Pope sends another 200 families and followers of the Way on mission to four corners of the globe.
By Fr Eric Skruzny
There was a festive atmosphere in St Peter’s Basilica when Pope Benedict XVI met with the Neocatechumenal communities of Rome on Saturday January 10.
He greeted the 500 or so communities from some 103 parishes who were celebrating 40 years since the beginning of ‘The Way’ in Rome.
“Your lively presence in such great numbers bears witness to the wonders worked by the Lord over four decades,” the Pope said in his speech.
“It also indicates the determination with which you strive to continue the journey you have begun, a way of faith in the footsteps of Christ and of courageous witness to his Gospel.”
Many of those present were being sent by the Holy Father from their own parishes to help other parishes, often with a high proportion of the poor and migrants on the outskirts of Rome.
The Holy Father welcomed the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Fr Mario Pezzi, and spoke of the rich fruits which have appeared through the Neocatechumenal Way in many countries.
“How can we not bless the Lord for the spiritual fruits which, through the method of evangelisation implemented by you, were able to be gathered during these years? What fresh apostolic energy has been aroused both among priests and among lay people!
“How many men and women, and how many families, who had gone far away from the ecclesial community or had abandoned the practice of Christian life… have been helped to find again the joy of faith and the enthusiasm of evangelical witness!”
Kiko Aguello introduced the assembly to the Holy Father, and emphasised that many large families were gathered there because they had discovered the truths of Pope Paul VI’s pioneering encyclical on the transmission of life and artifical contraception issued in 1968 of Humanae Vitae and the joy of being open to life.
Also present for this joyful occasion were some two hundred families chosen from all over the world to go on mission wherever God wills – one, for the aboriginal mission in Daly River south of Darwin, seven others for Australian cities, and two for Alotau in Papua New Guinea.
A highlight for these Neocatechumenal missionary families was the personal apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict.
Neocatechumenal missionary families see their experience as a confirmation of the will of God that they leave everything to begin a new life wherever the Lord wishes, taking with them their children and the faith that the Church has given them.
“The words of Jesus,” Pope Benedict told them, “strongly invite us not to be discouraged in the face of difficulties, not to look for human success, and not to be afraid of incomprehension and even persecutions.
“Above all they encourage us to put our trust only in the power of Christ, to take up our cross and follow the footsteps of our Redeemer.” It was a moving moment when they all held aloft their silver mission crosses to be blessed by the Holy Father.
The 25,000 neocatechumens who had come to St Peter’s were also celebrating with the Holy Father the definitive approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way on the Feast of Pentecost 2008 by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It was fitting to celebrate the official recognition by the Church of this charism (which is a fruit of the Second Vatican Council) in the same building where the Bishops of the world met, prayed, and debated for three years. The new life of which the Council spoke, which is truly ‘Christ Light of the nations’ was clearly evident in this great assembly, and in the large number of children present.
All were reminded by the Pope that “to help the men of this our time to meet Jesus Christ, man’s Redeemer, constitutes the mission of the Church and of every baptised person.
“The Neocatechumenal Way is part of this ecclesial mission as one of many ways raised up by the Holy Spirit through the Second Vatican Council for the new evangelisation.”
The Holy Father expressed his gratitude to all the itinerant catechists and to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Rome – which has been the inspiration for the two Redemptoris Mater seminaries already established in Perth and Sydney, and another 70 around the world. He spoke of the precious service the new priests are giving to the evangelisation of the world.
“It is a true springtime of hope for the diocesan community of Rome and for the Church,” he said.
Fr Eric Skruzny, the Rector of Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Sydney, was formerly Vice-Rector of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Morley..