The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis spoke at the end of the conference. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, one of the principal writers of the Catechism, gave a masterful talk on its history and creation, reminding all present just how much it is a work of the Second Vatican Council and our last two popes, St. John Paul II and its editor, Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a work of doctrine and is meant to be the sure, clear, consistent teaching of the basic tenet of the faith and in the living out of the faith. With its four principal parts: the Profession of Faith, Celebration of the Christian Mystery, Life in Christ, and Christian Prayer, the Catechism offers the foundations of what we as Catholic profess. It was meant for each Episcopal Conference to use it to produce its own national catechisms. The United States did this with the release of the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults.
One of the main points at the conference was that the work of the catechist is not to simply impart knowledge of the faith (although that is essential), but to model the Christian life for the community. The presence of Pope Francis, who has reminded us of the necessity of personal witness and accompaniment, makes this abundantly clear.
Perhaps the biggest news was the Holy Father’s clear message, consistent with the teachings of the last two Popes, Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, that the death penalty is not a Christian option and that perhaps future editions of the Catechism should explicate this even more clearly. He spoke about the development in doctrine that comes from being attentive to the signs of the times, saying “it is necessary and urgent that, faced with the new challenges and new horizons that are opening for humanity, the Church can express the new things of the Gospel of Christ that, while enclosed in the Word of God, have not yet come to light.”
There is much to think about in the Pope’s words for us as Catholics. The Catechism is a true gift of clear doctrine in the Church and we have just witnessed a clear, organic development of doctrine.