Visit to the parish of San Eligio April 26, 1987
St. John Paul II
Rome, April 26, 1987
In the parish of San Eligio an important Christian witness was offered by the laity of the Neocatechumenal Communities. Above all, it is an open community, not closed in on itself, well integrated into the life of the parish. This presence has carried everywhere, especially in families, a very significant message of freedom, a message of love, thanks to how the members of the community are: direct, simple, humble. John Paul II met with the members of the Neocatechumenal Communities in another hall of the parish. At his entrance, he was welcomed by the beautiful and moving words of the song dedicated to Mary: “Mary, blessed Mary, you have believed in the word of the Lord.” A member of the group traced the history of the Neocatechumenal Community in the parish of San Eligio. He recounted the initial difficulties, spoke of the powerful moments lived together in the parish and said how the community is open to the surrounding reality. “From your visit,” he told the Pope, “we will draw strength and encouragement to continue with renewed effort on our journey of faith.”
Responding to this greeting, the Pope said:
«First of all, I would have the right to greet you on behalf of the many Neocatechumenal Communities that I have already seen, at least I have seen with my eyes, in Latin America, in various places during my travels, of my itinerary. Starting with Montevideo, and then with that very long country, which is Chile, and in Argentina. I have seen the words “Neocatechumenal Communities” so many times, in Spanish of course. Everyone greeted the Pope, welcomed the Pope, welcomed him with the same spirit with which the Neocatechumens welcome him in the various parishes. The same songs, at least with the same melodies as you sing it here, with the same themes. I think I should take advantage of this meeting to tell you this, because your movement is very dynamic and spread in various parts of the world. It feels its vocation, the call of the Lord to be present in the Church, where the Church is already established and where the Church lives its Christian, baptismal path, and also where the Church is sometimes very weak, is reduced, in countries where the majority are non-Catholic, such as the Scandinavian Countries.
This is the first thing I wanted to say. Then, I want to underline the characteristic of this meeting today that takes place on the second Sunday of Easter, that is, at the end of the Octave of Easter. For us Christians, for Catholics, perhaps with greater prominence for the Orthodox, it is the greatest of the solemnities, “solemnitas solemnitatum”. It is not only a solemnity; it is the greatest mystery. Mystery with which our spiritual journey begins and with which it ends, towards which our spiritual journey is oriented. In a special way, you as Neocatechumens are especially oriented towards this Paschal Mystery, through the sacramental reality of Baptism. That is why we live Baptism together at Easter. Just look at the Easter Vigil liturgy, all the liturgy as it has been celebrated for centuries, especially in the first Christian generations and as it is celebrated today in Saint Peter’s. These two dimensions unite us: the paschal dimension and the baptismal dimension. Because what corresponds to the paschal reality is our whole life, and above all, I will not say above all, but first of all, Baptism. Your vocation is to live Baptism more deeply, to deepen the baptismal mystery that is the starting point, the foundation of Christian life, of our being Christian. I encourage you to continue on your path, which is a catechumenal path, which is at the same time a period of intensity in the word of God. They go together: Sacrament, Baptism and the Word of God.
We can say that the Neocatechumenal Way has received this great challenge of the Word of God. To contemplate this Word, to deepen it, to read it – to read in the deep sense of the word “to read”, to read means to deepen – to go to the depth of the meanings, to the essence of what is signified. Your Neocatechumenal vocation is united and linked to the Word of God. Live the Word of God and make the Word of God live for others. In this way you are, many times, catechumens and catechists and this is right. It can be said that a good formation to be a catechist is to be a Neocatechumen, to live this Neocatechumenal Way. Because the truths of the faith cannot be interpreted only in an intellectual sense, with speculative notions. Yes, also with these, but above all they must be lived with the grace of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit. I think this is enough to avoid entering into the specific questions that are characteristic of your Neocatechumenal meetings. I wish you a good Easter, “Christós Anésti”, as it is said in Greek, or “Christós Vascrés”, as it is said in Russian. This expresses the center, the core of our Christianity.
I wish you to always be close to this core of Christianity and that you bring others, those furthest away, closer. Bring them closer to this core of Christianity.
May the Lord bless you and your families: families, spouses, youth, children, everyone.»