The decision to publish a catechism was taken at the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that was convened by Pope John Paul II on 25 January 1985 for the 20th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, and in 1986, put a commission composed of 12 bishops and cardinals in charge of the project. The commission was assisted by a committee consisting seven diocesan bishops, experts in theology and catechesis.
The text was approved by John Paul II on 25 June 1992, and promulgated by him on 11 October 1992, the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, with his apostolic constitution, Fidei depositum. Cardinal Georges Cottier, Theologian emeritus of the Pontifical Household and now Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Domenico e Sisto the University Church of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum was influential in drafting the encyclical.
It was published in the French language in 1992. Later it was then translated into many other languages. In the United States, the English translation was published by the U.S. bishops in 1994, with a note that it was “subject to revision according to the Latin typical edition (editio typica) when it is published.”
On August 15, 1997—the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary— John Paul II promulgated the Latin typical edition, with his apostolic letter, Laetamur Magnopere. The Latin text, which became the official text of reference (editio typica), amended the contents of the provisional French text at a few points. One of the changes consisted in the inclusion of the position on death penaltythat is defended in John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae of 1995.
As a result, the earlier translations from the French into other languages (including English) had to be amended and re-published as “second editions.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a new catechism in more than 400 years, a complete summary of what Catholics throughout the world believe in common. This book is the catechism (the word means “instruction”) that will serve as the standard for all future catechisms.
The Catechism draws on the Bible, the Mass, the Sacraments, Church tradition and teaching, and the lives of saints. It comes with a complete index, footnotes and cross-references for a fuller understanding of every subject. Using the tradition of explaining what the Church believes (the Creed), what she celebrates (the Sacraments), what she lives (the Commandments), and what she prays (the Lord’s Prayer), the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers challenges for believers and answers for all those interested in learning about the mystery of the Catholic faith. Here is a positive, coherent and contemporary map for our spiritual journey toward transformation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is, as Pope John Paul II calls it, “a special gift.” You can read the online version by clicking the links below.