.- Earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of some 200 families from the Catholic Neocatechumenal Way movement, all of whom are preparing for evangelistic missions to various parts of the world--particularly Latin America.
The Pope told the group, which recently came under some scrutiny for certain liturgical practices, to be missionaries of the new evangelization and “humble and joyful witnesses” of Christ.
Known as "mission families", these groups were established in 1986 in response to the late John Paul II’s call for the faithful to undertake a “new evangelization.”
Participants, who all belong to the Neocatechumenal Way, offer themselves as volunteers to go to countries where the Church needs help. Their destination is decided by the founders of the Neocatechumenal Way - the Spaniards Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, and the Italian priest Mario Pezzi - bearing in mind the specific requirements of each particular area, and in response to requests from bishops who ask for "mission families" to be sent to their dioceses.
After meeting personally with the group, Pope Benedict told them that, "Your task is part of the context of new evangelization, ... because your apostolic activity aims to situate itself within the bosom of the Church, in total harmony with her directives and in communion with the particular Churches where you will go to work, fully evaluating the richness of the charisms that the Lord has generated through the founders of the Way."
The Pope stressed that the families should be "humble and joyful witnesses" of Christ, "travelling in simplicity and poverty down the roads of all the continents."
Moving on, he emphasized the importance of the liturgy in evangelization, saying, "Your long experience can well confirm how the centrality of the mystery of Christ, celebrated in liturgical rites, constitutes a privileged and indispensable way to build vibrant and lasting Christian communities."
Faithful adherence to directives
Recently, the Neocatechumenal Way came under some scrutiny from the Vatican for some of their more controversial liturgical practices.
In a letter dated December 1st, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments asked leaders of the group to change some practices including those dealing with distribution of the Eucharist, homily practices and attendance of Mass on Sundays, rather than only on Saturdays.
To these, the Pope said: "I am sure that you will attentively observe these norms, which are based on liturgical texts approved by the Church. By faithful adherence to all Church directives, you will render your apostolate even more effective, in harmony and full communion with the Pope and the pastors of dioceses."
Benedict concluded saying, "Dear families, with your own history you can testify that the Lord does not abandon those who entrust themselves to Him. Continue to spread the Gospel of Life.”
“In a world seeking human certainties and heavenly security,” he charged, “show that Christ is the solid rock upon which to build the edifice of one's own life, and that trust placed in Him is never placed in vain."