At the invitation of Pope John Paul II, over half a million members of the new ecclesial realities gathered together at Saint Peter’s Square on May 30, Pentecost Vigil 1998 for an unprecedented meeting with the Pope. One of the four speakers handpicked by the Pope was Kiko Argüello, the initiator of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. This is his address.
Holy Father, we are very happy that You have summoned us here to express our gratitude to the Lord for the marvelous gifts of apostolate, evangelization, love and sanctity which the Holy Spirit is awakening in the Church as a fruit of the Council, as He prepares her for the evangelization of the secular world and enables her to implement the New Evangelization. I am grateful for the opportunity given to me to thank God in front of Peter. And with me, many brethren here present (…applause) who in their large majority were far away from the Church; who like me, because of the fear of death lived as slaves of the devil, as the Letter to the Hebrews says (see 2,15).
But God sent his Son to free us. Christ, with His death and Resurrection, has taken away the power from the devil. Risen from death and ascended into heaven, He presents to the Father his wounds for all mankind and He sends us His Holy Spirit. This Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are God’s children (see Rom 8,16), men and women freed from the power of sin and of death, saved from the lures of the flesh, from the deceptions of the world, above all from the malediction of seeking ourselves in everything. Christ has made us sharers of His own nature. We can love as He has loved us, loving beyond death, because He has given us His life, He has given us eternal life.
But how can we deliver this immense richness to all mankind? Here is where the Neocatechumenal Way comes in. God has sent me and Carmen Hernández to live among the poor. I would like Carmen to come here for a moment. (He calls Carmen : ‘Carmen, come here, come here, come here (…applause) so that the brethren may see you; they have came from Sardegna, from Sicily’…applause). The Lord has sent us to live among the poor, where, together with the most low-down group, He helped us find a preaching synthesis, a kerygma, a rediscovery of the Paschal Mystery in a living liturgy, that transforms people’s lives, and above all, He brought about the emergence of the small Christian community. All this proceeding from Vatican Council II. Yes, we are an instrument to help bringing the renewal of the Council in the parishes.
We believe the Council has been the answer of the Holy Spirit to the challenges of the Third Millennium, especially the challenge of secularization. Holy Father, in the Symposium for European Bishops, after having spoken of the secularization in Europe, which destroys the family, of drugs, of abortion and so on, you told the Bishops : “The Holy Spirit has already given an answer to all these problems. After all, it is Christ who saves His Church.” And you invited the Bishops to look for the signs where the Holy Spirit is already blowing. You said that what is urgent is a new evangelization, which models itself on “the first apostolic exemplar”. Holy Father, look at this square, full of so many brethren; look how many ecclesial realities. Your words of thirteen years ago has been prophetic. This is the wind of the Holy Spirit, who wants to renew His church. (…applause).
To evangelize the contemporary man, signs that call to faith are required. Christ says : Love one another as I have loved you and the world will know that you are my disciples (see Jn 13,34-35), be perfectly one and the world will believe (See Jn 17,21). But we ask: where in our parishes, can one find this measure of faith, that becomes sacrament, a sign for the secularized man? Where is this love to the enemy perceptible, this love as Christ has loved us, when we were his enemies? (See Rom 5, 8-10) The Neocatechumenal Way wants also to be, like many other ecclesial realities, an itinerary in the parishes to make our baptismal faith grow, so as to arrive to form Christian communities that visibilize the love of God for all mankind. A new love, a true novelty for the world : love towards the enemy, love in the dimension of the Cross!
But to arrive at this maturity of faith, we say that it is necessary to create small communities like the Holy Family of Nazareth, where the baptism that we have received, can grow; the same as it happened with the Son of God, who needed a community to grow as a man and become adult. In this way, our faith can become adult and can give signs to the modern man.
Your Holiness, the enormous fruits that we have seen coming out from this itinerary of faith – families rebuilt, families open to life with more than six, seven, nine children, many youth saved from drugs, thousands of vocations to the seminaries and consecrated and contemplative life, families that offer themselves to evangelize in the most difficult areas – all this would not have been possible without the help of Bishops, but above all without the help of Peter. (…applause)
Peter! The first time Paul VI saw us, he defended us from many allegations, declaring : You do after Baptism what the Church did before Baptism. And he continued : ” beforehand or afterwards, I would say, is secondary”. The important principle is that “you aim at authenticity, at the fullness.. of the Christian life and this is your greatest merit; this consoles me immensely” (Paul VI, Speech to the Neocatechumenal Communities in the Audience of May 8, 1974). But above all, you yourself, Your Holiness, visiting the parishes in Rome, more than two hundred times you have spoken to us with so much courage, sending families, encouraging us to open the seminaries Redemptoris Mater, confirming us, helping us, walking with us, accepting to have your photo taken with every single family sent in mission, so that everyone knows that they have been sent by the Pope… Helping us with the Liturgy, coming you yourself to celebrate the Eucharist with us, to spur on all the Bishops; and above all, recognizing the Way, in Your Letter to Mons Cordes, declaring “Hence, I acknowledge the Neocatechumenal Way as an itinerary of Catholic formation, valid” for the times of today and for the contemporary man. (John Paul II, Letter “Ogniqualvolta” to Mons. Paul Josef Cordes, 30 august 1990) (…applause).
Let me conclude saying: Your Holiness, keep helping us, because this work overwhelms us and we feel very poor, useless servants, even worse, total impediment! Without Peter we cannot keep moving ahead. Thank you, Your Holiness. (…applause)
POPE’S REACTION … speaking to the USA Bishops
Pope John Paul II
“Finally I wish to tell you of the great joy which I experienced last weekend in St. Peter’s Square at the meeting of so many lay members of the various ecclesial movements and communities which represent a providential gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church of our time.
These movements and communities share a strong commitment
to the spiritual life and to missionary outreach. As instruments of conversion and authentic Gospel witness, they render a magnificent service in helping the Church’s members to respond to the universal call of holiness and to their vocation to transform worldly realities in the light of the Gospel values of life, freedom and love.
They represent a genuine source of renewal and evangelization, and should therefore have an important place in your discernment and pastoral planning.
A extraordinary and surprising new springtime for the Church will blossom
from the dynamic faith, living hope and active charity of the lay men and women who open their hearts to the life-giving presence of the Holy Sprint….”
(Pope John Paul II in his address to the Bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota on June 6, 1998 who were making their “ad limina” visits.)
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