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The Old Form of the Neocatechumenal Mass Is Illicit

by Sandro Magister

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  • Description:
    Sandro Magister gives the background on the approval in May 2008 of the statutes for the Neocatechumenal Movement. The Vatican determined that the old form being used for the celebration of the Mass was illicit. Vatican authorities have prohibited Neocatechumenals from taking communion seated around a table. Homilies in dialogue form are also forbidden. This article compares the old statutes of 2002 with the ones recently approved.
  • Larger Work:
    www.chiesa
  • Publisher & Date:
    Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso Spa, June 23, 2008

The Neocatechumenal Way has a new, definitive set of statutes. They were approved by the Vatican authorities last May 11, the feast of Pentecost, and officially handed down ten days ago by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the pontifical council for the laity, to the international leadership group of the Way, made up of Francisco José (Kiko) Gómez Argüello (in the photo), Carmen Hernández, and Fr. Mario Pezzi.

The previous statutes, dated June 29, 2002, were experimental and valid for only five years. So they had expired nearly a year before when the new statutes were approved.

The reason for this delay can be intuited by comparing the two texts. Especially in article 13, where the variations are most evident.

Article 13 concerns the celebration of the Mass. For the Neocatechumenals, this has always been the source of the sharpest contrasts with the rest of the Catholic Church.

Especially concerning the times and places of the celebrations.

The Neocatechumenals typically celebrate their Masses not on Sunday, but on Saturday evening, in small groups, separated from the rest of the parish community. And because each Neocatechumenal group corresponds to a particular stage of the Way, each group has its own Mass, in different places.

Then there are the features of the celebration.

The Neocatechumenals typically celebrate the Mass in the form of a banquet, around a large square table, taking communion seated. Moreover, together with the homily, the give a great deal of latitude for the spontaneous comments of those present.

At least, this is what they did until a short time ago. And as, in part, they continue to do.

On December 1, 2005, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the congregation for divine worship, sent them a letter, in the name of the pope, to call them back to faithful observance of the liturgical regulations. And the following January 12, Benedict XVI in person urged them to obey. But in practice, this twofold reminder fell on deaf ears almost everywhere.

On February 22, 2007, in an audience with the clergy of Rome, Benedict XVI made it clear that the new statutes would not be approved if they did not follow these instructions.

And in the end, the pressure worked. The new statutes approved last May 11 require the Neocatechumenals to celebrate the Mass following the general liturgical regulations of the Roman rite. They must receive communion standing. The homily can no longer be replaced with a variety of comments. Their Masses on Saturday evening will be "part of the Sunday liturgical service of the parish," and will be "open to other members of the faithful as well."

The only concessions: they can receive communion "while remaining in their places," and they can exchange the sign of peace before the offertory instead of before communion. But it must be noted that the latter arrangement is already used in the Ambrosian rite in the archdiocese of Milan. And in the near future, it could also be introduced into the Roman rite, according to what Benedict XVI himself foreshadowed in the post-synodal exhortation on the Eucharist, "Sacramentum Caritatis."

According to the new statutes, all of the Neocatechumenal communities in the world must immediately adhere to the new rules in celebrating the Mass.

The Neocatechumenal Way, founded in Spain in 1964, says that it is present in 107 countries on five continents, with 19,000 communities in 5,700 parishes in 1,200 dioceses. In total, it has about half a million members. It has 60 "Redemptoris Mater" seminaries all over the world. It has been active in Italy since 1968, and numbers 4,500 communities in 200 dioceses, with about 100,000 members.

After the new statutes, the "Guidelines for catechist teams," the instructional texts created by the founders Kiko and Carmen, are also supposed to be published soon. Following a long examination by Vatican authorities, they will be issued in a revised edition.

Here follow the old and new statutes in comparison, in the article – with accompanying notes – concerning the celebration of the Eucharist:

The Eucharist in the old statutes of 2002...

ART. 13

§ 1. The Eucharist is essential to the Neocatechumenate, as a post-baptismal catechumenate lived in a small community (46). The Eucharist, in fact, completes Christian initiation (47).

§ 2. The Neocatechumenals celebrate the Eucharist in small communities in order to be gradual be initiated into full, conscious, and active participation in the divine mysteries (48), following the example of Christ, who in the multiplication of the loaves made the men sit down "in groups of fifty" (Lk. 9:14). This practice, reinforced over more than thirty years of practice by the Way, is very fruitful (49).

§ 3. Partly in consideration "of specific formative and pastoral needs, keeping in mind the good of individuals or groups, and especially the benefits that may be derived for the entire Christian community" (50), the small Neocatechumenal communities (51), with the authorization of the diocesan bishop, celebrate the Sunday Eucharist (52), open to other members of the faithful, after first vespers.

§ 4. Every celebration of the Eucharist is prepared, when possible under the guidance of the priest, by a group of the Neocatechumenal community, who take turns preparing brief commentaries on the readings, choosing the songs, providing the bread, the wine, the flowers, and attending to the appearance and dignity of the liturgical signs.

NOTES

(46) Cf. John Paul II, letter Ogniqualvolta, August 30, 1990: AAS 82 (1990) 1515: "It is the proclamation of the Gospel, witnessing in small communities, and the celebration of the Eucharist in groups (cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments, Notification on group celebrations of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, December 24, 1988) which permit the members to place themselves at the service of the renewal of the Church"; idem, speech to 350 itinerant catechists of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, January 18, 1994: "All of this takes place in small communities, in which 'reflection on the word of God and participation in the Eucharist . . . form living cells of the Church, and renew the vitality of the parish through mature Christians capable of testifying to the truth with a radically lived faith' (Message to the bishops of Europe meeting in Vienna, April 12, 1993)."

