VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has given final approval to a set of statutes for the Neocatechumenal Way, confirming the movement’s unique approach to adult evangelisation.
The statutes, consigned to leaders of the movement on June 13 after several years of review, also introduced a new way of distributing the Eucharist during their liturgies.
Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, the Spanish founders, welcomed the approval and said it would launch the movement on a new wave of evangelisation.
At a press conference June 13, the 69-year-old Arguello told how he initiated the movement in 1964 among Gypsies, the homeless and others living on the margins of society. He described the Neocatechumenal Way’s mission as a “battle” to reach young adults and said in the early years it encountered frequent resistance by church leaders.
“This battle we’ve fought has now been confirmed by the Holy See. This is very important, that this Pope has approved this. It’s amazing, it’s fantastic,” he said.
“This means that we, after these statutes, can begin the new evangelisation. We have thousands of families in mission, thousands of young people, 70 seminaries and many opportunities. The moment to evangelise has arrived,” he said.
The statutes, approved by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, are similar to experimental rules adopted in 2002.
They described the Neocatechumenal Way as “an instrument at the service of the bishop for the rediscovery of Christian initiation on the part of baptised adults.” The movement, the statutes said, is especially aimed at those who have drifted away from the church, those insufficiently catechised, those who want to deepen their faith and those who come from other Christian communities.
The statutes made clear that the Neocatechumenal Way has no material goods, but administers “spiritual goods” under a bishop’s jurisdiction.
It is the bishop who authorises the movement’s activity in his diocese and who monitors its program to ensure harmony with local parishes, they said.
The statutes say the Way’s programs should be coordinated with local parish activities, and the movement should promote among its adherents “a mature sense of belonging to the parish.”
More specifically, the statutes said the movement’s weekly Mass – celebrated in small communities on Saturday evening – now forms part of the parish liturgy and must be open to other members of the parish.
Several liturgical exceptions enjoyed by the movement remain in place.
On the issue of Communion, Arguello said they reached a compromise with Pope Benedict XVI.
In the past, members of the Neocatechumenal Way have baked their own loaves of unleavened bread and have received the precious Body and Blood of Christ while seated around a table.
According to Arguello, the only significant change that the definitive statues introduced in regard to the liturgy affects the way of receiving Communion.
In keeping with the communities’ usual practice, Communion will continue to be received under both species and will be distributed by ministers in the assembly, instead of the procession of the faithful typical in the Roman rite.
This practice is kept in the definitive statutes, but for the reception of the Host, the faithful will stand before the minister. This is not the case in receiving the Chalice, which will continue to be received seated, to avoid spilling the precious Blood.
The kiss of peace will retain its place following the Prayer of the Faithful and before the beginning of the Eucharistic liturgy, though procuring that this moment not break the order and recollection of the assembly.
Arguello said the Vatican was expected to publish soon its 2003 approval of the theological content of the movement’s catechetical texts.
The statutes also provide for the election of a new leadership team of the Neocatechumenal Way after the deaths of Arguello and Hernandez.
The election will be carried out by a college of up to 120 electors, and the results must be confirmed by the Vatican’s laity council.