The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church’s
catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St.
Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo, or St.
Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous
It is therefore no surprise that catechesis in the Church has again
attracted attention in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope
Paul VI considered the great catechism of modern times. The General
Catechetical Directory (1971), the sessions of the Synod of Bishops devoted
to evangelization (1974) and catechesis (1977), the apostolic exhortations
(1979) attest to this. The
Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 asked “that a catechism or com-
pendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals be
The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, made the Synod’s wish
his own, acknowledging that “this desire wholly corresponds to a real
need of the universal Church and of the particular Churches.”
He set in
motion everything needed to carry out the Synod Fathers’ wish.
This catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of
the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as
regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican
Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. Its principal
sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the
liturgy, and the Church’s Magisterium. It is intended to serve “as
a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are com-
posed in the various countries.”
This work is intended primarily for those responsible for
catechesis: first of all the bishops, as teachers of the faith and pas-
tors of the Church. It is offered to them as an instrument in fulfill-
ing their responsibility of teaching the People of God. Through
the bishops, it is addressed to redactors of catechisms, to priests,
and to catechists. It will also be useful reading for all other Chris-
The plan of this catechism is inspired by the great tradition
of catechisms which build catechesis on four pillars: the baptismal
profession of faith (the
), the sacraments of faith, the life of
13 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985,
II B a, 4.
14 John Paul II, Discourse at the Closing of the Extraordinary Synod of
Bishops, December 7, 1985: AAS 78 (1986).
15 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985,
II B a, 4.