During an emotional encounter Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica with 25,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way, including its founders Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Father Mario Pezzi, Pope Benedict XVI invited them to continue their intense work of evangelization in the world, in communion with the bishops of the world.
“Your numerous and enthusiastic presence bears witness to the wonders carried by the Lord during the past four decades; it also indicates the commitment with which you desire to continue the way you have begun, a way of following Christ faithfully and bearing courageous witness to the Gospel,” the Pope said. It is “a path of humble acceptance of the guidance of pastors and of communion with all other components of the People of God,” he added.
The Pontiff went on to recall that “everything began here in Rome forty years ago, when the first communities of the Neocatechumenal Way were established at the parish of the Holy Canadian Martyrs.” “How much fresh apostolic energy has sprung forth both from priests and the laity!” the Pope exclaimed. “How many men and women, how many families that had abandoned ecclesial communion or the practice of the Christian life have been helped to encounter again the joy of the faith and the enthusiasm of Gospel witness through the proclamation of the kerygma and the itinerary of baptismal rediscovery!” he stated.
Pope Benedict XVI also noted that the recent approval of the Way’s statutes by the Pontifical Council for the Laity “is a seal of the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows the work that the Lord has brought forth through your founders.” “The Pope, the bishop of Rome, thanks you for your generous service to evangelization in this city and for your commitment to bringing the Christian proclamation to every environment,” he added.
The Pope went on to praise the work of the Neocatechumenal Way in 103 parishes throughout Rome, and he pointed out that “while I encourage you to continue in this commitment, I exhort you to intensify your adherence to all the directives of the Cardinal vicar, my direct collaborator in the pastoral governance of this diocese.”
“The organic integration of the Way into diocesan ministry and its unity with the other ecclesial realities will benefit the entire Christian people and will make the efforts of the diocese for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in our city more fruitful.”
“Today an extensive missionary effort is needed that involves all the different ecclesial realities, which, each one conserving the originality of its charism, should work in harmony, trying to carry out that ‘integrated ministry’ that has already brought significant results,” the Pope stressed.
“While I thank you for the service you offer to the Church of Rome, I assure you of my prayers and my heartfelt blessing for all those present here and all the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way spread throughout the world,” the Pope said in conclusion.
The festive encounter, marked by the traditional hymns of the Neocatechumenal Way, culminated with a presentation by Kiko Arguello of new ‘comunitates in missio’—entire communities that have finished their formation and are open to being moved to other parishes of the diocese that are in need.
The Pope blessed the new missionaries and gave them a silver cross, dubbed the “mission cross,” as a sign of the mission entrusted to them.
The Neocatechumenal Way has 20,000 communities in more than 5,500 parishes in 120 countries throughout the world.