LETTER FROM THE HOLY FATHER PIUS X
TO CARDINAL PIETRO RESPIGHI
VICAR OF ROME
BY WHICH THE APPROVAL
OF THE CATECHISM OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
IS GIVEN FOR THE DIOCESIS AND ECCLESIATICAL PROVINCE
Since the beginning of Our Pontificate We have dedicated the greatest care in the religious instruction of the Christian people, in particular of the children, convinced that many of the evils that afflict the Church are caused by ignorance of her doctrines and laws. The enemies of the Church condemn them, blaspheming that which they ignore, and many of Her children, knowing them badly, live as if they did not exist. For this reason, We often insisted on the absolute necessity of Catechism instruction, and We promoted it everywhere, in accordance with Our power, both through the Encyclical Letter Acerbo nimis, and with dispositions regarding catechisms in parishes, with the approval and encouragement of Catechistic Congresses and Religion schools, and with the introduction of the text of the Catechism here in Rome, which has been used for some time now in some large ecclesiastical provinces in Italy.
However, with the passing of the years and as a result of new difficulties interfering insidiously in the ordinary teaching of Christian Doctrine in the schools, where it was imparted for centuries, along with the provident anticipation of the First Communion for children, which We desired, as well as for other reasons expressed to Us, that is, a need for an adequate Catechism, one which was also shorter and more suitable for today’s necessities, We consented to reducing the Old Catechism into a new one, significantly condensed, which We, Ourselves examined and wished also to be examined by our brother Bishops in Italy, in order that they, according to their knowledge and experience, would express their opinion in general and indicate in particular the modifications to be introduced.
Having received an almost unanimous favourable appreciation from them, with more than a few precious observations, which we ordered to be held in due account, it seems to Us, for various reasons, that we must not delay any further in a substitution of the text, recognized as opportune, trusting that with the Lord’s benediction, it will be more convenient and as much as, if not more, profitable than the old one, since the volume of the book and the things to be learned having been quite reduced, it will not discourage the youth, already seriously overburdened by scholastic programmes, and will thus permit teachers and catechists to make them learn it all. Here they will find, despite its brevity, the truths better explained and accentuated, those that nowadays are the most hardly fought, misunderstood, or forgotten, and which result in immense harm done to souls and society.
In fact, we hope that even adults, those who wish, as at times they should, in order to live better and for the education of their family, to revive in their soul the fundamental knowledge on which the spiritual and moral life of a Christian is based, that they are to find this brief account useful and pleasing, very accurate even in its form, where they will encounter, set forth with great simplicity, the most important Divine truths and the most efficacious Christian reflections.
This Catechism, therefore, and the prime elements from it that We have set out to be used, without any altering of the text, is for the convenience of children. We, with the authority of this letter, approve and prescribe to the ecclesiastical Diocese and Province of Rome the use of this text, forbidding, henceforth, the use of other texts in the teaching of catechism. Regarding the other Italian dioceses, the pledge is enough for Us, that the same text, which We and many other Ordinaries have deemed adequate, be adopted as well, so that the deadly confusion and discomfort that today so many experience in the frequent changes of abode, cease, when finding in their new place of residence, formulas and texts notably different which they have difficulty in learning, whilst at the same time, because of disuse, they confuse and ultimately forget even that which they once knew. It is worse for children, since there is nothing so deadly in obtaining good results from teaching as continuing it with a different text other than the one to which the youngster is more or less already accustomed.
With the introduction of the present text, adults might encounter some difficulties, as some formulas have strayed from precedent ones, so it is for this reason, in order to remove these inconveniences, that We order that at all the main feast-day Masses, as also in all of the classes on Christian doctrine, that the initial prayers and the other principle formulas be recited, at the beginning, aloud, clearly, and in a composed manner. In that way, after a little while, without effort, everyone will have learned them. Thus, an excellent and amiable habit of common prayer and instruction will be introduced which has been in vigor in many Italian dioceses for some time now, with much edification and profit.
In the name of the Lord, We strongly exhort all catechists, now that the brevity itself of the text eases their work, to explain the Christian doctrine with even greater care and allow it to penetrate the souls of young people, as today there is a greater need for solid religious instruction because of the spreading of godlessness and immorality. That they remember always that the fruit of the Catechism depends almost entirely on their enthusiasm, intelligence, and ability in rendering the instruction easier and more pleasing to their students.
Let us pray to God that, as the enemies of the Faith who are currently constantly increasing in numbers and strength and who with every means go about propagating error, as many willing souls will rise up to assist parish priests, Christian teachers, and parents with great enthusiasm, in the much needed noble and fruitful teaching of the Catechism.
It is with this wish that We heartily impart Our apostolic blessing to you, your Lordship, and to all those who will be the collaborators in such a holy mission.
From the Vatican, October 18, 1912.
PIUS PP. X.
“If there is no poverty that can be compared to that of the one who ignores the truth of the Faith, the instruction of the Catechism alone may bring order, peace, justice and charity among men.”
Saint Pius X , in a letter to Cardinal Ferrari of Milan (1910)
The definitive text of the Compendium of Christian Doctrine, widely known as "Catechism of Saint Pius X", was officially made public exactly 100 years ago, on October 18, 1912. Conceived by Pope Sarto in his permanent regard for the needs of each lay faithful, it was an important piece of his program of restoring all things in Christ - first, in the Ecclesiastical Province of Rome, then, by example, throughout the Church.
Saint Pius X , in a letter to Cardinal Ferrari of Milan (1910)
This is, as far as we are aware, the first full translation made available in English and online of the letter Fin dai primordi, by which the Holy Pope consigned the document to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome. We thank contributor Francesca Romana for this new translation.