The Essentials, in 598 Questions and Answers

A Catechetical Summary in 200 Pages

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2005 ( The new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a quick synopsis of the essential contents of the faith.

The 200-page volume is a collection of 598 questions and answers which summarize the Catechism published in 1992. The Compendium makes no additions or changes to what is stated in the 700-page Catechism.

As Benedict XVI explained during the presentation of the new work today, since the publication of the Catechism, there «has been an ever greater and insistent need for a catechism in synthesis.»

The Compendium begins with a document promulgated by Benedict XVI for its approval and publication, and with a brief Introduction by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dated last Palm Sunday, March 20, weeks before he was elected Pope.

In 2003 Pope John Paul II had entrusted to Cardinal Ratzinger the direction of the commission that was designated to write the Compendium.


The Compendium is divided in the same four parts of the Catechism.

Part I, «The Profession of Faith,» includes 217 questions; Part II, «The Celebration of the Christian Mystery» covers questions 218 to 356; Part II, «Life in Christ,» questions 357 to 533; and Part IV, «Christian Prayer,» questions 534 to 598.

The book ends with a double appendix on «Common Prayers» (from the sign of the cross, the Gloria and the Our Father, to the Prayer for the Dead and the act of contrition) and «Catholic Doctrine Formulas» (such as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the Beatitudes, etc.).

At present the Compendium, published by the Vatican Publishing House and St. Paul’s, is available only in Italian. Translations into other languages will be coordinated by bishops’ conferences.

The text includes 14 images taken from masterpieces of Christian art, to illustrate the beginning of each part or section.

«The sacred images, with their beauty, are also a proclamation of the Gospel and express the splendor of the Catholic truth,» explained the Pope during the presentation ceremony.

Among the works of art reproduced is the icon of Christ «Pantokrator» of Theophanes of Crete (1546), which is kept in the Stavronikita Monastery of Mount Athos; the «Triptych of the Seven Sacraments» by Roger van der Wyden; two works by «El Greco» — «St. John Contemplating the Immaculate Conception» and «Jesus Praying in the Garden»; and Blessed Angelico’s «The Sermon on the Mount.»

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