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(kăt`əkĭzəm) [Gr.,=oral instruction], originally oral instruction in religion, later written instruction. Catechisms are usually written in the form of questions and answers. Almost as old as Christianity, they were used especially for the instruction of converts and children. Catechisms were popular in the later Middle Ages and assumed even greater significance in the Reformation through Martin Luther's emphasis on the religious education of children. His Small Catechism (1529) is still the standard book of the Lutheran church. The greatest Calvinist catechism was the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). It was revised at Dort (1619) and was used in Dutch and German Reformed churches; other catechisms are the Longer and Shorter Catechisms of 1647 and 1648, drawn up to supplement the Westminster Confession; they are used in Presbyterian churches. The catechism for the Anglican Communion is included in the Book of Common Prayer.

A catechism long in use in the Roman Catholic church was that prepared by the Jesuit Peter Canisius, which appeared in 1555. The catechism of the Council of Trent, a document of high authority issued in 1566, was essentially a manual of instruction for use by the clergy in combating the Protestant Reformation; nonetheless it remained influential for over four centuries. The best-known Catholic catechism in England for many years was the Penny Catechism, adopted by the bishops of England and Wales; that in the United States was the Baltimore Catechism. The first new universal catechism of the Catholic church since that of the Council of Trent was released in French in 1992 and in English in 1994. The book forgoes the traditional question-and-answer format, instead providing a compendium of Roman Catholic teaching and belief. A summary of the catechism that employs a question-and-answer formate was released in 2005.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) A handbook containing the basic principles of Christian doctrine. During the first centuries of Christianity, the catechism was the oral instruction of those about to be baptized as Christians. Beginning with the 16th century the catechism became a book, a manual of instruction, which popularly set forth (usually in the form of questions and answers) the teachings of the Christian church. The Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches each have their own catechism.

(2) In the figurative sense, a catechism is a work written in theform of questions and answers.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


instruction by a series of questions and answers, esp a book containing such instruction on the religious doctrine of a Christian Church
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The publication of the Catechism resulted from the need on the part of the Catholic hierarchy to provide an intellectually respectable answer to the challenge of Protestantism.
Now a new updated Vatican approved version of the Catechism is on sale - and it is proving popular with the faithful.
from our catechism must certainly have sounded terribly odd to someone
The book's second part, on the catechisms' `message' or doctrinal content, follows the structure of the catechism with chapters on the creed, the decalogue, the Lord's Prayer and the sacraments, and further chapters on predestination and soteriology.
' The third part of the Catechism deals with the final end of man created in the image of God: beatitude and the ways of reaching it - through right conduct freely chosen, with the help of God's law and grace and through conduct that fulfils the twofold commandment of charity specified in God's Ten commandments.
Her volunteerism doesn't end with her catechism class, said Breanna Mekuly, the university minister who nominated Oliva, her student assistant, for recognition.
Its format is that of question-answer, with references to more complete explanations in the adult Catechism of the Catholic Church 1992 (1997); and quotes from Sacred Scripture, writers, saints and doctors of the Church.
An ecumenical catechism would capture what Kasper called the "achievements" of 40 years of ecumenical dialogue.
I am glad that Luther's Small Catechism is included in the assembly edition of Evangelical Lutheran Worship and the pew edition of Lutheran Service Book.
Many readers will recall being asked that question in their Sunday school years as they, sometimes unhappily but usually diligently, attempted to memorize the Shorter Catechism. Once memorized, the answers would be recited to some long-suffering elder, a way of ensuring you were ready for a profession of faith.
Marthaler, theologian, religious educator, and church historian once again provides a study that is timely and helpful--timely because it is appearing so soon after the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, helpful because this new universal catechism, though intended to heal grievances among Catholics, has to some extent exacerbated them.
With Pope John Paul II scheduled to visit Denver in mid-August, it occurred to me (in mid,July) that it might be appropriate to write an article about the new catechism of the Catholic church, formally approved by the pope on October 11, 1992.