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General Directory for Catechesis


Catechetical directories are a new genre of writing in the Roman Catholic religious education that emerged at the Second Vatican Council. They furnish guidelines that delineate theological-pastoral principles, describe the nature and purpose of catechesis, set goals, outline structures, and suggest strategies for catechetical programs. The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) promulgated in 1997 by the Congregation for the Clergy updates the General Catechetical Directory published in 1971. Composed originally in Spanish and Italian, the GDC exists in Latin (the editio typica ), English, French, German, and other translations. The new edition reflects the orientation given to catechesis in the apostolic exhortations Evangelii nuntiandi of Pope Paul VI (1974) and Catechesi tradendae of Pope John Paul II (1979) by yoking catechesis and evangelization in the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel. It encourages the baptismal catechumenate, restored in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (1972), as the model for all catechesis. The 1979 Directory, considerably longer than the earlier edition, consists of five parts. Part 1 explains the nature, object, and the duties of catechesis in the context of the Church's mission of evangelization. Part 2 recapitulates the norms and criteria for presenting the Gospel found in the 1971 edition of the Directory and explains the contents and use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Part 3 describes "the pedagogy of God" as the source and model of the pedagogy to be adopted in catechesis. Part 4 focuses on the recipients of catechesis, explaining how the methods and even the message needs to be adapted according to age groups, special needs, the socio-religious context, and cultural background of those being catechized. Part 5 addresses catechesis in the local church. It outlines principles that should guide the formation of catechesis, the need to be sensitive to the surroundings where it is carried on, and the importance of coordinating catechetical and other pastoral programs for their mutual support. The 291 numbered paragraphs of the GDC are not all of the same importance. The sections deal with divine revelation, the nature of catechesis, and the criteria governing the proclamation of the Gospel message are "universally valid." Paragraphs that refer to particular circumstances, methodology, and to the manner of adapting catechesis to diverse age groups and cultural contexts are by way of guidelines and suggestions. The immediate aim of catechetical directories is to assist in the composition of national and regional directories and the writing of catechisms.

Bibliography: General Directory for Catechesis. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1998. c. bissoli, "Il Direttorio Generale per la Catechesi (1997)," Salesianum 60 (1998) 521547. b. l. marthaler, Sowing Seeds: Notes and Comments on the General Directory for Catechesis (Washington, D.C.2000).

[b. l. marthaler]

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