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Ramiro Pellitero Iglesias, Professor of Theology, University of Navarra, Spain School

The catechesis, Education in faith

Thu, 02 Jul 2020 10:11:00 +0000 Posted in Church and new evangelization

The catechesis is a central element of the "Education in the faith" of all the Catholic faithful. Not only children and young people. We all need a permanent training and the whole Church can be considered, in its self-evangelizing task, as a "great catechesis".

The catechesis promotes the adhesion staff to Christ and the maturity of the Christian life. It is distinguished from the school religious teaching , which aims to transmit knowledge about Christianity and Christian life in the context of assimilation, systematic and critical, of culture.  

As a result of the catechetical impulse of the Second Vatican Council, the experiences of educators (catechists, missionaries, etc.) from all over the world have been gathered and studied on how to develop catechesis in the cultural context of our times. 

On March 23, Pope Francis approved the publication of the "directory for the catechesis" prepared by the Pontifical Council committee for the New Evangelization, after twelve drafts and six years of work. It is a vast and important document that has reached its third edition after a first edition in 1971, under the pontificate of St. Paul VI, and a second in 1997 approved by St. John Paul II. It is addressed first of all to the bishops and, through them, to those involved in the Education of the faith in pastoral and academic settings, and particularly to the millions of catechists engaged in the transmission of the faith.

Already in 1977, a universal synod was held on catechesis which resulted in the exhortation Catechesi tradendae (1979), the magna carta of the Education in the faith for our days. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the directory have been completing the references that the magisterium of the Church offers to Catholic educators for their task.

This document provides the theological-pastoral principles of the catechesis, leaving the more concrete orientations to the Episcopal Conferences and the local and particular Churches.

Digital culture, evangelization and holiness

The introduction to the new directory for catechesis highlights two phenomena that made it necessary to revise this document: digital culture and the globalization of culture.

In addition to these general contexts, other elements, both positive and negative, should be highlighted, as this directory does, along with the challenges of the current status . For example: the need to link truth and love; the centrality of witness, mercy and dialogue; the spiritual transformation, promoted by the catechesis, as a service to the inculturation of the faith; the relationship between catechesis and popular piety; the change of sensitivity with a rejection of the mentality of moral and religious "obligation" and, therefore, with a more personalistic vision of moral Education ; doctrinal relativism; the need to better explain the freedom of the Christian; the priority of the unity or coherence of Christian life that the Education should promote; the understanding of the catechesis in the framework of the Christian community; the importance of the liturgical Education or "mystagogy" through the catechumenate; the "languages" of the catechesis, the "way of beauty" and the role of the report; the horizon of service to society and transformation of the world; the learning of discernment at the educational and catechetical levels; the articulation of local cultural elements with the universal scope; the catechesis of the poorest, of the migrants, of the imprisoned; the ecumenical dimension of the catechesis and its role in the dialogue with religions, with indifference and unbelief; the catechesis and the perspective of "gender" and other questions in relation to the culture of life and bioethics; forms and ways of the catechesis family; catechesis and ecology, etc.

St. Paul VI was aware of the profound and rapid changes that were already taking shape when he wrote his exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (1975) on evangelization in the contemporary world. Pope Francis has been reinforcing the evangelizing commitment of every believer since his programmatic exhortation Evangelii gaudium (2013) on the advertisement of the Gospel in today's world.

The present directory openly declares the criterion that provoked his reflection and essay: the "first advertisement of faith" (called kerygma in the New Testament). This first advertisement is not a speech articulated to convince the interlocutor, but the testimony of meeting staff with Jesus Christ. From this central point, the faith unfolds its "contents," is celebrated in the liturgy, is lived in its own style (Christian morality) and is manifested and nourished through prayer. Everything starts, then, from a missionary understanding of catechesis. In this sense, a "kerygmaticcatechesis " is promoted, capable, in turn, of making "missionary disciples".

Together with the cultural context that required it, the criteria for its elaboration, the continuity with the previous magisterium, the synodal path of the Church and the last pontificates, the new directory is rooted in the perspective of holiness as a program of life that Christian educators, and specifically catechists, are called to follow.

Content distribution

The directory consists of three main parts. In the first part ("La catechesis en la mission statement Evangelizadora de la Iglesia") he lays the foundations of the journey of faith and, starting from the Christian Revelation, he raises the identity and training of catechists.

The second part ("The process of the catechesis") sample is the dynamic of the catechesis: from the model of the pedagogy of God in the history of salvation and the catechesis as educational action, the theological criteria for the catechesis are reorganized according to the needs of the contemporary culture. The theological-catechetical significance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is then explored in depth, and the questions of method and the diversity of interlocutors in catechesis are addressed.

The third part ("The catechesis in the particular Churches") highlights the concrete contexts - both ecclesial and cultural - of the catechesis and the need for discernment in this task, one of the most important that all the Catholic faithful have entrusted to us and in which we can and should participate in many different ways.

We are, in final, before a text of reference letter for all those directly involved in the catechesis as Education in the faith and, indirectly, also for all those interested in the Education or in the teaching of the questions concerning the Christian faith. Of particular interest are the analyses of the digital culture and the orientations on ways to follow in the catechetical process, as part of the broader process of evangelization in search of the fullness of human life.