From time to time I have seen references to the “Credo of the People of God”, for example in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Can you tell me what this is?
The Credo of the People of God is a profession of faith, or Creed, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI 40 years ago on June 30, 1968, the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Why did the Church need a new Creed, when we already had, among others, the ancient Apostles’ Creed and the fourth-century Nicene Creed? We should understand that over the 2000 years of the Church’s history there have been numerous Creeds, some of them coming from Church Councils and others from Popes.
In this regard the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Through the centuries many professions or symbols of faith have been articulated in response to the needs of the different eras: the creeds of the different apostolic and ancient Churches, for example the Quicumque, also called the Athanasian Creed; the professions of faith of certain Councils, such as Toledo, Lateran, Lyons, Trent; or the symbols of certain popes, e.g., the Fides Damasi or the Credo of the People of God of Paul VI.” (CCC 192)
In the years following the Second Vatican Council, which ended in December, 1965, there was a great deal of confusion in matters of doctrine, morals, the sacraments, etc. We should not forget that even before the Council ended, in September 1965 Pope Paul wrote his encyclical Mysterium fidei, to restate the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist in the face of errors that were circulating at the time.
In great measure because of this confusion, less than two years later the Pope called for a “Year of Faith”, to be celebrated from the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1967, to the same feast the following year.
The year would also commemorate the 1900th anniversary of the martyrdom of the two Apostles, much as the “Year of St Paul” we are now celebrating commemorates the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle.
At the conclusion of the “Year of Faith” in 1968, Pope Paul issued his “Credo”. In his homily presenting it, he explained the reason for the new Creed: “In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty. The Church, most assuredly, has always the duty to carry on the effort to study more deeply and to present, in a manner ever better adapted to successive generations, the unfathomable mysteries of God, rich for all in fruits of salvation. But at the same time the greatest care must be taken, while fulfilling the indispensable duty of research, to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine. For that would be to give rise, as is unfortunately seen in these days, to disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.”
He added: “We have wished our profession of faith to be to a high degree complete and explicit, in order that it may respond in a fitting way to the need of light felt by so many faithful souls, and by all those in the world, to whatever spiritual family they belong, who are in search of the Truth.”
The text of the Creed then followed. It is longer (some 2500 words compared with 220 in the Nicene Creed) and more detailed than any of the other familiar Creeds.
After a profession of faith in the Blessed Trinity and in each of the three Divine Persons, it goes on to speak of Mary, including her perpetual virginity, her immaculate conception and her assumption into heaven.
It then speaks of original sin and our redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and of the need to baptise infants in order that they may share in divine life.
It speaks at length of the Church, including the infallibility of the Pope and of the Bishops in communion with him. It mentions the Church as necessary for salvation, and the possibility of salvation for those outside the visible confines of the Church.
Among other truths it speaks of the Mass as the sacrifice of Christ made sacramentally present on the altar and of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, including transubstantiation. It ends with a consideration of the realities of eternal life, including Purgatory and heaven.
On this 40th anniversary of the Creed, it would be well worthwhile to read and meditate once again on this great gift of Pope Paul to the Church. It is truly a providential statement of our Catholic faith.
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