The Pope has great expectations for the "Youcat," a text designed to teach young people the ABC's of Catholicism using a language tailored to their generation.
The 300-page volume is the new and official Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church. A team has produced the volume and enlisted its translations under the guidance of Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Austria, who also served as the editor of the universal 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.
According to its American publisher Ignatius Press, the new text was produced with adolescents and young adults in mind as "an accessible, contemporary expression of the Catholic faith."
It covers questions of doctrine, the sacraments, moral life and prayer and spirituality in a format friendly to young readers. According to the publisher, it uses a straightforward question-answer format, commentary, a variety of images and a glossary of terms along with Bible passages and the words of great Catholic saints and teachers.
In a presentation during meetings last month, organizers for World Youth Day 2011 said that Youcat "is expected to become the 'go-to' catechetical resource for young people with questions about the faith."
Organizers of the international youth gathering have ordered 700,000 copies for the backpack kits to be given out to registered young pilgrims next August along with a sleeping bag, map and other accessories.
In the book's preface, published in the Jan. 3 edition of the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI himself calls it "extraordinary."
In addition to its content, its basis in the 1992 Catechism makes it special, he writes.
As a cardinal, the Pope was heavily involved in the process of creating the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In the 1980's, Pope John Paul II asked him to organize the bishops of the world to produce a text that could explain the faith to any person. It was no simple task producing a book for readers from all cultures, backgrounds and levels of education, he recalls in the preface.
It "seemed like a miracle" when the Cathechism was finally produced, with all of the difficulty, discussion and collaboration that was needed to compile it, he writes.
The new Youth Catechism derives from that book as the response to a need for a Catechism translated into "the language of young people and to make its words penetrate their world," Pope Benedict explains.
He hopes that young people across the world will "allow themselves to be fascinated" by the adaptation designed for them.
The read is a "gripping" one, he writes, because "it speaks to us of our very destiny and because it looks at each one of us closely."
He invites youth to approach the book with passion and perseverance, to "remain in dialogue" with the faith by speaking with friends, forming study networks and exchanging ideas on the Internet.
Youth must know their beliefs and faith with the same precision as "a computer specialist knows an operating system" or "a musician knows a piece of music," he says.
"Yes, you must be more deeply rooted in the faith than your parents' generation, to be able to endure the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and decision."
He tells them not to let the evil and sin of the world, even that within the Church, keep them from learning their faith. "You carry intact the fire of your love in this Church every time that men have darkened her face," he tells them.
Cardinal Schonborn told the Vatican newspaper that the Pope was interested in every stage of the process from the very beginning. The idea for the youth-based catechism, he said, was proposed by young Catholics in Austria.
The first draft was created by a theologians and teachers in German-speaking areas. The text was then put to the test during a pair of summer camps to see if it retained its relevance across language and cultural barriers.
"In this way the entire book is an expression of the youth culture profoundly implanted with the fruitful seed of the Gospel," said Cardinal Schonborn.
The world, he added, has become so "small" that it was necessary to give young people a new perpective on the Gospel, "and 'Youcat' will be able to carry out this mission."
The resource will be available in 13 languages by April 4, 2011.
Ignatius Press has announced the English edition will be released in March 2011. Other volumes in world languages, including Chinese and Arabic, are being prepared.