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Catechism of the Catholic Church

] is meant to

encourage and assist in the writing of new local cate­

chisms, which must take into account various situations

and cultures, while carefully preserving the unity of faith

and fidelity to Catholic doctrine.

—Pope John Paul II,

The Deposit of Faith


Fidei Depositum

), IV, no. 4

On October 11, 1992, Pope John Paul II published his apostolic consti-


The Deposit of Faith

, promulgating the

Catechism of the Catholic


(CCC). He chose the publication date to mark the thirtieth anni-

versary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

Pope John Paul II envisioned the


as a sure and authentic

reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and particularly for pre-

paring local catechisms. The bishops of the United States subsequently

discussed in depth what they might do to follow the pope’s call to pre-

pare a local catechism. It would need to take into account the local situ-

ation and culture, while at the same time preserving the unity of faith

and fidelity to Catholic teaching found in the

Catechism of the Catholic


. In June 2000, the bishops determined that a national adult cate­

chism would be an effective way to achieve this goal.

Before describing the content and approach of this adult catechism,

several preliminary matters need to be presented. First, it should be noted

that historically the term


has acquired a variety of meanings.

It comes from a Greek word that means “to echo.” Before the inven-

tion of the printing press in 1450, in the Church and elsewhere learning

was mainly an oral experience. A Church teaching would be recited, and

the listener would be instructed to “echo” it, or repeat it, until it was

learned. This way of learning has been around since before the Church.

Jewish teachers from both before and after the time of Jesus taught the

Scriptures by again and again asking the learner to repeat verses.