.- The dense Catechism of the Catholic Church, groundbreaking when it debuted in 1992, will now be even more accessible to those seeking to learn and teach the Catholic faith. The new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was presented earlier today at the Vatican by a special commission of Cardinals led by former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who, prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI in April, headed the Churchâs Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
According to the Vatican, the decision to create the new Compendium was born in 2002 at the International Catechetical Congress, at which, it was suggested to Pope John Paul II that a more concise version of the Catechism be written to focus on essentials of the faith.
One year later, John Paul established a commission to work on the compendium which received a positive response in its first draft by cardinals and presidents of Episcopal conferences worldwide.The final version, presented today, consists of 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.
Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato S.B.D. said that the compendiumâs principal characteristics 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 noted 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 new work is divided into four main parts, which the Vatican says correspond to the fundamental laws of the life of Christ. In the first part, "Profession of Faith," a brief summary of the "lex credendi,", or the faith professed by the Catholic Church based of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is given.
"The constant proclamation of [the creed] in Christian assembliesâ, it notes, âkeeps the principal truths of the faith alive in memory.
"The second part, "Celebration of the Christian Mystery," the book discusses the essential elements of the Churchâs sacramental life, or âlex celebrandiâ, saying that, "the announcement of the Gospel finds its authentic response in sacramental life, in which the faithful experience ... the salvific power of the Paschal mystery.
"The third section, "Life in Christ", or "'lex vivendi,' explores how the âbaptized manifest their commitment to the faith they have professed and celebrated, through their actions and ethical choices."The last section, "Christian Prayer," summarizes the "lex orandi," or the life of prayer in the Church. Here, the reader is shown how Christians are called to a dialogue with God in prayer, one expression of which is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus Himself taught us.
The text itself is written in the form of a dialogue which Archbishop Amato Referring says "makes the text notably shorter, reducing it to what is essential. This may help the reader to grasp the contents and possibly to memorize them as well.
"He also added a note on the use of images in the book, saying that, "In the current culture of images, 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."