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Congregation for the Clergy
General Directory for Catechesis

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    • CHAPTER I Norms and criteria for presenting the Gospel message in catechesis
        • Inculturation of the Gospel message
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Inculturation of the Gospel message


109. The Word of God became man, a concrete man, in space and time and rooted in a specific culture: "Christ by his incarnation committed himself to the particular social and cultural circumstances of the men among whom he lived". (367) This is the original "inculturation" of the word of God and is the model of all evangelization by the Church, "called to bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures". (368)

'Inculturation' (369) of the faith, whereby in a wonderful exchange are comprised, "all the riches of the nations which have been given to Christ as an inheritance", (370) it is a profound and global process and a slow journey. (371) It is not simply an external adaptation designed to make the Christian message more attractive or superficially decorative. On the contrary, it means the penetration of the deepest strata of persons and peoples by the Gospel which touches them deeply, "going to the very centre and roots" (372) of their cultures.

In this work of inculturation, however, the Christian community must discern, on the one hand, which riches to "take" (373) up as compatible with the faith; on the other, it must seek to "purify" (374) and "transform" (375) those criteria, modes of thought and lifestyles which are contrary to the Kingdom of God. Such discernment is governed by two basic principles: "compatibility with the Gospel and communion with the universal Church". (376) All of the people of God must be involved in this process which "...needs to take place gradually, in such a way that it really is an expression of the community's Christian experience". (377)

110. In this inculturation of the faith, there are different concrete tasks for catechesis. Amongst these mention must be made of:

looking to the ecclesial community as the principal factor of inculturation: an expression and efficient instrument of this task is represented by the catechist who, with a profound religious sense, also possesses a living social conscience and is well rooted in his cultural environment; (378)

drawing up local catechisms which respond to the demands of different cultures (379) and which present the Gospel in relation to the hopes, questions and problems which these cultures present;

making the Catechumenate and catechetical institutes into "centres of inculturation", incorporating, with discernment, the language, symbols, and values of the cultures in which the catechumens and those to be catechized live;

presenting the Christian message in such a way as to prepare those who are to proclaim the Gospel to be capable "of giving reasons for their hope" (1 Pt 3,15) in cultures often pagan or post-Christian: effective apologetics to assist the faith-culture dialogue is indispensable today.

366) Cf. Part IV, chp 5.

367) AG 10; cf. AG 22a.

368) CT 53; cf. EN 20.

369) The term "inculturation" is taken from diverse documents of the Magisterium. See CT 53; RM 52-54. The concept of culture, either in a general or an ethnological or sociological sense is clarified in GS 53. Cf. also ChL 44a.

370) AG 22a; cf. LG 13 and 17; GS 53-62; DCG (1971) 37.

371) Cf. RM 52b which speaks of the "long time" required for inculturation.

372) EN 20; cf. EN 63; RM 52.

373) LG 13 uses the expression "to foster and to take (fovet et assumit)".

374) LG 13 expresses it in this way: "she purifies, strengthens and elevates them (sanare, elevare et consummare)".

375) EN 19 affirms: "to acquire and almost to overturn".

376) RM 54a.

377) RM 54b.

378) Cf. Guide for catechists, 12.

379) Cf. CCC 24.

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