This is an adaptation from a news press release written by Kiko Arguello, the Spanish artist chosen by God to initiate this ecclesial reality in the Church, and distributed to the journalists at the Vatican on the occasion of the formal recognition of Pope John Paul II of the Neo-Catechumenal Way on 30th August 1990.
Holy Father, Dear Fathers of the Synod,
I think that it is almost impossible to give a comprehensive view of the neo-catechumenal way in such a brief report. However, I will try and with this purpose in mind (insofar as the limits of time permit) I will trace what the apostles.
In the early Church, in the midst of paganism, when a man wanted to become a Christian he had to do an itinerary of formation towards Christianity, which was called a “Catechumenate” from the word katekeo”, which means “to resound”, “to listen”.
Today, the contemporary situation of atheism and secularisation puts the Church in a position in which it is indispensable the recovery of the Catechumenate, namely an itinerary of formation into christianity. The Neocatechumenal Way is a charism inspired by God and confirmed by the Church which helps the parish to open such a way of Christian initiation to baptism in order to discover what it means to be Christian. It does not want to form a movement but simply be an instrument at the service of the Bishop in the parishes. It is a theological-catechetical synthesis, a living catechism, a post-baptismal catechumenate for adults, an itinerary of Christian formation for today’s man, a way to lead to faith so many people who have abandoned it.
In the early Church the Catechumenate was formed by a synthesis among Word (Kerygma), Liturgy and Moral. The Primitive Church had, first of all, a Kerygma, that is an “announcement of salvation”. This announcement of the Gospel, which was done by itinerant apostles like Paul and Silas, caused in those who listened to it, a moral change. They changed their lives helped by the Holy Spirit who accompanied the Apostles. This moral change was sealed and helped through the sacraments. Concretely Baptism was given through stages. So the primitive catechesis was a gestation to Divine Life.
When in the following centuries the catechumenate disappeared, this synthesis – kerygma-Change of life-Liturgy, was lost. The Kerygma, as a call to faith which implies a moral decision, does not exist anymore, it became a “scholastic doctrine”. Moral was transformed into ‘internal forum’, that is, a private matter. Liturgy became one and the same for everyone.
The Neocatechumenal Way recuperates again this ‘gestation’, this synthesis between Kerygma, Change of Life and Liturgy.
Why is it called Neo-catechumenate? Because the Neocatechumenal Way is proposed basically to people who have already been baptised, but who do not have a sufficient Christian formation. “Catechesis Tradendae” states that the situation of many Christians in the parish is that of “quasi-catechumens”.
Pope John Paul II in an official letter to Monsignor Paul Josef Cordes, Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, appointed ad personam responsible for the Apostolate of the Neocatechumenal Communities, dated 30th August 1990, formally recognised the Neocatechumenal Way as “an itinerary of Catholic formation, valid for our society and for our times” and expressed his wish that all Bishops value and support this work for the new evangelisation “so that it may be implemented according to the lines proposed by its initiators”.
In this letter, the Holy Father acknowledges 25 years of experience, begun in the poorest outskirts of Madrid and which today has spread to 700 dioceses, 4000 parishes, 95 countries, with well over 10,000 communities.
This charism offers to the dioceses a complete instrument of evangelisation. “It is able to respond to the challenge of secularism, the diffusion of sects and the shortage of vocations. The reflection upon the word of God and the participation in the Eucharist make possible a gradual initiation into the sacred mysteries, to form living cells of the Church and renew the vitality of the parish by means of mature Christians capable of bearing witness to the truth through a radically lived faith.” (Pope John Paul II, 12th April 1993)
“It is not difficult to list the fruits of the Neocatechumenal Way : families who have been reconciled, are open to life, and are grateful to the Church, offer themselves to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth…especially the poorest and most dechristianised areas. From these families are now springing up an enormous number of vocations.” (Pope John Paul II – 17th January 1994).
This new flourishing of vocations has given birth to missionary diocesan Seminaries that can help those Churches who because of the scarcity of priests find themselves in serious difficulties. The novelty of these Seminaries is that they join a serious Christian initiation, the Neocatechumenate, to the formation of presbyters. So, in a short time, many bishops have decided to open these seminaries in their dioceses … in Rome, Madrid, Warsaw, Medellin, Bogota, Bangalore, Callao (Lima), Newark, Takamatsu (Japan) and in many other countries they are being set in motion.
“Your Way – says the Pope – seeks to draw on the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, to offer an example of a new evangelisation which gives hope to the Church on the eve of the third Christian millennium.” (17th January 1994)
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.