(47) Cf. OICA [Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum], 36, 368.

(48) Cf. Vatican Council II, constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48; Congregation for the Clergy, General Guidelines for Catechesis, 85; St. Leo the Great, sermon 12, De passione: "Our participation in the body and blood of Christ is aimed at nothing other than transforming us into what we receive, to make us put on entirely, in body and spirit, the one in whom we have died, have been buried, and have been raised."

(49) It is in this way that the needs of contemporary man are addressed: Sunday is enhanced, avoiding the normal dispersion of the weekend, the young people are pulled out of the discotheques on Saturday evening and away from drugs, the family is given the possibility of being united on Sunday in a domestic liturgy – a privileged moment for the transmission of faith to the children – and the most completely formed brothers are permitted to help conduct the Sunday parish Masses; but above all the intensity of the participation of the small community in the sacred Eucharist stimulates and supports moral change, and gives rise to many vocations to the priesthood and to the religious and missionary life.

(50) John Paul II, apostolic letter Dies Domini, 36; cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, instruction Actio Pastoralis de Missis pro coetibus particularibus: "Pastors of souls are vigorously urged to consider and deepen the spiritual and formative value of the celebrations."

(51) Cf. John Paul II, speech to 350 itinerant catechists of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, January 18, 1994: "Your many years of experience in the Way must certainly have taught you that the small community, sustained by the word of God and by the Sunday Eucharist, becomes a place of communion."

(52) Cf. notification of the Congregation for Divine Worship on group celebrations of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, December 24, 1988: "The congregation permits that among the adaptations provided by the instruction Actio pastoralis, nos. 6-11, the groups of the of the aforementioned Way may receive communion under both species, always with unleavened bread, and may move, 'ad experimentum', the rite of peace to after the universal intercessions." Following the indications in the instruction Ecclesia de mysterio (art. 3, § 3), in order to prepare the assembly to better receive the homily, the priest, with prudence, can provide an opportunity for some of those present to express briefly what the Word that has been proclaimed says in regard to their own lives.

... and in the new statutes of 2008

ART. 13

§ 1. The Eucharist is essential to the Neocatechumenate, as a post-baptismal catechumenate lived in a small community (47). The Eucharist, in fact, completes Christian initiation (48).

§ 2. The Neocatechumenals celebrate the Sunday Eucharist in small communities, after the first vespers of Sunday. This celebration takes place according to the instructions of the diocesan bishop. The Saturday evening celebrations of the Eucharist in the Neocatechumenal communities are part of the Sunday liturgical service of the parish, and are open to other members of the faithful as well.

§ 3. In the celebration of the Eucharist in the small communities, the liturgical books approved for the Roman Rite are followed, with the exception of the concessions specified by the Holy See (49). Concerning the distribution of holy communion under both species, the Neocatechumenals receive this standing, while remaining in their places.

§ 4. The celebration of the Eucharist in the small communities is prepared under the guidance of the priest, by a group of the Neocatechumenal community, who take turns preparing brief commentaries on the readings, choosing the songs, providing the bread, the wine, the flowers, and attending to the appearance and dignity of the liturgical signs.

NOTES

(47) Cf. John Paul II, letter Ogniqualvolta, August 30, 1990: AAS 82 (1990) 1515: "It is the proclamation of the Gospel, witnessing in small communities, and the celebration of the Eucharist in groups (cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments, Notification on group celebrations of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, December 24, 1988) which permit the members to place themselves at the service of the renewal of the Church"; idem, speech to 350 itinerant catechists of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, January 18, 1994: "All of this takes place in small communities, in which 'reflection on the word of God and participation in the Eucharist . . . form living cells of the Church, and renew the vitality of the parish through mature Christians capable of testifying to the truth with a radically lived faith' (Message to the bishops of Europe meeting in Vienna, April 12, 1993)."

(48) Cfr. OICA [Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum], 36, 368.

(49) Cf. Benedict XVI, speech to the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way, January 12, 2006: Notitiae 41 (2005) 554-556; Congregation for Divine Worship, letter dated December 1, 2005: Notitiae 41 (2005) 563-565; notification of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on the group celebrations of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L'Osservatore Romano, December 24, 1988: "The congregation permits that among the adaptations provided by the instruction Actio pastoralis, nos. 6-11, the groups of the of the aforementioned Way may receive communion under both species, always with unleavened bread, and may move, 'ad experimentum', the rite of peace to after the universal intercessions."

__________

The complete text of the new statutes, on the website of the Neocatechumenal Way (the website is in six languages, but the text is available only in Italian):

> Statuto del Cammino Neocatecumenale

The Vatican decree of approval:

> "Il Cammino Neocatecumenale ebbe inizio..."

__________

Previous articles from www.chiesa on the Neocatechumenal Way:

> Focus on CATHOLIC MOVEMENTS

__________

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.

E-mail: s.magister@espressoedit.it
Postal address: Sandro Magister, "L'espresso", via C. Colombo 90, 00147 Roma

© 1999-2008  Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso Spa - Partita IVA 0090680100

This item 8244 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org

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