1. On 11 October 1992, Pope John Paul II presented the Catechism of the Catholic Church to the faithful of the whole world, describing it as a “reference text” for a catechesis renewed at the living sources of the faith. Thirty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the desire for a catechism of all Catholic doctrine on faith and morals, which had been voiced in 1985 by the extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, came to fulfilment.
Five years later, on 15 August 1997, the Pope promulgated the editio typica of the Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae and confirmed its fundamental purpose “as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives and prays in her daily life”.
2. In order to realize more fully the Catechism’s potential and in response to the request that had emerged at the International Catechetical Congress of October 2002, Pope John Paul II, in 2003, established a Commission under the presidency of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was given the task of drafting a Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as a more concise formulation of its contents of faith. After two years of work, a draft compendium was prepared and distributed among the Cardinals and the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops for their consultation. The draft, as a whole, was evaluated positively in the great majority of the responses that were received. Therefore, the Commission proceeded to revise the draft and, taking account of the proposals for improvement that had been submitted, prepared the final text.
3. There are three principal characteristics of the Compendium: the close reliance on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the dialogical format; the use of artistic images in the catechesis.
The Compendium is not a work that stands alone, nor is it intended in any way to replace the Catechism of the Catholic Church: instead, it refers constantly to the Catechism by means of reference numbers printed in the margins, as well as by consistent reliance on its structure, development and contents. In fact, the Compendium is meant to reawaken interest in and enthusiasm for the Catechism, which, in the wisdom of its presentation and the depth of its spirituality, always remains the basic text for catechesis in the Church today.
Like the Catechism, the Compendium has four parts, corresponding to the fundamental laws of life in Christ.