The Neocatechumenal Way, also known as the Neocatechumenate, NCW or, colloquially, The Way, is an organisation within the Catholic Church dedicated to the Christian formation of adults. It was formed in Madrid in 1964 by Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández and received approval from the Holy See in 2008.
Taking its inspiration from the catechumenate of the early Catholic Church, by which converts from paganism were prepared for baptism, it provides post-baptismal formation to adults who are already members of the Church. It also runs 100 seminaries in various locations, and is responsible for hundreds of "families in mission," living in many cities around the World.
The Neocatechumenate is implemented in small, parish-based communities of between 20-50 people. In 2007 there were around 40,000 such communities throughout the World, with an estimated million members.
- 1 History of the Neocatechumenal Way
- 2 Leadership and governance
- 3 Nature and mission of the Neocatechumenal communities
- 4 The Statutes and the Catechetical Directory
- 5 Liturgy
- 6 Criticisms
- 7 Regional Statistics
- 8 Notes, documents and references
- 9 External links
History of the Neocatechumenal Way
The Neocatechumenal Way arose in 1964 through the work of Francisco "Kiko" Argüello and Carmen Hernández to evangelize the slums of Madrid. As time passed, their message was embodied in a catechetical synthesis, founded on what they called the "tripod" ("Word of God-Liturgy-Community"), seeking to lead people to fraternal communion and mature faith.
This new catechetical experience, born in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, attracted the interest of Madrid's Archbishop, es:Casimiro Morcillo, who encouraged Argüello to spread it to parishes that asked for it. The Way thus spread gradually through the Archdiocese of Madrid and to other Spanish dioceses.
In 1968, Argüello and Hernández arrived in Rome and settled in the Borghetto Latino. With the permission of Angelo Dell'Acqua, Vicar-General of Rome, the first catechesis began in the parish of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and the Canadian Martyrs.
Leadership and governance
The Neocatechumenate is led by the "International Responsible Team of the Way": Argüello, Hernández, and Fr. Mario Pezzi, a priest of the Diocese of Rome. Under the terms of the 2007 statute, the three members of this leadership team will remain in place for life, after which an electoral college of senior neocatechumenal catechists will elect a new team which, with the approval of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will have a mandate to lead the Way for a period of seven years until new elections are held.
Leadership at national and regional levels rests in approximately seven hundred teams of "itinerant catechists," comprising a priest and two or three lay men and women, appointed and supervised by the International Responsible Team. Depending on the number of communities in a particular area, a team of Itinerant Catechists may be responsible for the implementation of the NC Way in a country, a group of countries or a region of a country. Pope John Paul II summarized the role of the itinerant catechists in December 1985:
"They contribute by forming the first neocatechumenal communities of a parish, and are supposed to maintain regular contact with the Bishops of the diocese in which they work; the itinerant teams preserve a constant link with the responsibles of the Neocatechumenal Way, visiting periodically the communities they catechized and taking care of the development of the Neocatechumenal Way in the territory assigned to them, being fully faithful to the charism given to the initiators and obedient to the local Ordinary."
The itinerant catechists do not make any formal commitment to their missionary role, and are free to resign at any time.
In June 2008 the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way received final approval from the Vatican.
Nature and mission of the Neocatechumenal communities
The Way describes itself as a community—it resists terms such as organization or movement—“at the service of the Bishops as a form of diocesan implementation of Christian initiation and of ongoing education in faith, in accordance with the indications of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Church”. It provides an ongoing education in faith and a service of catechesis. From the initial catechesis, it typically takes several years and passing through stages of faith formation in the local communities, until a member reaches the renewal of the baptismal vows (or the baptism).
Responding to secularization the Way introduced a program called "families in mission": Families serving to establish the presence of the Catholic Church in countries where there is none (this is referred as Implantatio Ecclesiae) or to strengthen the presence of Catholic communities in particularly difficult areas.
On January 12, 2006, about 200 families met with Pope Benedict XVI asking for a missionary mandate before beginning their mission to France, Belgium, Germany and China—bringing the number Families in Mission to more than five-hundred.
In March 2008 the Way met with nine cardinals and 160 European bishops at the Domus Galilaeae International Center on the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee. Christoph Cardinal Schönborn said that during "the last 40 years Europe has said ‘no’ to its future three times: in 1968 when it rejected 'Humanae Vitae'; then, 20 years later, with the legalization of abortion; and today with homosexual marriages." He called the Neocatechumenal Way an "answer of the Holy Spirit to this situation." A joint declaration from the bishops said "[h]ere we have an important proposal, the proposal of the Neocatechumenal Way, which is to renew the life of the family."
On January 10, 2009, Benedict XVI met with over 10,000 people for a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way in Rome. From this celebration several whole communities were sent on mission, along with itinerant catechists, mission families, and the Missio Ad Gentes (a newer form of mission that sends three to five families to a particular area at the request of the bishop).
