Some bishops said the 1992 version was too difficult for many people to comprehend.
VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican published an easy-to-read version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Tuesday to help the faithful better understand the intricate tenets of Roman Catholic beliefs.
Pope John Paul II commissioned the 1992 Catechism to codify church teaching for the 20th century -- the first major revision in 400 years and a major accomplishment of his papacy.
In 2003, he created a commission to draw up a slimmer, simpler version after bishops complained the text was too complicated for people to understand. He appointed then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, to guide the commission's works.
Pope Benedict XVI presided over a ceremony Tuesday to mark the book's release to the public, surrounded by cardinals and archbishops in the frescoed Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace. He gave out some copies, and called the new book a "treasure" of hope that was "accessible to all: clear and concise."
"Ideally, I want to bestow this compendium to every person of good will who wants to know the unfathomable richness of the saving mystery of Jesus Christ," Benedict said.
He stressed that the book wasn't a new Catechism, but rather a compilation that respects the 1992 text and synthesizes it to make it easier to understand.
The 1992 Catechism was 691 pages long and is full of footnotes, sub-articles and cross-references along the margins.
The 205-page text released Tuesday is a series of brief questions and answers -- 598 in all -- with an appendix of the main Christian prayers and some "formulae" of Catholic doctrine, such as the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. It has numbers in the margins that refer to the main 1992 Catechism.
For example, in a section on marriage, the new book poses 14 questions, such as: "What is the attitude of the church toward divorcees who remarry?" (Answer: The church can't recognize marriages for divorcees who remarry civilly and doesn't allow divorcees who remarry to receive Communion since their situation "objectively contrasts with God's law.")