.- The Vatican announced Jan. 20 that the Neocatechumenal Way’s prayers and non-liturgical celebrations have been approved.
“This is a great grace, after so much suffering and work, today is a great relief,” said the cofounder of the movement, Francisco “Kiko” Argüello, in a Jan. 20 interview with CNA in Rome.
Argüello was joined in Rome today by his fellow cofounder, Carmen Hernández, and 7,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.
“Over these decades of life of the Way, your firm commitment has been to proclaim the Gospel of the risen Christ,” the Pope said to gathering.
“You 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.”
The Neocatechumenal Way draws its inspiration from the practices of the early Catholic Church, providing “post-baptismal” 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.
“It 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,” he said.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity made public on Jan. 20 that the prayers contained in the movement’s Catechetical Directory received a “nulla osta” or “no impediment” stamp of approval from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Pope Benedict said during his audience with the group that while the approved practices are “not strictly liturgical,” they are “part of the itinerary of growth in the faith.”
The Church, he said, has accompanied the Neocatechumenal Way “attentively and with patient discernment,” so that “she understands your richness but also looks to the communion and harmony of the entire ‘Corpus Ecclesiae’ (Body of the Church).”
During today’s 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.
“Sometimes you find yourselves in places in which a first announcement of the Gospel is needed: the ‘missio ad gentes,’” said the Pope, “at 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.”
“May your commitment and witness be as a leaven which - patiently, respecting times and with a ‘sensus Ecclesia’ causes the dough to rise.”
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.