The World Youth Days
Approximately every two years, the World Youth Day has been organized by the Roman Catholic Church, during which the Pope summons youths from all over the world to a chosen city. The Way has been an active supporter of these, rallying its young members to attend. For instance, during World Youth Day 2008 held in Sydney, George Cardinal Pell said that of the 110,000 international visitors that attended, 40,000 were from the Neocatechumenal Way, and some 300,000 attended Madrid World Youth Day.
During the event, young members of the Neocatechumenal Way meet with Argüello for a "vocational call." In Sydney, for example, approximately 1,500 men answered the call for the priesthood and 850 young women stood up to show their willingness to a consecrated life, and in Bonn (2005) around 1,500 young men and another 900 young women answered the call. These young men and women begin a process of discernment in their own dioceses and communities, which may lead to priesthood (most of the priestly vocations go to a "Redemptoris Mater" seminary) or consecrated life.
The Neocatechumenal Way in the Eastern Rites and the Holy Land
During the Neocatechumenal Way vocational meeting held near the Sea of Galilee following Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land in May 2009, Arguello described the Way's situation in the Holy Land, claiming thirty communities that follow several different Christian rites, and holding them up as an example of the ecumenical breakthrough. There are seven communities following the Latin Rite, in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and Cana. In March 2000, the Way opened its Domus Galilaeae formation center on the slopes of the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. The facility is used for studies and retreat, Christian seminars and conventions.
In June 2007, Archbishop Elias Chacour proposed the establishment of a new "branch" of the Neocatechumenal Way "to work specifically in the Eastern-rite Church." Archbp. Chacour stated in his message that he has searched for "someone or some community to preach the Good News to my parishioners" as an answer to proselytism of the sects, and that the Neocatechumenal Way is an answer. A spokesman for the Way reported the letter to ZENIT, saying that "We share the sense of urgency expressed by Archbishop Chacour to evangelize 'the living stones' in the land of the Lord."
The Greek Catholic (Melchite) rite runs a Redemptoris Mater Seminary within Domus Galilaeae, and has 12 neocatechumenal communities in several Palestinian villages: three each in Shefamer, Tarshiha and Melia, two in Ibilin and one in Cana. Additionally, there are two Maronite communities in Gish and Haifa, as well as two Hebrew-speaking communities in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
The Redemptoris Mater Seminaries
The Way also operates several seminaries dubbed Redemptoris Mater seminaries which combines the priestly formation found in a seminary with the Christian formation received in a neocatechumenal community. Potential candidates often undergo a time of "Pre Vocational Center" before entering the seminary, which operates somewhat in the manner of a pre-med course, designed to prepare and awaken their vocations.
The intent was to establish a seminary that was both international, i.e. with vocations coming from different nations, and missionary, i.e. upon ordination, the priests are available to go wherever their ordinary sends them, In 1988, the first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was established in Rome by Ugo Cardinal Poletti, and today there are Redemptoris Mater Seminaries all over the world in places such as Managua (Nicaragua), Rome (Italy), Kearny (NJ, USA), Madrid (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Guam, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Hercegovina), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), and Warsaw (Poland).
The Statutes and the Catechetical Directory
In 1997, Pope John Paul II "encouraged [Argüello and Hernández] to examine their thirty-year experience of the Way, and to formalize it with a written statute," and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger urged the drafting of the Statutes as "a very important step that will open the way to the formal juridical recognition by the Church, and giving you a further guarantee of the authenticity of your charism"  The Statutes drafted in response were approved ad experimentum for five years in 2002, and on June 13, 2008, after review by five dicasteries and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko published a decree containing the definitive approval of the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way.
The Statutes describe the nature of the Way and regulate its charism and specific tasks within the Church. Through them the Neocatechumenal Way was endowed with "public juridical personality" status. The Way is thus closely governed by an ecclesiastical authority, performs entrusted functions "in the name of the church," and that it has no material goods of its own.
Inter alia, in article 13, the Statutes stated that the Masses of the communities must be "open also to other faithful"; that communion must be received "standing"; that for the biblical readings, only "brief [ad]monitions" of introduction are permitted, apart from the homily".
The Statutes refer to a Catechetical Directory, which received Vatican approval at the end of 2010.
This originated with thirteen volumes of materials published by Argüello in 1972, based on his and Hernández's preaching, and titled the Orientations for the Teams of Catechists. The Orientations were held in secret until 1997 when Cardinal Ratzinger ordered that they be handed over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a doctrinal examination. The examination lasted until 2003, during which the Congregation made corrections and introduced about 2,000 references to parallel passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
After thorough examination by various Vatican dicasteries, on December 26, 2010 the Pontifical Council for the Laity approved the text of the catecheses which are handed on to neo-catechumens during their itinerary. Pope Benedict XVI praised the approval: "With these ecclesiastical seals, the Lord confirms today and entrusts to you again this precious instrument that is the Way, so that you can, in filial obedience to the Holy See and to the pastors of the Church, contribute, with new impetus and ardor, to the radical and joyful rediscovery of the gift of baptism and to offer your original contribution to the cause of the New Evangelization.".
