Catholic World News

Vatican gives approval to celebrations of Neocatechumenal Way

January 20, 2012

The Vatican has given formal approval to the special celebrations that characterize the work of the Neocatechumenal Way.

At a January 20 meeting with over 7,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way, Pope Benedict XVI strongly endorsed the apostolic outreach of the lay movement. At the same time--in remarks that implicitly acknowledged the controversy that has sometimes dogged the movement--the Pontiff cautioned that the Neocatechumate should work closely with local bishops, and ensure that its members are encouraged to participate in ordinary parish liturgical celebrations.

During the audience, the Pope also gave his blessing to 17 groups sent out on mission assignments by the Neocatechumenate, to spread the Gospel in different communities in Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Each of these teams ad gentes is composed of 3 or 4 families, together with a priest. The groups are commissioned to rouse interest in the Church in areas where the faith has declined, or never been firmly established.

Pope Benedict lauded the Neocatechumente members for their apostolic zeal, noting that their “firm commitment to proclaim the Gospel of the risen Christ” has often entailed “abandoning personal and material security” for their mission work.

“May your commitment and witness be as a leaven which--patiently, respecting times and with sensus Ecclesia--causes the dough to rise,” the Pope said.

The work of the Neocatechumenal Way is “a special gift which the Holy Spirit has given to our times,” the Pope said. He explained that the movement has shown a special ability to “foment a renewal of the richness of sacramental life among people who have distanced themselves from the Church, or who have not received adequate formation.”

In order to allow the movement to carry out this unique apostolic work, the Pope said, the Vatican has approved the special celebrations that the Neocatechumenate organizes for its small communities. He cautioned, however, that these celebrations must help to strengthen local Catholic parishes, and he insisted that the group’s members must “always seek profound communion with the Apostolic See and with the pastors of the particular Churches of which you are a part.” While members can participate in the group’s special celebrations, he said, they “must favor their insertion into the life of the ecclesial community as a whole, which has its ordinary form in the liturgical celebrations in parishes.”

The Pope carefully made the point that the celebrations of the Neocatechumate are not liturgical, and that all liturgical celebrations must be conducted according to the Church’s existing rules. He reminded the group that local bishops have the authority to govern liturgical affairs within their dioceses.

The formal approval from the Vatican reflected the same distinction between the private prayer services of the Neocatechumenate and the formal liturgy of the Church. In a decision reached after 15 years of study, the Pontifical Council for the Laity on January 20 released a decree granting approval “to those celebrations contained in the Catechetical Directory of the Neo-Catechumenal Way which are not, by their nature, already regulated by the liturgical books of the Church.”

In his own remarks during the papal audience, Kiko Arguello, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, said that the group specializes in providing a witness of Christian charity, which attracts people to the Church. “We have many experiences of people who have asked to be baptized by seeing how we relate to each other, how we love each other,” he reported.

Arguello said that the lay movement has a special role to play in Europe, where “people are very lonely.” The prevalence of suicide, of divorce, of alcoholism, and of abortion all testify to a profound loneliness of spirit, which points to a need for spiritual revival, he said.

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  • Posted by: Jbernardcraig8251 - Jan. 27, 2012 4:06 PM ET USA

    Eucharist approved in Statute signed by PBXVI 2008 cites 4 adaptations to the Roman Rite[their litttle specialities]; therefore not repeated in this Decree, relating to Celebrations OTHER than Eucharist; NCW discerned by 4 Popes over 50 years,orthodox & vocations well beyond representation in Church. Japanese bishops prefer dialogue[with Buddhists et al];PBXVI prefers Evangelization - NCW simply a catalyst in controversy because it Evangelizes [announces Jesus Christ as only way to salvation].

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Jan. 20, 2012 8:35 PM ET USA

    This pronouncement neatly avoids the issue of how the Neo Cats celebrate Holy Mass -- which IS a liturgical celebration. They have their own little specialities, which are not addressed. Also, if they are to follow the local bishops, what of Japan, where the bishops voted to suspend the Neo Cat activities for 5 years? The Holy See overruled the bishops of Japan on this a year ago. Kiko won a battle in Rome, but he caused the Japanese bishops to "lose face" in public --tragedy for the Church.