Most folks have never heard of it, but it's one of the most succint, yet thorough, summaries of the Catholic Faith. Issued 40 years ago today by Pope Paul VI, the Credo is largely forgotten, mostly due to the decision by many Catholics of the late 60s to completely ignore it. In a bit of a twist, it's come out lately that the Credo was ghost written for the pope by Jacques Maritain.
This was sort of Pope Paul's way of trying to get a handle on the whackjobbery that was sweeping the Church. As Sandro relates in the above link:
On January 12, Cardinal Journet wrote to Maritain to tell him that he would soon be meeting with the pope, in Rome. Neither of them knew that Paul VI intended to enact the Year of Faith. But Maritain confided to Journet that a few days before, "an idea had come to me," which he describes this way:
"The Sovereign Pontiff should draft a complete and detailed profession of faith, in which everything that is really contained in the Symbol of Nicea would be presented explicitly. This will be, in the history of the Church, the profession of faith of Paul VI."
Although Maritain did not ask him to do so, Journet photocopied the philosopher's letter and gave it to the pope, when he met with him on January 18. On that occasion, Paul VI asked the theologian for his judgment on the state of the Church's health. "Tragic," Journet answered. Both he and the pope were in shock over the publication in Holland, one year earlier and with the blessing of the bishops, of a new Catechism aimed at nothing less than "substituting one orthodoxy for another in the Church, a modern orthodoxy for the traditional orthodoxy" (a comment from the commission of cardinals instituted by Paul VI to examine the Catechism, of which Journet was a member).
Of course, it wasn't too long after this that the wheels really came off Pope Paul's wagon when Humanae Vitae came out. More on that later, though.
If anyone ever asks you about what Catholics believe, pointing them to the Credo of the People of God might be a good start, assuming they know a bit of the terminology. A snippet to whet your appetite:
We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church built by Jesus Christ on that rock which is Peter. She is the Mystical Body of Christ; at the same time a visible society instituted with hierarchical organs, and a spiritual community; the Church on earth, the pilgrim People of God here below, and the Church filled with heavenly blessings; the germ and the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, through which the work and the sufferings of Redemption are continued throughout human history, and which looks for its perfect accomplishment beyond time in glory. In the course of time, the Lord Jesus forms His Church by means of the sacraments emanating from His plenitude. By these she makes her members participants in the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit who gives her life and movement. She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.