While St. John Paul II was the pope who commissioned the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, it was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) who put it all together.
St. John Paul II responded to numerous bishops’ requests for a new catechism that would address the many challenges of the modern world and created a commission in 1986 to formulate such a monumental task.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn explains in an article for Vatican Newsthat “It is not surprising that he entrusted Cardinal Ratzinger with the task of leading the project. It is not necessary for me to retrace the stages of that journey, which lasted six years. A commission of 12 cardinals and bishops led by Ratzinger was set up.”
Ratzinger was the principal leader of the project and his style was imprinted upon it.
Schönborn notes that it was Ratzinger who helped formulate the primary division of the Catechism into four pillars, as he had “the conviction that the four classic pillars of catechesis continue to be the backbone today. He also pointed out the order: the Creed has been the foundation ever since the beginning of the Church; the Sacraments are the doors through which grace enters our lives; the Ten Commandments are the sure signposts of a successful life; the Our Father is the measure and the original form of all our prayers. This, then, is the structure of the book on faith.”
Furthermore, if you truly want to see the genius of the Catechism, all you need to do is pick-up the oft-forgotten Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was written by Cardinal Ratzinger. In it, Ratzinger details his vision of the Catechism and how he hoped it would be used.
As many begin to mine the treasures of the Catechism through Father Mike Schmitz’s Catechism in a Year podcast, remember that much of the beauty behind it is due to the work of Benedict XVI.