that do not yet have translations of both texts can soon have them.
Benefits for faith, theology and inculturation
The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
— Affirms the priority of the data of faith over their theological organization.
— Supports the common vision of the faith—since it is unique and universal—before it is presented and elaborated on the local level.
— Guarantees the unity of the vision of faith and its languages within the process of inculturation.
— Supports the formation of candidates to the priesthood before they study theology and after they finish their theological studies; likewise it can direct the continuing formation of priests.
— Fosters theological formation in pastoral centres, novitiates, institutes of religious science, and constitutes a sound reference for the teaching of the faith in theological faculties. We reaffirm that: the doctrinally correct proclamation of the faith requires a context of living communities that can tell the history of salvation,celebrate it with the liturgy, live it with charity, express it by appealing to the numerous saints in history and the witness of the heralds of the faith in the mission ad gentes.
— The correctness of the exposition of the faith attains its objective—communion with the Person of Christ—through the use of his pedagogy and a renewed offering of spirituality that accompanies the journey towards a mature faith.
— The truth transmitted by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, by means of the General Catechetical Directory, will help to discern seeds of the Word in the different cultures.
Guidelines for current use and application
7. The teaching and application of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of the great Tradition of the Church and the ongoing Magisterium is properly accomplished by the process of initiation: proclamation, catechesis and mystagogy, as expressed and indicated by the General Catechetical Directory (cf. GCD, nn. 65-72).
8. The catechetical paradigm, traditionally modelled on school, will need to recover the other dimensions of the catechumenate; where the transmission of the message is enriched and sustained by rites and celebrations, integrated by ascetical and penitential formation, so that it may find witness and support in the accompaniment of the ecclesial community and families to become an authentic school of Christian life (cf. GCD, nn. 89-91).
9. The communication of the faith drawing on Sacred Scripture is especially desired and widespread today. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a help for interpreting the Bible in accord with the faith of the Church.
10. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Catechetical Directory are an indispensable means for the formation of catechists, for whom it is hoped that good quality schools of formation may be established, even at the centre of the Church.
11. In the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the General Catechetical Directory, catechesis will be effective on condition that there is a proper example of faith lived by the community, led by suitable catechists and supported by effective supplemental tools.
12. This Assembly warmly hopes that a helping hand, patient but determined, will be offered for the important work to be done—in accord with the Apostolic See—to compile national catechisms. They are invaluable instruments for catechesis that is called to bring the power of the Gospel to the heart of culture and cultures (cf. GCD, n. 131).
Sense of gratitude
Our thanks go to all those who are active in the catechetical enterprise: bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, and catechists whose vocation flows from Baptism and is strengthened by Confirmation. We wish to encourage and support parents who in virtue of the sacrament of marriage receive the grace and responsibility for the Christian education of their children. We entrust the fruit of our labours to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life and we place them in the hands of Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of the New Evangelization.
Weekly Edition in English
23 October 2002, page 4
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