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Catechesis - an intense work of formation

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 6 March 1985 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. The obligation of catechesis implies for the Church an intense work of formation of catechists. Again, Christ's example enlightens us. During his ministry, Jesus devoted himself above all to forming those who were to spread his message throughout the whole world. He dedicated much time to preaching to the crowds, but he reserved more time to the formation of disciples. He had them live in his company in order to inculcate in them the truths of his message. He did this not only by his words, but by his example and his daily contacts. He revealed to his disciples the secrets of his kingdom. He had them enter the mystery of God, whose revelation he himself brought. He stirred up faith in them and gradually developed it with an ever more complete instruction. When he gave them the mission to teach all nations, he was able to entrust this task to them because he had gifted them with the doctrine they were to spread. But the full understanding of that doctrine would come to them from the Holy Spirit, who would give them the divine power of the apostolate.

Receiving this lesson from the master, the Church attaches great importance to the formation of those who have the duty of teaching revealed truth. First among these are the pastors, who by virtue of the priesthood have received the mission to proclaim the Good News in the name of Christ. Then there are all the others who share in the Church's teaching mission, especially catechists, whether full-time or as volunteers. The formation of catechists is an essential element in the common commitment to the development and the vitality of the Church. It is necessary everywhere. Its value is even more significant in certain countries where catechists carry out an important role in Christian communities that lack a sufficient number of priests. In certain places it could be said that the Church is alive thanks to the work of catechists.

2. The formation of catechists is often undertaken by specialized institutes. It is to be hoped that catechists will be formed more and more in these institutes where they receive both an indispensable doctrinal instruction and training in pedagogical methods.

Doctrinal formation is a fundamental necessity, seeing that catechesis cannot be limited to teaching a minimum of truths that are learned and repeated by rote. If catechists have the mission to inculcate in their listeners the whole Christian doctrine, they must first have learned it well themselves. They must not merely witness to their faith, they must communicate its content. The teaching received in preparation for Baptism, Confirmation or Communion is often insufficient for an exact and profound knowledge of the faith to be transmitted. A more systematic study is indispensable. At times, circumstances have forced those responsible for catechesis to have recourse to the cooperation of people of good will, but who lack an adequate preparation. Such solutions are generally wanting. To assure the future of a solid catechesis it is necessary to entrust this work to catechists who through study have acquired doctrinal competence. This doctrinal formation is even more necessary in so far as catechists live in a world in which ideas and theories of all kinds abound. These are often incompatible with the Christian message. Catechists must be able to react to what they see and hear, discerning what can be accepted from what must be rejected. If they have assimilated the Christian doctrine and have understood its meaning, they will be able to teach it with fidelity, even maintaining an open spirit.

3. Doctrinal formation requires an effort of the intelligence for learning revealed doctrine, yet it must at the same time deepen the faith. The essential goal of catechesis is the communication of the faith, and this must guide the study of doctrine. A study that would question the faith or that would introduce doubts about revealed truth would not serve catechesis. The development of doctrinal knowledge must coincide with a development of faith. For this reason, institutes of catechetical formation must be considered above all as schools of faith.

The responsibility of the teachers in these institutes is even greater because their teaching will have multiple repercussions through the catechists that they are training. It is the responsibility of the faith that bears its own witness and manifests its ardor in seeking the authentic meaning of all that is given by revelation.

In addition, institutes for catechetical formation have the obligation to develop a missionary spirit in their students. Catechesis cannot be considered a mere professional activity, since it exists in order to spread Christ's message in the world. For this reason it is at the same time a vocation and a mission. It is a vocation, because there is a call from Christ for those who want to devote themselves to this task. It is a mission, because from the very beginning catechesis was established in the Church in order to carry out the command of the Risen Savior: "Go and make disciples of all the nations" (Mt 28:19).

4. The teaching of Christian doctrine aims not merely at knowledge of truth, but at the spread of faith. It stirs up an allegiance to Christ in the intellect and in the heart and enlarges the Christian community. It must therefore be undertaken as a mission of the Church and a mission for the Church. Catechesis contributes to building up the Mystical Body of Christ, to its growth in faith and charity.

This missionary spirit is expected not only on the part of those catechists who carry out their activity in the so-called mission countries, but also of all the Church's catechists, wherever they are teaching. The missionary spirit inspires catechists to dedicate all their strength and talents to teaching. This makes them more aware of the importance of their work and enables them to face all difficulties with greater confidence in the grace that sustains them.

We therefore hope that progress in the formation of catechists will foster everywhere the development of the Church and the Christian life on the basis of that sincere, convinced and consistent faith to which catechesis is directed."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Je suis heureux de saluer les prêtres du Mans: je les bénis et les encourage dans leur ministère laborieux, où la catéchèse doit occuper une grande place. Contribuez, chers amis, à établir un climat de confiance entre ceux qui travaillent à la base et le Saint-Siège qui cherche à les servir.

* * *

Je salue par ailleurs les membres du Colloque organisé par l’Association internationale des jeunes inadaptés: avec eux, je désire que se développent les moyens de l’éducation spécialisée qui permettra à ces jeunes de progresser autant qu’il est possible, en se sachant aimés de Dieu et de l’entourage.

* * *

A tous les pèlerins présents, surtout de France et du Canada, je souhaite de poursuivre les efforts de Carême, pour accueillir la grâce pascale, et je leur donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors from England, Norway, Sri Lanka, Korea and the United States. I ask God to bless you during your visit to Rome and throughout your lives.

