Presentation of Compendium of the Catechism

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was presented today. It was prepared by a special commission of cardinals presided by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was at the time prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The need for such a book emerged during the 2002 International Catechetical Congress, called to commemorate ten years since the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A suggestion was put to the Holy Father John Paul II that a compendium be prepared in order to meet two essential objectives: concision and focus on essentials.

John Paul II accepted the proposal and a year later instituted a special commission of cardinals who began work on the compendium. A first draft was sent to cardinals and presidents of episcopal conferences all over the world. Following the largely positive response to the draft, the commission proceeded to revise it taking into account the suggestions received.
The text being presented today has 205 pages containing 598 questions and answers, 15 images, an appendix (of the main Christian prayers and certain formulae of Catholic doctrine) and an alphabetical index.

Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained that the principal characteristics of the compendium are "its strict reliance on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, its text in the form of a dialogue, and its use of images for catechesis." He underlined the fact that this "is not an autonomous work and in no way aims to substitute the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the contrary it constantly refers back to the Catechism, both by indicating reference numbers and by referring continuously to the structure, development and contents" of the Catechism. The new work, moreover, "aims to awaken a renewed interest and enthusiasm for the Catechism, which ... remains the basic text for ecclesial catechesis today."

The compendium is divided into four parts, corresponding to the fundamental laws of the life of Christ. The first part, "Profession of Faith," provides a brief summary of the "lex credendi," in other words, the faith professed by the Catholic Church on the basis of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, "the constant proclamation of which in Christian assemblies keeps the principal truths of the faith alive in memory."

The second part, "Celebration of the Christian Mystery," presents the essential elements of the "lex celebrandi," because "the announcement of the Gospel finds its authentic response in sacramental life, in which the faithful experience ... the salvific power of the Paschal mystery."

"Life in Christ" is the title of the third part of the compendium, dedicated to 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 final section, "Christian Prayer," summarizes the "lex orandi," the life of prayer. The Christian is called to a dialogue with God in prayer, one _expression of which is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus Himself taught us.

Referring to the fact that the text of the compendium takes the form of a dialogue, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted how this "makes the text notable shorter, reducing it to what is essential. This may help the reader to grasp the contents and possibly to memorize them as well."

In closing, Archbishop Amato explained the use of images in the book, inviting catechists to make use of the rich heritage of Christian iconography. "In the current culture of images," he observed, "a sacred image can express much more than words. ...

It certainly has an aesthetic value, but above all its value is recollective (recalling the mysteries of salvation), catechetical (for teaching and instruction), and theological, because it presents in artistic form the facts and the various aspects of the doctrine of the faith."