Visit to the parish of St. Francesca Cabrini December 4, 1983
St. John Paul II
Rome, December 4, 1983 *
Seven hundred, between adults and children, sitting on the floor inside the Church. Divided into groups of fifty, with the children at the center, each community with their presbyter sing accompanied by musical instruments. They await the meeting with the Vicar of Christ. “Renewal of baptismal promises with the Holy Father” reads a large banner raised inside the Church, shortly before the Neocatechumenal Communities met with the Holy Father, to synthesize the meaning and meaning of this meeting: then, in a diagram, the stages of the Camino: Kerigma (announcement), precatechumenate, passage to the catechumenate, catechumenate, etc. Waiting for the Holy Father with many songs and much joy; the cause? … “Our experience has been a seed thrown in arid earth that needed water,” -explains one of them- It is a testimony – the Neocatechumenal – founded on the experience of the one who announces it. Despite this, here we are not a group, we try to represent the parish on this way.” The Pope enters with a standing ovation. He goes by the first rows and caresses the children that the parents introduce to him. Then he takes the floor:
I am very happy to see you, and your families and your children. We are all children of God, we become children of God through Baptism, a great Sacrament, tremendous, I would say. It does not seem so because it is a very sweet Sacrament which works through water, with oil, with Holy Chrism (this morning I baptized a baby girl). And this Sacrament, Baptism, which is so sweet and which we usually confer on newborn babies, this Sacrament has tremendous depth, stupendous depth, because it immerses us in the redemptive death of Christ, immerses us, so we can rise with Christ and thus participate in his work. It is the only way to be children of God, the only sacramental way to be sons, to share in the life which Christ has brought us, showing it by his Resurrection. What I say to you touches what is specific about your movement which is called Neocatechumenal. The Catechumenate was a very ancient institution of the Church. How many catechumens passed through this ancient Rome of the Caesars, this Rome, this pagan Rome, and how many were prepared with the Catechumenate for the Baptism of adults! But today Baptism, the same Sacrament, has become the sacrament of little children, of newborn babies and this catechumenal way is deferred until after Baptism: Catechumenate thus becomes life-long; yes, we are Catechumens all our life long!
There is no institutional Catechumenate as it existed in the days of the early Christians, so the Catechumenate has become the mission of our Christian life, of our life of faith. In fact, your movement, and here I welcome the one who inspired it (I know him well), your movement is centered on this process of becoming children of God, of becoming Christians. It is very important! Many people think: ‘But we are already Christian’, they say ‘we are Christian’ without knowing this, because it is not enough to be Christian, you have to become Christian, to become Christian every day, to discover every day what christianus means, cristo adscriptus. For the first time in the city of Antioch they began to call the disciples of Jesus ‘Christians’, followers of Christ. This has to be discovered , to be discovered every day, to be discovered more and more, because the mystery of Baptism is so profound, it is a divine and at the same time a human mystery, the same man becomes the adopted child of God … enough!
You concretely reflect greatly, you meditate a lot on this truth, on this reailty. I have to say that here in the parish of St Francesca Cabrini, that your movement here is leaven, leaven which must permeate the dough and the world of Christians in general. Not everyone is aware and not everyone fulfils it: here you are leaven, you must permeate this community, of about 20,000 people, permeate it with a new awareness of human dignity combined with the reality of divine sonship. You do well, very well! Sing, sing!
Because song always demonstrates the joy of this discovery of the divine and the human reality. Baptism brings with it great joy which must be expressed in song. I have seen during my visit that the parish sings with great energy, with enthusiasm! You must sing. You must sing because this song brings with it a spiritual meaning, an inner meaning of our soul; in fact we almost do not have enough means of expressing this, this meaning, this mystery, this reality which is the fruit of our Baptism. Dearest ones, thank you for your presence, for your animation of the life of this parish. I bless you with all my heart, your families, the different groups (because I have heard that you belong to different groups, twelve communities, like the twelve apostles). Your presbyters are among you; I have met your itinerants. I bless you with all my heart.”
The parish priest Father Michel Angelo remembers the itinerants, especially those from Central America.
«I bless those who have gone to Central America where I was recently, not so much as an itinerant, but rather as a “passenger”. So we impart the Blessing together with the Cardinal and the bishops.»
(*) Cfr. «L’Osservatore Romano», 5-6 dicembre 1983, con integrazioni dalla registrazione.