VATICAN CITY, 20 JAN 2012 (VIS) – The Holy Father today received in audience more than 7,000 members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. During the course of the ceremony, the Holy Father sent out seventeen new “ad gentes” missions of the Way: twelve to Europe, four to America and one to Africa. Each mission is made up of three or four large families, members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way who, accompanied by a priest, go to live in an area where Christian practise has lapsed or where the Gospel has never been announced.
Extracts from the Holy Father’s address to the group are given below.
“Over these decades of life of the Way, your firm commitment has been to proclaim the Gospel of the risen Christ, … often abandoning personal and material security. … Bringing Christ to mankind and mankind to Christ is what animates all evangelising work. You achieve this on a path which helps those who have already been baptised to rediscover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christian. … We know that this is not always easy. Sometimes you find yourselves in places in which a first announcement of the Gospel is needed: the ‘missio ad gentes’. At other times you are present in areas which, though they have known Christ, have become indifferent to the faith, areas in which laicism 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 ‘sensus Ecclesia’ – causes the dough to rise.
“The Church has recognised in the Way a special gift which the Holy Spirit has given to our times. The approval of the Statutes and of the ‘Catechetical Directory’ are a sign of this. I encourage you to make your original contribution to the cause of the Gospel. In your vital work, always seek profound communion with the Apostolic See and with the pastors of the particular Churches of which you are a part. For the world in which we live, the unity and harmony of the ecclesial body are an important testimony to Christ and His Gospel”.
“You have just listened to the reading of a decree granting approval to the celebrations contained in the ‘Catechetical Directory of the Neo-Catechumenal Way’ which are not strictly liturgical but are part of the itinerary of growth in the faith. This is a further element showing you that the Church accompanies you attentively and with patient discernment, that she understands your richness but also looks to the communion and harmony of the entire ‘Corpus Ecclesiae’. …. The risen Christ is actively present in the Church’s liturgical activity, making the paschal Mystery real and effective for our salvation today. … This work of the Lord Jesus, this entering into the paschal Mystery, which is the true content of the liturgy, is also the work of the Church which, being His body, is a single entity with Christ”
“This holds true particularly for the celebration of the Eucharist which, being the pinnacle of Christian life, is also the key to its rediscovery, which is also the aim of the neo-catechumenate. As your Statutes say: ‘The Eucharist is essential to the neo-catechumenate which is a post-baptismal catechumenate, lived in small communities’.
“Precisely in order to foment a renewal of the richness of sacramental life among people who have distanced themselves from the Church, or who have not received adequate formation, the members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way can celebrate the Sunday Eucharist in small communities”.
“Celebration in small communities, regulated by the books of the liturgy
which must be accurately followed, and with the particular features approved in the Statutes of the Way, helps the followers of the Neo-Catechumenal Way to perceive the grace of being part of Christ’s salvific mystery. … At the same time the progressive maturity in faith of individuals and small communities must favour their insertion into the life of the ecclesial community as a whole, which has its ordinary form in the liturgical celebrations in parishes, in which and for which the neo-catechumenate is implemented.
“Yet even during the journey 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”.
In conclusion the Holy Father thanked the neo-catechumens for their expressions of affection and asked them to remember him in their prayers.