Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part One: The Profession of Faith
Section Two: The Creeds
185 Whoever says "I believe" says "I pledge myself to what we believe."
Communion in faith needs a common language of faith, normative for all and
uniting all in the same confession of faith.
186 From the beginning, the apostolic Church expressed and handed on her
faith in brief formulae normative for all. But already very early on, the
Church also wanted to gather the essential elements of her faith into
organic and articulated summaries, intended especially for candidates for
This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but
rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the
Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety. And
just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny
grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole
knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and the New
187 Such syntheses are called "professions of faith" Since they summarize
the faith that Christians profess. They are called "creeds" on account of
what is usually their first word in Latin: credo ("I believe"). They are
also called "symbols of faith".
188 The Greek word symbolon meant half of a broken object, for example, a
seal presented as a token of recognition. The broken parts were placed
together to verify the bearer's identity. The symbol of faith, then, is a
sign of recognition and communion between believers. Symbolon also means a
gathering, collection or summary. A symbol of faith is a summary of the
principal truths of the faith and therefore serves as the first and
fundamental point of reference for catechesis.
189 The first "profession of faith" is made during Baptism. The symbol of
faith is first and foremost the baptismal creed. Since Baptism is given
"in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", the
truths of faith professed during Baptism are articulated in terms of their
reference to the three persons of the Holy Trinity.
190 And so the Creed is divided into three parts: "the first part speaks
of the first divine Person and the wonderful work of creation; the next
speaks of the second divine Person and the mystery of his redemption of
men; the final part speaks of the third divine Person, the origin and
source of our sanctification." These are "the three chapters of our
191 "These three parts are distinct although connected with one another.
According to a comparison often used by the Fathers, we call them
articles. Indeed, just as in our bodily members there are certain
articulations which distinguish and separate them, so too in this
profession of faith, the name "articles" has justly and rightly been given
to the truths we must believe particularly and distinctly." In accordance
with an ancient tradition, already attested to by St. Ambrose, it is also
customary to reckon the articles of the Creed as twelve, thus symbolizing
the fullness of the apostolic faith by the number of the apostles.
192 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, e.g., 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.
193 None of the creeds from the different stages in the Church's life can
be considered superseded or irrelevant. They help us today to attain and
deepen the faith of all times by means of the different summaries made of
Among all the creeds, two occupy a special place in the Church's life:
194 The Apostles' Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to
be a faithful summary of the apostles' faith. It is the ancient baptismal
symbol of the Church of Rome. Its great Authority arises from this fact:
it is "the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the
apostles, to which he brought the common faith".
195 The Niceno-Constantinopolitan or Nicene Creed draws its great
Authority from the fact that it stems from the first two ecumenical
Councils (in 325 and 381). It remains common to all the great Churches of
both East and West to this day.
196 Our presentation of the faith will follow the Apostles' Creed, which
constitutes, as it were, "the oldest Roman catechism". The presentation
will be completed however by constant references to the Nicene Creed,
which is often more explicit and more detailed.
197 As on the day of our Baptism, when our whole life was entrusted to the
"standard of teaching", let us embrace the Creed of our life-giving
faith. To say the Credo with faith is to enter into communion with God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and also with the whole Church which
transmits the faith to us and in whose midst we believe:
This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart's meditation and an
ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.
Cf. Rom 10:9; I Cor 15:3-5, etc.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. illum. 5, 12: PG 33, 521-524.
Roman Catechism I, 1, 3.
St. Irenaeus, Dem. ap. 100: SCh 62, 170.
Roman Catechism I, I, 4.
Cf. St. Ambrose, Expl. symb. 8: PL 17, 1196.
Cf. DS 1-64.
Cf. DS 75-76.
Cf. DS 525-541; 800-802; 851-861; 1862-1870.
Cf. DS 71-72.
Paul VI, CPG (1968).
St. Ambrose, Expl. symb. 7: PL 17, 1196.
St. Ambrose, Expl. symb. I: PL 17, 1193.