ACN News: Monday, 28th February 2011
YouCat: A catechism for young people that “does not offer easy solutions”
by Reinhard Backes
Pope Benedict speaks plainly: “The youth of today ... are not as superficial as they are accused of being; young people want to know what life really is about.” These words are taken from the preface to the new Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, or YouCat for short. The book, all in yellow, will appear during 2011 in 15 and possibly even 20 different languages, covering countries from Portugal to Indonesia, from Poland to Australia, from Armenia to Sweden. In what is something of a PR masterstroke, the book will be distributed free at the World Youth Day in Madrid in August 2011 to every one of the officially registered participants, as a gift from the Holy Father – in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Polish – the official languages of the World Youth Day. For this occasion alone, some 700,000 copies will have to be printed – possibly the largest print order in the world!
Quite unusual for a Church publication, this almost 300 page booklet is written in an easy, even colloquial style. But what is more important is that YouCat gives clear answers to practical questions asked by young men and women today. There are entries dealing with AIDS and Atheism, just as there entries on the Resurrection and the Trinity. Under the letter E you can find entries on Eroticism, Eucharist and Evolution. What about women priests? YouCat has something to say on this topic too, for it is not a book that ducks any questions. The Holy Father wanted it that way. In the preface, he says, "This supplement to the catechism does not flatter you; it does not offer easy solutions, it requires a new life on your part."
(The front cover of YouCat)
A central passage in the Pope's introduction reads like a kind of Magna Carta of the new evangelisation. He writes: "I invite you: study the catechism! This is my heartfelt wish... Study the catechism with passion and perseverance! Sacrifice your time for this! Study it in the silence of your room, read it with someone else, if you are friends, form groups and study networks, exchange ideas on the internet. In whatever way, remain in dialogue on your faith!"
"You must know what you believe; you must know your faith with the same precision with which a programming specialist knows the operating system of a computer; you must know it like a musician knows his piece. Yes, you must be much more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents, in order to be able to resist forcefully and decisively against the temptations of this time."
One is left holding one's breath – for unquestionably the YouCat will challenge its readers. Pope Benedict explains why this is so: "A crime novel is compelling because the fate it draws us into is that of other people, but could be our own; this book is compelling because it speaks to us of our very destiny and therefore concerns each of us intimately."
Also fascinating is the history of how the YouCat came about in the first place. In the early summer of 2005 the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn formally presented the Compendium, or condensed form of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church that had originally been published in 1992. Many young people responded at the time, saying, "Please tell the Holy Father that we need a real youth catechism. The Compendium is too difficult for us, too theological!" Very soon a team, made up of priests and laity, were working on the project, following the remit of Cardinal Schönborn, who told them, "You can't create a youth catechism without young people." More than 50 young people were asked to examine the original draft of the text, to offer criticisms, ask questions, make suggestions and send photos. Their input played a major part in shaping the new youth catechism. Pope Benedict suggested that the project should be prepared with the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid in mind. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith examined the text and made comments and suggestions that were also incorporated. Many bishops were also invited to give their view, and several bishops conferences also gave their approval.
YouCat has taken shape with lightning speed. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the youth catechism was first presented to the world's major Catholic publishing houses, initial agreements were reached. Among those involved are the German Pattloch-Verlag, Editions Cerf and Bayard (France), Citta Nuova (Italy), Ediciones Encuentro (Spain) Edycia Swietego Pawla (Poland) and Ignatius Press, San Francisco (USA).
The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is covering a major proportion of the costs for the World Youth Day editions, which will carry on the cover the words: "This book is a personal gift from the Holy Father". By helping to place YouCat in the hands of hundreds of thousands of young people, the charity is making a decisive contribution to the transmission of the Catholic Faith to a new generation. ACN warmly recommends this project to all its benefactors and Catholics worldwide. It is a project that combines two aspects that are central to the work of ACN, namely the focus on pastoral initiatives, whereby the transmission of the Faith and pastoral outreach are of prime importance, and the sense of profound identity with the concerns of the Popes. The charity hopes that this project will inspire and encourage its benefactors and Catholics worldwide, to donate to this cause in the belief that there is a burning desire amongst the Catholic faithful, to keep alive the flame of faith that today is under threat in the prosperous Western nations.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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