A diocesan way of implementing Christian initiation and ongoing education in the faith (Statutes, 1,2)
At the time when the process of canonical approval of the Neocatechumenal Way commenced in 1997, its initiators, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, expressed from the beginning their wish that the Way be recognised as a form of “Christian initiation” and not as an international association of the faithful. In response to this request, Pope John Paul II, in a personal letter addressed to the then President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, confirmed the competence of the Pontifical Council in approving the statutes of the Way “because of the singular experience it has in the matter”, and charged it to “continue to accompany the Way in the future” (Letter of 5 April 2001). For this reason, although not formally an association of the faithful, the Neocatechumenal Way is one of the canonically recognised ecclesial entities that are under the competence of the present Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
The Neocatechumenal Way was started in 1964. When Kiko Argüello discovered the presence of Christ in the suffering of the innocent, he went to live with the very poor in the slums of Palomeras Altas on the outskirts of Madrid. He was following in the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld. Carmen Hernández would later join him there. The surroundings the poor lived in meant that a direct and effective way of preaching the Gospel had to be found, a kerygmatic synthesis. With the passing of time, this would result in the emergence of a small community and to a form of catechesis based on the ‘tripod’ of “Word of God-Liturgy-Community”.
In this way, in the midst of the renewal sparked by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, an itinerary of Christian initiation arose. The then Archbishop of Madrid, Most Rev. Casimiro Morcillo, took a keen interest in it and encouraged the initiators of the Way to take it to the parishes that requested it. It thus gradually spread, first in the Archdiocese of Madrid and later in other Spanish dioceses. In 1968, the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way arrived in Rome where, with the consent of Cardinal Vicar Angelo Dell'Acqua, the first catechesis began in the parish of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Canadian Martyrs. After that, the Way gradually spread to numerous dioceses around the world.
In 2002, the Neocatechumenal Way received the first “ad experimentum” approval of its Statutes and on 11 May 2008, Pentecost Sunday, it received definitive approval by the then Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The Neocatechumenal Way is an itinerary of Catholic instruction at the service of the bishop as one of the diocesan ways of implementing Christian initiation and ongoing education in the faith. The Way is practised in parishes in small communities made up of people of different ages and social conditions. Its ultimate aim is to gradually draw the faithful to intimacy with Jesus Christ and to enable them to be active participants in the Church and credible witnesses of the Good News of the Saviour. It encourages mission ad gentes not only in mission countries, but also in those of long-standing Christian tradition. It is an instrument for the Christian initiation of adults who are preparing to receive Baptism according to the norms contained in the Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum.
The Neocatechumenal Way operates in dioceses under the jurisdiction and direction of the diocesan bishop and with the assistance and guidance of the Way’s International Leadership Team, or of the delegated Leadership Team, according to “the guidelines proposed by the initiators” contained in the Statutes and in the Catechetical Directory of the Way.
A team of catechists initiates catecheses in the parish that are open to all those who wish to participate. After this, a first community is formed in which they relive all the stages of Baptism, under the guidance of catechists. Then they renew their Baptism at the Easter Vigil. In the meantime, other communities are being formed in the parish, thus enabling it to be structured as a “community of communities”.
The core activity of the Way is to open up pastoral ministry of missionary evangelisation in the dioceses for those who have distanced themselves from the Church. It does so through the rediscovery and implementation of Christian initiation of adults.
Other activities of the Way are to help dioceses by establishing Redemptoris Mater international seminaries for the new evangelisation; the missio ad gentes, which is made up of four or five families with a priest and some sisters who respond to the requests of bishops and offer to settle in de-Christianised areas or where an implantatio Ecclesiae is needed; the communitates in missionem which are whole communities that have concluded their neocatechumenal itinerary and accept to be sent to peripheral areas of large cities; the “Post-confirmation”, a pastoral experience to educate young people in the faith as they make their transition from adolescence to young adulthood (aged between 12/13 and 18/19).
Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way (Neocatechumenale Iter Statuta). Hope Pub House, Pasadena, California, U.S.A. (1 January 2003).
Il Cammino Neocatecumenale nei discorsi dei Papi – in three volumes – by the Centro Neocatecumenale di Roma, Rome 2000.
Centro Neocatecumenale di Roma
Via del Mascherino, 53 – 00193 ROMA, Italy
Tel. 06 68134438 – 06 68134502