The Way regards liturgy as one of its three fundamental elements (tripod), along with the Word of God (scripture) and Christian community. The Paschal Mystery, celebrated in the Sacred Triduum, is seen as a liturgical axis and source of Christian life and a fulcrum of the Neocatechumenate which leads to "rediscovery" of Christian initiation. After the Easter liturgical celebrations, the most important place is given to the Eucharist, which completes Christian initiation and builds a small community in which catechumens follow their "itinerary."
Four features of the Masses of the communities have been observed.
- They are celebrated in small groups, corresponding to the different stages of the "catechetical journey".
- The surroundings and furnishings form the image of a banquet - a table with the participants seated around it
- Each of the biblical readings of the Mass is preceded by an "admonition" by a member of the community and is followed. After the Gospel "echoes" may be shared by a brother or sister in which they say how they see the readings applied to him or herself . The priest's homily follows, being clearly distinguished from the echoes, as the echoes are a personal reflection while the homily is intended as preaching and instruction.
- Communion also takes place in banquet form. The consecrated bread, a large unleavened loaf, is broken and distributed to those present, who remain in their places. The priest then goes from one person to the next with the chalice of consecrated wine, of which everyone drinks.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has observed the Way's liturgical practices from the beginning. Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist at the meeting with the communities in Porto San Giorgio in 1989, exactly as the communities do it, including the communion rite in a sitting position.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, however, the Prefect of the Congregation from 2002 until 2008, was unwilling to accept the differences in the liturgy of the neocatechumenal Eucharist. In December 2005, he wrote a private letter to Arguello, Hernández and Pezzi on behalf of Pope Benedict. He warned that "[i]n the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Neocatechumenal Way shall accept and follow the liturgical books approved by the Church, without omitting or adding anything." The letter directed members of the Way to adopt the prescribed method of receiving Holy Communion, to participate in parish life, and to celebrate Mass with the rest of the parish community on at least one Sunday each month.
The Way argues that Arinze's letter has been superseded by the Final Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way insofar as it says that “the celebrations of the Eucharist of the neocatechumenal communities on Saturday evening are part of the Sunday liturgical pastoral work of the parish and are open also to other faithful.” The Way argues that this means that by participating in the Saturday evening Eucharistic celebration with their communities, members of the Neocatechumenal Way are already partaking in the Holy Mass of the parish community. In his Canonical Observations on the Definitive Approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, Msgr. Juan Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, summarizes the liturgical concessions of the Neocatechumenal Way as follows:
- “First, that the neocatechumens celebrate the Eucharist in the small community, after the First Vespers of Sunday. Second, that this celebration, after First Vespers takes place according to the disposition of the diocesan bishop. Third, that these celebrations [...] are part of the pastoral work and consequently are open to all the faithful. Fourth, that in these celebrations the liturgical books approved by the Roman Rite are followed, 'with the exception of the explicit concessions from the Holy See' (always with unleavened bread), moving the rite of peace before the consecration, communion under both species, brief admonitions and echoes and, finally, a new way for the distribution of Communion: 'Regarding the distribution of Holy Communion under the two species, the neocatechumens receive standing, remaining at their place.' The faithful receive the precious body while standing, take seat and wait until all have received. Then the celebrant says 'Body of Christ, bring us everlasting life!' and the whole congregation consumes immediately after the priest consumes the host. The ecce Agnus Dei along with the Domine non sum dignus are typically recited but is sometimes omitted due to error on the part of the celebrant. Sharing the cup takes place afterward, individually, while the faithful are standing at their seats and a priest or Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion carries the chalice around.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Razón, Antonio Cardinal Cañizares, current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, expressed his view on the Eucharistic celebration of the Neocatechumenal Way:
- "There are no liturgical anomalies [in the Eucharist]; everything is in full compliance of the guidelines of the ‘Ordo Missae.’ What I have really seen there are Eucharists celebrated without any hurry, with a great faith, and where you can perceive the joy and the thanksgiving for the gift which is being bestowed in the Eucharist.” 
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The Neocatechumenal Way has encountered resistance and criticism from both clergy and theologians. After the Neocatechumenate was introduced into the parish of St Germain-des-Prés in Paris, for example, the Archbishop of Paris, François Cardinal Marty, blocked any further expansion before his retirement in 1981, and similar controversy in 1992 prompted the Bishop of Nancy to transfer the neocatechumenals to a different church.
