"Youcat" Answers Young People's Questions

Catechism for Youth Presented Wednesday in Rome

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By Chiara Santomiero

ROME, APRIL 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Leading up to its mass distribution at World Youth Day this August, the new catechism for young people, "Youcat," was presented Wednesday in Rome.

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, described it as a sort of "open path" to the adult version, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium.

Youcat is hitting book stores in 17 languages, including Chinese. It was developed, in part, by a group of 50 young people, led by a team of German-speaking theologians, priests and religion teachers, overseen by the bishops of Austria.

The youth were chosen with the aim of creating a group that would represent as much as possible the wide spectrum of young people around the world.

Their influence on the catechism resulted in a text that isn't "exclusively theological language, understandable only to someone who has studied theology," said Nikolaus Magnis, a seminarian of the Diocese of Limburg, Germany, and one of the young men who collaborated in the preparation of Youcat. But it's not written in young people's slang either, he said.

In fact, the title itself is one of the first contributions the youth made.

"All of us called the project 'ju-kat,' to shorten it," Magnis explained, with "ju" an abbreviation for the German word for youth, and "kat" for catechism. "Then someone got the idea to spell it as it is now, and the Holy Father approved the name."

The seminarian added that the designer wanted a yellow book, since "yellow is the color of the Catholic Church."

"At the center we placed a 'Y' formed by crosses drawn by each of the young people who took part in the project," he said. "Y" for "young, youth and even you. This is how the cover of Youcat was created."

Collaborating in writing a catechism proved to be a fascinating project, according to a violin student from London's Royal Academy, Isabel Meuser.

"I thought I'd be bored; instead it was very interesting: Each one contributed according to his specialization, and the result is amazing," she said.

What's the point?

The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, brought his experience in preparing the adult Catechism of the Catholic Church to this project.

He spoke at a press conference about the motives for a youth catechism.

"The urgency stems from the fact that the young protagonists of this text belong to a generation for whom being Christian is a conscious choice," the cardinal stated.

Youth who have decided to be Christian, he said, "have a very different approach to the faith from our generations, for whom it was normal to participate in Sunday Mass."

"This generation knows that it needs to respond to the questions of its contemporaries," he said, promoting Benedict XVI's affirmation that the faith is reasonable, that is, that it makes sense to clear-thinking people.

Memory skills

Youcat has 527 questions and answers. At the end of each answer, there are references to the deeper explanations that can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, said such a structure was a smart choice.

"It makes it possible to do the necessary synthesis," he said, "to keep the contents brief and synthetic."

"For years we have heard about the need to find 'brief formulas' of faith that can be easily memorized," he reflected. "The history of professions of faith shows clearly that this happened at the dawn of Christianity, and these formulas remain unaltered in the sacred texts."

Local and universal

Individual language-editions take into account factors related to national contexts. The main part of the volume presents a translation of the same text, but sidebars dedicated to quotes from sacred Scripture, writers, saints, and doctors of the Church, as well as the many images on each page, reflect choices made for each language.

The Italian-language edition already ran into one problem, with a mistranslation in question 420 regarding regulating fertility.

"Problems occurred also with the French edition, which will be delayed because of an error regarding the relationship with other religions," said Cardinal Schönborn.

Such bumps on the road aren't surprising, the Vienna prelate assured. "Also with the text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, many corrections had to be made, he said. "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will make a list of the [errors] that are pointed out little by little, and the corrections will be inserted in the forthcoming editions."

Archbishop Fisichella explained another correction already under way: a reference in No. 382 to "passive euthanasia."

"Passive euthanasia and active euthanasia are terms no longer used," he said. "We must be as precise as possible to avoid misunderstandings on such delicate subjects."