VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2002 ( On the 10th anniversary of its publication, John Paul II described the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a "choice gift" for all the faithful.

The Pope was referring to the catechism's "complete and integral exposition of the Catholic truth, of the doctrine both of the faith as well as customs, valid always and for all, with its essential and fundamental contents, which enables one to know and study in-depth in a positive and peaceful manner what the Church believes, celebrates, lives and prays."

Meeting with some 250 cardinals, bishops and theologians at the International Congress on Catechetics, the Holy Father described the catechism as one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council, the 40th anniversary of whose opening was also celebrated today. The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy organized the four-day congress on catechetics, which ended today.

The catechism has a "collegial magisterial" nature, since it was requested from the Pope by the 1995 Synod of Bishops. All bishops worldwide were consulted in its writing. The original version was published, in French, in 1992, while the Latin edition was published in 1997.

This catechism, the Pope said, "still today maintains its reality of 'choice gift,' placed at the disposition of the whole Catholic Church, offering every man who asks and wishes to know what the Catholic Church believes, reasons for the hope that dwells in us."

"By presenting Catholic doctrine in a genuine and systematic though synthetic manner -- 'non omnia sed totum' -- the Catechism refers all the contents of the catechesis to its vital center, the person of Christ the Lord," John Paul II explained.

"The good reception and wide diffusion that it has had in this decade in various parts of the world, including in non-Catholic realms, are a positive testimony of its validity and continued importance," the Holy Father said.

Because of this, John Paul II urged an intensified commitment to its "greater diffusion, more joyful reception, and better use in the Church and the world."

To achieve this, the Catechism of the Catholic Church must be the "point of reference" of local catechisms and religion books that explain the faith, the Holy Father concluded.