“MOVE FORWARD” - POPE TO NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY
“A true gift of Providence … that does great good to the Church of today.” With these words Pope Francis reiterated his validation to the members of the Neo-catechumenal Way, who last Friday March 6th, crowded the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The occasion was the blessing of the Pope to the 220 families of the Way, ready to go on a mission to all nations, from Thailand to Papua New Guinea, from Australia to France, from Ukraine to Vietnam.
There are already 1,100 families with their 4,600 children spread throughout the five continents. Fathers, mothers, children, who felt called to leave home and establish themselves in areas where Jesus Christ and his Gospel have not yet found roots in the local culture or where Christianity is not as vibrant as before.
One could perceive the joy of Pope Francis who embraced – literally - these Neo-catechumens who plainly exhibit a generosity and love for Christ that is admirable. He was full of warmth and gratitude to the Neocatechumenal Way that matures this type of vocation, the "missio ad gentes": "You have received the strength to leave everything behind and set off for distant lands through a process of Christian initiation, experienced and lived in small communities, where you have rediscovered the immense riches of your Baptism. This is the Neocatechumenal Way, a true gift of Providence to the Church of our times.” Indeed, these families are the fruit of the tree that is the Neocatechumenal Way.
Before he gave his speech, Pope Francis listened to the presentations done by the initiator of the Way, Kiko Argüello. These missio ad gentes are “communities, called by the Bishops, formed by a priest and four or five families, with children including grown-up ones, with a mandate to evangelize non-Christians”. They ‘relocate’ to these places with a mission, namely to announce the Resurrection of Jesus, the message of which the world today, says the Pope, desperately needs: “Today’s world badly needs this great message. How much solitude, how much suffering, how much distance from God in the many peripheries of Europe and America, and in many cities of Asia! Today, in every latitude, humanity greatly needs to hear that God loves us and that love is possible! These Christian communities, thanks to you missionary families, have the essential task of making this message visible. And what is this message? “Christ is risen, Christ lives. Christ lives amongst us… Reawaken that faith!”
Amongst the 33 priests who will be responsible of a missio ad gentes in Japan is Father Santiago Flor, who for many years served as pastor in Chalan Pago. During this event, he received a special cross from the Pope. His married sister, with her family, was sent to Thailand.
Strong Endorsement of the Pope
Applause punctuated the speech of Pope Francis. His initial sentence was very clear. "I always say that the Neocatechumenal Way does a great good in the Church (...) I now confirm your call, I support your mission and bless your charism."
There are many "gifts" that God has bestowed upon you, says the Pope, amongst them the numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, but above all Christian families: "Seeing all this is a consolation, because it confirms that the Spirit of God is alive and active in his Church, even today, and that He meets the needs of modern man. On several occasions I have insisted that the Church has to move from a ministry of simple conservation to a decidedly pastoral missionary. How many times, in the Church, we have Jesus in and not let him get out ... How many times! This is the most important thing to do if we do not want the water stagnating in the Church. "
The Pope wanted also to endorse explicitly the three pillars of this Neo-catechumenal Way - the Word of God, the "Eucharistic celebration in a small community after the first Vespers of Sunday Liturgy” and the community.
Interviewed immediately after this meeting, Kiko Argüello, the initiator of the Way, expressed his joy by saying, “We are amazed by the love he (the Pope) has shown us! Maybe someone thought that after all those beautiful and positive things he said, there would be a "but”. Instead there was no "but"…” And then he continued, “Today there is a need for something new and I can say that the Way fulfills this mission with great creativity, showing an original form of presence of the Church in the world…God is so good to us”
Like his predecessors, Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has once more given the Church's blessing to the work of evangelization that the Neocatechumenal Way has brought forward for almost half a century across the globe, above all through the families.
Pope Francis concluded, "How much joy you give us with your presence and your activity!" - said Blessed Pope Paul VI during the very first audience with you (May 8, 1974). I also make these words my own and encourage you to move forward, entrusting you to the Blessed Virgin Mary who inspired the Neocatechumenal Way. May she intercede for you with her divine Son. My dearly beloved, may the Lord accompany you. Go forth, with my Blessing.”
BOX : I confirm your call, I support your mission and I bless your charism.