Vatican City – As the Church celebrates the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, its promotion as a means of teaching the truth about the faith remains a challenge and a priority.
Since its publication in 1992, the catechism has been translated into 50 languages, including Swahili, Japanese and Gaelic, and it is also available in Braille, video and digital edition.
Nevertheless, in today’s digital age, where people have unrestricted access to information at the click of a mouse or swiping an app, opinions and even “fake news” can inform or misinform Catholics. on the principles of the Catholic faith.
“Society is changing in a very massive way and it is much more difficult to reach people,” especially in the digital age, said Katharina Karl, professor of pastoral theology and religious education at the Philosophical and Theological University. from Münster, Germany, to Catholic News. Service on October 11.
This constant challenge prompted the Catholic Church a quarter of a century ago to create an essential reference that synthesizes the teaching of the Church and serves as a guide for the faithful.
The idea of a compendium of Catholic doctrine was one of the fruits of the 1985 Synod of Bishops marking the 20th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.
Following the requests of the participants for a point of reference “for the catechisms or compendiums which are being prepared in various regions”, Saint John Paul II accepted their proposal, “considering it as responding fully to a real need, both of the Church universal than of the particular churches.
“The presentation of doctrine must be biblical and liturgical. It must be sound doctrine adapted to the present life of Christians,” wrote John Paul in his Apostolic Constitution “Fidei Depositum” (“The Deposit of Faith”) of the October 11, 1992.
Entrusting this task to 12 cardinals and bishops, Jean-Paul chose Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI, to lead the commission responsible for writing the catechism.
While the need for a text clearly explaining the teachings of the Church was welcomed, some criticized it for being too static or dogmatic and not in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
“The catechism was said to have disregarded theological developments of the last century, especially exegetical developments; it was not ecumenical; it was not dialogical” as it made assertions as established without dispute , Ratzinger said Oct. 9, 2002, during a speech commemorating the 10th anniversary of the catechism.
The future Benedict responded to these opinions by seeking to explain “what a catechism is and what is its specific literary genre”, as well as its proper purpose and doctrinal relevance.
The catechism is “a proclamation of faith”, of testimony, for the teaching of faith, he said. He presents a “datum which precedes us”, but whose doctrinal formulation is developing in the Church, he says.
After his papal election, Benedict continued to urge Catholics to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a manual for rediscovering the truths of the faith and a deeper knowledge of Church teaching.
“Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and rediscover the beauty of being a Christian, of being Church, of living within the framework of the great ‘we’ that Jesus formed around himself to evangelize the world,” said Benedict XVI. in 2012.
In his address marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11, Pope Francis said the catechism is not only an important tool for believers to understand the faith, but also provides concrete answers to new challenges.
Just as the challenges people face are changing, so too is the Christian response since “the word of God cannot be kept in mothballs like an old blanket to protect against insects “, did he declare.
Indeed, “the word of God is a dynamic reality that always lives, that progresses and grows, because it is stretched towards a flowering that men and women cannot stop,” Francis said.
Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who served with Cardinal Ratzinger as co-editor of the catechism, told Vatican Radio Oct. 12 that while the development of Church teaching changes over time , the Church and the Gospel do not change.
“We need to change. This catechism is only 25 years old. The previous one – the Council of Trent – lasted 400 years. Therefore, I hope this catechism is at the beginning of its work for the Church,” said said Schonborn.
Despite the catechism’s accessibility and continued development, “there is still a lot to do,” Karl told Catholic News Service.
In his Oct. 11 address, Karl stressed the need for Catholics to have a formed conscience — rooted in the teachings of the catechism — that will allow for a “dialogue with God.”
“Catechesis today must create space for people to enter into dialogue with themselves in the first place. This is something they must be taught in such a way that in the end it becomes a dialogue with God,” she said.
Expanding on his speech, Karl told CNS that before catechizing, the church should undertake a “pre-trip with the people” and reach out to them, given that in today’s digital world, many people no longer socialize face-to-face or “go to catechism class automatically.”
The use of Twitter by a group of Catholics around the world who use the social network to pray together is one of many examples of how the Church can use social media to engage people and “bring catechism to them.” “, she noted.
“I think the sign of the times is to be creative,” Karl told CNS.
“The church is already going down this road, but I think it’s a chance to enter the digital world not as something foreign to us but as something indigenous to our times,” she said.