Guarding the deposit of the Faith is the mission which the Lord has entrusted to His Church and which she fulfils in every age. […]
A catechism should faithfully and systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church and the authentic Magisterium, as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers and the Church’s Saints, to allow for a better knowledge of the Christian mystery and for enlivening the faith of the people of God. It should take into account the doctrinal statements which down the centuries the Holy Spirit has intimated to His Church.
It should also help illumine with the light of faith the new situations and problems which had not yet emerged in the past.
The catechism will thus contain the new and the old (cf. Mt 13:52), because the Faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light.
Old content expressed in a new way
To respond to this twofold demand, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the one hand repeats the old, traditional order already followed by the Catechism of St. Pius V, arranging the material in four parts: the Creed, the Sacred Liturgy, with pride of place given to the Sacraments, the Christian way of life, explained beginning with the Ten Commandments, and finally, Christian prayer. At the same time, however, the contents are often expressed in a new way in order to respond to the questions of our age.
The four parts are related one to the other: the Christian mystery is the object of faith – first part; it is celebrated and communicated in liturgical actions – second part; it is present to enlighten and sustain the children of God in their actions – third part; it is the basis for our prayer, the privileged expression of which is the Our Father, and it represents the object of our supplication, our praise and our intercession – fourth part.
The Liturgy itself is prayer; the confession of faith finds its proper place in the celebration of worship. Grace, the fruit of the Sacraments, is the irreplaceable condition for Christian living, just as participation in the Church’s liturgy requires faith. If faith is not expressed in works, it is dead (cf. Jas 2:14-16) and cannot bear fruit unto eternal life.
In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church we can perceive the wondrous unity of the mystery of God, His saving will, as well as the central place of Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, sent by the Father, made man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be our Saviour. Having died and risen, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in the Sacraments; He is the source of our faith, the model of Christian conduct and the Teacher of our prayer.
Norm for teaching the Faith
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved last June 25 and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the Faith. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!
Sure and authentic reference text
The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represents a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church, and to all the particular Churches in peace and communion with the Apostolic See: the service, that is, of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus’ disciples (cf. Lk 22:32), as well as of strengthening the bonds of unity in the same apostolic Faith.
Therefore, I ask the Church’s Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the Faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms.
It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Jn 8:32). It is meant to support ecumenical efforts that are moved by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the Catholic Faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is 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. […]
Light that liberates humanity
At the conclusion of this document presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of the Church, to support with her powerful intercession the catechetical work of the entire Church on every level, at this time when she is called to a new effort of evangelization.
May the light of the true Faith free humanity from ignorance and slavery to sin in order to lead it to the only freedom worthy of the name (cf. Jn 8:32): that of life in Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, here below and in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the fullness of the blessed vision of God face to face (cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:6-8)! ◊
ST. JOHN PAUL II.
Fidei depositum, 11/10/1992