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Saint Pope John Paul II (Part 5 Canon Law, Catechism, Writings)

This is part five of a series of artciles on Saint Pope John Paul II. This article will focus on his reform of Canon law, writing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and some of his other writings. The sixth and final article will detail his final days and canonization.

Reform of Canon Law

The current Code of Canon law began it's journey when Pope John XXIII proclaimed the ecumenical council for the Catholic Church as he also announced his intentions of revising the 1917 Code (that had been promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1917). The Pontifica Commissio Codici iuris canonici recognoscendo (established in 1963) continued the revisions and completed the work in the first few years of Pope John Paul II.

With the Apostolic Constitution Sacrae disciplinae leges, Pope John Paul II promulgated the current Code of Canon Law on January 25th 1983. Pope John Paul II would later describe this new code as the last document of Vatican II. The new Code of Canon law contains 1752 canons and Pope John Paul II described it as:

The instrument, which the Code is, fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in general, and in a particular way by its ecclesiological teaching. Indeed, in a certain sense, this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same doctrine, that is, the conciliar ecclesiology, into canonical language. If, however, it is impossible to translate perfectly into canonical language the conciliar image of the Church, nevertheless, in this image there should always be found as far as possible its essential point of reference.

Edward N Peters (A canonist serving as a Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura , or an advisor to the Holy See's top tribunal and professor of Canon Law at the Sacred Heart Majory Seminary) would later write and refer to the 1983 as the Johanno-Pauline Code (Johannes Paulus is Latin for "John Paul"). A few years later, Pope John Paul II promulgated the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus on June 28th, 1988. The Pastor bonus instituted reforms in the Roman Curia and laid out the organization of the Roman Curia, replacing Regimini Ecclesiae universae (1967). He then promulgated the Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches in the document Sacri Canones on October 18th, 1990.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

On January 25th, 1985, the 20th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II convened the Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and undertook the decision to publish a catechism. In 1986, a commission composed of 12 bishops and cardinals was placed in charge of this project and was assisted by a committee of seven diocesan bishops. This text was approved by Pope John Paul II on June 25th 1992 and promulgated by him on October 11th 1992 with his apostolic constitution Fidei depositum. The Latin typical edition was promulgated with his apostolic letter, Laetamur Magnopere on August 15th, 1997, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is why the English and French editions were amended and republished as second-editions.

Pope John Paul II's final paragraph and conclusion to Fidei depositum reads as:

At the conclusion of this document presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of the Church, to support with her powerful intercession the catechetical work of the entire Church on every level, at this time when she is called to a new effort of evangelization. May the light of the true faith free humanity from ignorance and slavery to sin in order to lead it to the only freedom worthy of the name (cf. Jn 8:32): that of life in Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, here below and in the kingdom of heaven, in the fullness of the blessed vision of God face to face (cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:6-8)!

He also wrote the Catechism to be

"a sure norm for teaching the faith … a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms"

In 1992, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI wrote):

It clearly show[s] that the problem of what we must do as human beings, of how we should live our lives so that we and the world may become just, is the essential problem of our day, and basically of all ages. After the fall of ideologies, the problem of man—the moral problem—is presented to today's context in a totally new way: What should we do? How does life become just? What can give us and the whole world a future which is worth living? Since the catechism treats these questions, it is a book which interests many people, far beyond purely theological or ecclesial circles


Below is just a small list of famous writings by Pope John Paul II and links to the documents:

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