.- The Vatican announced Jan. 20 that the Neocatechumenal Wayâs prayers and non-liturgical celebrations have been approved.
âThis is a great grace, after so much suffering and work, today is a great relief,â said the cofounder of the movement, Francisco âKikoâ ArgÃ¼ello, in a Jan. 20 interview with CNA in Rome.
ArgÃ¼ello was joined in Rome today by his fellow cofounder, Carmen HernÃ¡ndez, and 7,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vaticanâs Paul VI audience hall.
âOver these decades of life of the Way, your firm commitment has been to proclaim the Gospel of the risen Christ,â the Pope said to gathering.
âYou achieve this on a path which helps those who have already been baptized to rediscover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christian.â
The Neocatechumenal Way draws its inspiration from the practices of the early Catholic Church, providing âpost-baptismalâ Christian formation in small, parish-based communities. The movement is present all over the world, and has an estimated membership of more than 1 million people.
But the way the movement works in parishes has led some critics to accuse it of being divisive. One common complaint is that members of the Way celebrate Mass together on Saturday evening, thereby separating them from the rest of the parish, even though the liturgies are open to all.
The Pope used his address today to stress that the Way should always be fully engaged in mainstream parish life.
âIt is important not to separate oneself from the parish community, and particularly in the celebration of the Eucharist which is the true place of universal unity, where the Lord embraces us in our various states of spiritual maturity and unites us in the one bread that makes us one body,â he said.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity made public on Jan. 20 that the prayers contained in the movementâs Catechetical Directory received a ânulla ostaâ or âno impedimentâ stamp of approval from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Pope Benedict said during his audience with the group that while the approved practices are ânot strictly liturgical,â they are âpart of the itinerary of growth in the faith.â
The Church, he said, has accompanied the Neocatechumenal Way âattentively and with patient discernment,â so that âshe understands your richness but also looks to the communion and harmony of the entire âCorpus Ecclesiaeâ (Body of the Church).â
During todayâs ceremony, Pope Benedict also sent out more than a dozen new Neocatechumenal missions to three different continents. Each mission consists of three or four families who, accompanied by a priest, go to live in an area where Christian practice has lapsed or never been established.
âSometimes you find yourselves in places in which a first announcement of the Gospel is needed: the âmissio ad gentes,ââ said the Pope, âat other times you are present in areas which, though they have known Christ, have become indifferent to the faith, areas in which secularism has eclipsed the sense of God and obscured Christian values.â
âMay your commitment and witness be as a leaven which - patiently, respecting times and with a âsensus Ecclesiaâ causes the dough to rise.â
The Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way were given approval by the Vatican in 2008, while its Catechetical Directory was approved two years later, after consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.