Creed of the People of God Print
Knowing Your Faith
Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
Knowing Your Faith column

John Joy

This new year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's magnificent profession of faith, the Creed of the People of God.

The 1960s were a tumultuous time in society at large and a time of great confusion in the Church. After the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), many Catholics thought that it was no longer important to believe the teachings of the Church or that the teaching of the Church had changed.


In fact, of course, the purpose of Vatican II was not to change the teachings of the Church or to diminish their importance, but to present the same truths received from Jesus Christ to the modern world in a new way.

Declared 'year of faith'

Unfortunately, however, great parts of the Church were plunged into a deep crisis of faith. So in 1967, Pope Paul VI declared a "year of faith" in honor of the 19th centennial of the martyrdom of the great Apostles Peter and Paul, who shed their blood for the faith under the Emperor Nero in the year 67.

The goal of this year of faith was to "give witness to our steadfast will to be faithful to the deposit of faith which the apostles transmitted to us."

As this year of faith came to a close in 1968, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Creed of the People of God in order to fulfill our Lord's command to St. Peter to "confirm the brethren in their faith" (Luke 22:32).

Pope Paul VI says that he is "aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith."

He "sees even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty." But he insists, "the greatest care must be taken to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine."

The new creed

This new creed "repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the Creed of Nicaea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God."

The Creed of Nicaea is the creed we say every Sunday at Mass. It was composed in the fourth century and summarizes the most important articles of our faith. But it is very brief and so also leaves many important truths out.

In the context of the modern crisis of faith, in which we are still living today, the Creed of the People of God is meant to spell out in much greater detail what Catholics are required to believe in order to remain a member of the Church of Christ and in order to have a hope of eternal salvation.

As we celebrate this 50th anniversary, it seems fitting to focus renewed attention on this magnificent creed, which is especially suited to the needs of our time, by going through it in a regular column here with some commentary.

The creed begins:

We believe in one only God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator of things visible, such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible, such as the pure spirits which are also called angels, and Creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul.

In the Nicene Creed, we profess our faith in God as the "Creator of all things visible and invisible." But how often do we think about what this means? Obviously, the visible things created by God are all the physical, material things in the universe: the sun, moon, and stars, the water and the land, the plants and the animals, and our own bodies.

But God also creates invisible things: angels and our own spiritual and immortal souls. Many people today believe that nothing real exists beyond the material world that we can see with our eyes -- that God isn't real, that angels are fairy tales, and that we don't have immortal souls.

But as Catholics we boldly profess our faith in all these things every time we say at Mass, "I believe in God, Creator of all things visible and invisible."

John Joy, STL, is marriage and family coordinator for the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, Diocese of Madison.