Pope offers support, caution for Neocatechumenal Way
January 17, 2011
In a sign of support for the Neocatechumenal Way, Pope Benedict XVI held a private audience on January 17 for members of the controversial lay movement. But the Pope also offered words of caution, stressing that members of the Neocatechumenate must work with the bishops and obey the Church’s liturgical directives.
Kiko Arguello, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, shared the microphone with Pope Benedict at a commissioning ceremony, in which 230 members were sent out on missions, to organize new communities in “de-Christianized” areas.
Since its founding in Spain in 1964, the Neocatechumenal Way has attracted nearly 1 million members, and has active communities in 120 countries. While drawing high praise for its energy and its ability to foster vocations, the group has also encountered criticism for some of its practices. The liturgical practices of the Neocatechumenate have drawn a rebuke from the Vatican, which insisted on adherence to universal liturgical rules. And the Japanese bishops have charged that the group promotes division among the faithful.
Pope Benedict—who has regularly joined in the annual commissioning ceremonies—expressed his appreciation for the lay movement in his remarks to this year’s meeting. He said:
For more than forty years the Neocatechumenal Way has been contributing to the revitalization and consolidation of Christian initiation in dioceses and parishes, favoring a gradual but radical rediscovery of the riches of Baptism, helping people to savor divine life, the heavenly life which the Lord inaugurated with His incarnation, when He came among us and was born like one of us.
The Pope also drew attention to the official approvals that the Neocatechumenal Way has received from the Vatican: first for its internal statutes, and then for its own “Catechetical Directory of the NeoCatechumenal Way.”
Pope Benedict cautioned, however, that these “seals of ecclesiastical approval” should be a reminder that the lay movement should work within the framework of the Catholic hierarchy, “in filial obedience to the Holy See and the pastors of the Church.” Underlining that point, the Pontiff said that the movement should “insert itself into the harmony of the ecclesial body.”
“In this light,” the Pope said to the members of the Neocatechumenal Way, “I exhort you always to seek profound communion with pastors.”