* * *

My special greetings go to the group of midshipmen from the distinguished Naval Academy at Annapolis, led by Archbishop Joseph Ryan of the Military Ordinariate of the United States. Dear friends, you have come on a pilgrimage of faith and a pilgrimage of peace. It is my prayer that you will always acknowledge before the world, as you do today, that God occupies an important place in your lives. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, in your homes, and throughout your country. God bless America!

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Mit diesen kurzen Ausführungen grüße ich herzlich alle anwesenden deutschsprachigen Audienzteilnehmer, unter ihnen besonders die Ordensschwestern verschiedener Kongregationen, die an einem Erneuerungskurs in La Storta teilnehmen.

* * *

Mein aufrichtiger Willkommensgruß gilt vor allem den Richtern und Bandverteidigern des Erzbischöflichen Offizialats Paderborn, die zusammen mit einigen Mitgliedern des Berliner Bistumskonsistoriums an einem kanonistischen Fortbildungsseminar hier in Rom teilnehmen. Ich freue mich, daß Sie in diesen Tagen auch einige Tribunale und Dikasterien der Römischen Kurie besuchen, um so gewissermaßen ”vor Ort“ Ihre Kenntnisse zu erweitern. Indem ich Ihnen für Ihre verantwortungsvolle Aufgabe in der Verwaltung und Anwendung des Rechts in der Kirche danke, erbitte ich Ihnen für Ihre weitere Arbeit Gottes besonderen Beistand. Ihnen und allen anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilgern erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini giunti dalla Spagna e dall’America Latina

Y ahora un cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos de lengua española.

En particular a los alumnos del Pontificio Colegio Mexicano de Roma, con el equipo coordinador y acompañados por el Señor Cardenal de México. Os aliento a ser generosos en vuestra entrega al Señor y fieles a vuestros compromisos sacerdotales, mientras os preparáis sólidamente durante este tiempo de estudio y reflexión.

* * *

Saludo igualmente al grupo de peregrinos del Movimiento o parroquial de los “Focolari”; a los alumnos y profesores del Colegio “Virgen de Europa” de Madrid, y del Instituto de Monzón; al grupo de peregrinos latinoamericanos residentes en San Francisco (California); al grupo de peregrinos de la Arquidiócesis de Braga (Portugal).

A todos los peregrinos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España, imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski, ks. biskupa Albina Małysiaka, z którym miałem szczęście współpracować przez wiele lat w Krakowie; pielgrzymkę z Jaworzna; pielgrzymkę katedralną z Tarnowa; wszystkich indywidualnych pielgrzymów zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji, oraz uczestników grup turystycznych “Orbisu”, “Turysty” i PTTK z Wrocławia. Dla wszystkich obecnych szczególne błogosławieństwo. Niech poniosą to błogosławieństwo do swoich bliskich, do swoich rodzin, do swoich parafii, diecezji, do całej umiłowanej Ojczyzny.

Ai pellegrini italiani

A tutti i gruppi e ai singoli pellegrini di lingua italiana esprimo il mio grato compiacimento per la loro partecipazione a questa udienza.

In special modo voglio ricordare i numerosi sacerdoti che in questi giorni stanno seguendo un seminario di studio sul tema “Scuola, Lavoro, Società”, promosso dal Movimento lavoratori dell’Azione cattolica italiana.

* * *

Un cordiale pensiero va anche ai sacerdoti salesiani, maestri di noviziato, che sono riuniti a Roma per un corso di aggiornamento sulle Costituzioni rinnovate. A tutti i miei voti più cordiali, accompagnati dalla benedizione apostolica.

Ai giovani

Rivolgo un affettuoso saluto a tutti i gruppi giovanili e ai singoli giovani presenti a questo incontro; in particolare agli studenti del Liceo Scientifico Statale di Fano, con il sindaco della città, il loro preside, il vicepreside, i docenti, i genitori e il personale dell’Istituto.

So, carissimi, con quanto impegno spirituale vi siete preparati a questa giornata di comune letizia. A voi e a tutti i giovani porgo il mio augurio che approfondiate e realizziate nella vita il messaggio di Gesù, contenuto nella Sacra Scrittura e proclamato ogni giorno dalla Chiesa, in modo speciale in questo periodo liturgico della Quaresima.

Che la vostra giovinezza sia sempre illuminata dalla luce di Cristo!

Agli ammalati

Una speciale parola di saluto va ora a voi, fratelli ammalati qui presenti. Carissimi, in questo periodo di Quaresima cercate di far vostro l’invito dell’apostolo Paolo a “rivestirvi di nostro Signore Gesù” e a “conformarvi alla passione e morte di Cristo”, accettando la realtà del dolore sull’esempio di Gesù sofferente, come via alla gioia della risurrezione.

Procurate, pertanto, di corrispondere con generosità a questa vostra vocazione, basandola su una profonda fede cristiana e su un ardente amore a Cristo.

Sempre vi accompagni la mia confortatrice benedizione apostolica.

Agli sposi novelli

Ed a voi, sposi novelli, che in questi giorni avete consacrato il vostro vicendevole amore dinanzi a Dio e alla sua Chiesa nel sacramento del matrimonio, rivolgo l’augurio che la vostra nascente famiglia cristiana sa sempre un’operosa comunità di fede e di amore, nella mutua dedizione e fedeltà.

Per questa vostra missione prego il Signore e la Vergine Maria che vi benedicano e vi proteggano.


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