Address to the Neocatechumenal Way on the Statutes 9/21/2002
S. John Paul II
Castel Gandolfo, September 21, 2002 *
THE STATUTES: A CLEAR AND SAFE RULE OF LIFE
FOR THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY
The Statutes must constitute for the Neocatechumenal Way a “clear and safe rule of life”. It is what the Pope has recommended to the catechists and priests of the Neocatechumenal Communities, received in Audience on the morning of Saturday, September 21, in the courtyard of the Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
Greeting from Kiko Argüello to the Holy Father: “Dear Father, we have no words to express the joy and consolation that this much desired encounter brings us. We are here present the teams of itinerant catechists from all nations along with the pastors, presbyters, responsibles and catechists of the communities of Spain, Italy and Paris, which are the oldest, from whose zeal the whole evangelization arose. We are happy to thank you personally for the approval of the Statutes by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, especially because they have recognized what we are: an itinerary of catholic formation, a post-baptismal catechumenate which when lived in small communities, helps to rediscover and live the immense wealth of Baptism. Some canonists in various comments have indicated to what extent this approval is of paramount importance for the whole Church, since it is the first time that a post-baptismal catechumenate is recognized and approved. How much your word has always consoled us! Already in 1952, you had stressed the need to reintroduce the catechumenate and during the Council contributed fundamentally to the rediscovery and restoration of Christian initiation and the catechumenate. Precisely here, in Castel Gandolfo, it was when you first received us 23 years ago, you expressed to us the conviction that, given modern atheism, the baptized need a catechumenate that reinforces their faith.
Dear Father, in front of the urgency of a New Evangelization and the complex situation of the Church today, we humbly ask for a word of confirmation and support of the Statute, an invitation to the bishops and the Episcopal Conferences to fearlessly embrace this gift to help the evangelization in their respective dioceses. A support that can safeguard the catechetical-liturgical praxis that the Way has developed over more than thirty years throughout the world and that has given so many fruits recognized by you and by numerous bishops, whose synthesis is described in the Statute. We think that one of the greatest gifts that the Holy Virgin Mary gives to the Church today through the Neocatechumenal Way is the possibility to offer to the Christians in the parishes and to those who seek God, the possibility to live the faith in small communities such as the first Christians. The exclamation ‘Look how they love each other!’, must be heard again in the the world. We thank you for the trust you have given Carmen, Father Mario and me to guide this Way. We thank the Holy Virgin Mary, especially for the Council without which we could not have done anything, for his predecessor Pope Paul VI and for you, who has helped us so much and sustained us. Thank you, Blessed Father.”
Address of the Holy Father: “1. I am glad to receive you, dear catechists and priests of the Neocatechumenal Way, that you have come here today to meet the Pope. I greet and welcome each one with affection and, through you, I greet the entire Neocatechumenal Way, an ecclesial reality already diffused in many countries and appreciated by numerous pastors. I appreciate the cordial words addressed to me by Mr. Kiko Argüello, initiator of the Way together with Ms. Carmen Hernández. With his words, in addition to expressing your faithful adherence to the See of Peter, he has testified your love to the Church.
2. How can we not thank the Lord for the fruits produced by the Neocatechumenal Way in its more than thirty years of existence! In a secularized society like ours, where religious indifference reigns and many people live as if God does not exist, there are many who need to rediscover the sacraments of Christian initiation, especially Baptism. The Way is, without a doubt, one of the providential answers to this urgent need. We contemplate your communities: How many rediscoverings of the beauty and greatness of the baptismal vocation! How much generosity and zeal in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in particular the most outcast! How many vocations to the priesthood and religious life have emerged thanks to this itinerary of Christian formation!
3. I keep alive in my memory our last meeting, held in January 1997, immediately after your meeting near Mount Sinai to commemorate the thirty years of life of the Neocatechumenal Way. At that time I told you that the drafting of the Statutes of the Way ‘is a very important step, which opens the path to its formal legal recognition, by the Church, giving you a further guarantee of the authenticity of your charism’ (Address to a group of members of the Neocatechumenal Way, January 24, 1997, n.4: L’Osservatore Romano, Spanish language edition, February 7, 1997, p. 8, trans. wltm). This meeting expresses the joy of the recent approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way by the Holy See. I am glad that this itinerary, which began more than five years ago, was carried out through intense work of consultation, reflection and dialogue. My thoughts now go to the person of Cardinal James Francis Stafford, to whom I wish to express my gratitude for the effort and attention with which the Pontifical Council for the Laity has accompanied the international team responsible for the Way in this process.
4. I wish to underline the importance of the newly approved Statutes for the current and future life of the Neocatechumenal Way. Indeed, this norm above all reaffirms once again the ecclesial nature of the Neocatechumenal Way which, as I said a few years ago, constitutes “an itinerary of Catholic formation, valid for society and for our times” (Letter to Msgr. Paul J. Cordes, delegate “ad personam” for the apostolate of the Neocatechumenal Communities, vice-president of the Pontifical Council for the laity: AAS 82  1515). In addition, the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way describe the essential aspects of this itinerary addressed to the faithful who in their parish communities wish to rekindle their faith, as well as to the adults who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Baptism. But the Statutes establish, above all, the fundamental tasks of the various people who have specific responsibilities in carrying out the formative itinerary within the Neocatechumenal Communities, that is, the presbyters, the catechists, the families in mission and the responsible teams in all the levels. In this way, the Statutes must constitute for the Neocatechumenal Way a “rule of life clear and safe ” (Letter to Cardinal James Francis Stafford, April 5, 2001, n. 2: L’Osservatore Romano, Spanish-language edition, April 27, 2001, p. 2, trans. wltm), a fundamental point of reference so that this process of formation, which aims to bring the faithful to a mature faith, is carried out in a manner consistent with the doctrine and discipline of the Church.
5. The approval of the Statutes opens a new stage in the life of the Way. The Church now expects of you an even stronger and more generous commitment in the New Evangelization and in service to the local Churches and parishes. Therefore, you priests and catechists of the Way have a responsibility to ensure that the Statutes are faithfully followed in all their aspects, so that they are a true leaven for a new missionary impulse. The Statutes also constitute an important help for all the pastors of the Church, especially for the diocesan bishops, to whom the Lord has entrusted pastoral care and, in particular, the Christian initiation of people in the diocese. “In his paternal and vigilant accompaniment of the Neocatechumenal communities” (Decree of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, June 29, 2002: L’Osservatore Romano, Spanish-language edition, July 12, 2002, p. 5, trans. wltm),ordinary diocesans can find in the Statutes the basic principles of action of the Neocatechumenal Way with fidelity to its original project. I want to say a particular word to you, priests committed to serving the Neocatechumenal Communities. Never forget that, as ministers of Christ, you have an irreplaceable role of sanctification, teaching and pastoral guidance with respect to those who follow the itinerary of the Way. Serve with love and generosity the communities that have been entrusted to you.
6. Dear brothers and sisters, with the approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, you have happily come to define your essential ecclesial configuration. Together we thank the Lord. It is now up to the competent dicasteries of the Holy See to examine the catechetical Directory and all the catechetical and liturgical praxis of the Way itself. I am sure that its members will support with generous availability the indications given by these authorized sources. I follow your work in the Church with keen attention, and in my prayers I entrust all of you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, and I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing ».
(*) Cfr «L’Osservatore Romano», 22 september 2002.