The orthodoxy of the Way's teachings and the validity of its liturgical practices has also drawn criticism. In 1995, the Italian Passionist priest and theologian Enrico Zoffoli published a critique of the Way that accused the movement of heresy: “Their doctrine is seriously compromised with errors against fundamental dogmatics of the Church, the Popes and the Councils. They negate the Redemption, the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, the transubstantiation, etc... they misunderstand the sin and the Grace concepts... their doctrinal statements are fundamentally wrong.” Zoffoli warned that "the building of Neocatechumenal seminaries, where candidates are prepared for the priesthood educated in accordance with the doctrinal errors of Kiko, could be one of the worst threats for the Church of tomorrow.". The Way has not officially responded to the accusations of heresy, relying on declarations by the Holy See. They maintain that the Holy See's decisions to approve the Statutes and the Orientations for the Teams of Catechists speak for themselves, indicating that the Church approves not only of the Way's structure by also its teachings.
Another area for concern has been the allegations that the Way could have a divisive impact on parishes into which it moves. The Neocatechumenal communities are made up of people from the parish however they do not celebrate their Masses on Sunday with the community but separately on Saturday evening with a Vigil Mass, with their respective communities. In 1994, the Diocese of Clifton undertook an extensive investigation of the communities, and concluded that the movement was "a form of spiritual enslavement" and that its presence in parishes was "completely divisive and destructive." Bishop Mervyn Alexander issued a decree the next year banning the Neocatechumenal Way from further activity in the diocese. Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada has described the Way's presence in Japan’s small Catholic community as "a serious problem" and "divisive and confrontational". Staff and students of the Takamatsu Redemptoris Mater seminary relocated to Rome in 2009 and in 2010, the Japanese episcopal conference asked the Way to suspend its activities in Japan for five years. Bishops suspended the Way's activities in Nepal in 2011, and in the Philippines in 2010.
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The highest number of communities found in Europe (and the World) are found in Italy (10,000 communities) and Spain (7,000 communities).
The highest number of communities in the world in a country per capita is found in Malta, which has 100 communities in an island of 400,000 persons, which is the equivalent of twice the number of communities both in Italy and in Spain.
Notes, documents and references
- "Decree Statutes".(primary source)
- The term post-baptismal catechumenate is also used in the §1231 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, related to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself, “By its very nature infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate.”
- Kiko Argüello meets with Benedict XVI (27 May 2007).
- Michael Hayes, New Religious Movements in the Catholic Church 12 (2006); see also http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/pclneoca.htm.
- (Carmen Hernández speech says Morcillo visited the slums (in Italian) June 28, 2002) (primary source).
- Father Dino Torreggiani (1905-1983), wrote a presentation letter to Card. Dell'Acqua (source: Kiko, Dossetti e 'le ironie della sorte' (Catechumenium.it)) primary source.
- Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, June 2002.
- Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title VI, Art. 34-35.
- L'Osservatore Romano, 11 December 1985 (Italian edition)
- Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title I, Art. 1, § 2.
- Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title I, Art. 1, § 3.
- Congregation For the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, 223: see c. 755 §1 CIC; c. 617 CCEO
- Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title I, Art. 2, citing John Paul II, letter Ogniqualvolta, 30 August 1990, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), nr. 82 (1990), page 1515.
- Homily of Pope John Paul II recorded in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, 31 December 1988)
- Benedict XVI speech to Neocatechumenals (12 January 2006).
- Neocatechumenal Way Saying "Yes" to Europe.
- Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI to members of the Neocatechumenal Way on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of its Origins in Rome
- Homily of Cardinal Pell
- Neocatechumenal Meeting Attracts 90,000 (Zenit News Agency).
- Cardinal O'Malley: Domus Galilaea in Israel
- Melkite Leader Invites Neocatechumenal Way (Zenit).
- (cfr. chapter 10 of Presbyterorum Ordinis)
- Michael Mullaney, Incardination and the universal dimension of the priestly ministry 216 n.259 (2002).
- Brendan Leahy, Ecclesial Movements and Communities 68 (2011).
-  (citing Address to the Neocatechumenal Way, 25 January 1997, p. 4; ORE, 5 February 1997, p.9) (primary source)
- During the process, Card. Ratzinger was elected Pope, and at a Q&A section in February 2007, responded to a question of how pastors should integrate movements in order to develop a real ministry of unity in the universal Church by talking about the Way:
"For example, we ask ourselves whether, after five years of experience, it is possible to confirm definitively the Statutes for the Neocatechumenal Way, whether a trial period is necessary or whether, perhaps, certain elements of this structure need perfecting. In any case, I knew the Neocatechumenals from the very outset. It was a long Way, with many complications that still exist today, but we have found an ecclesial form that has already vastly improved the relationship between the Pastor and the Way. We are going ahead like this! The same can be said for other Movements."
- Multiple sources report this Zenit, Radio Vaticana and CBC news
- "From the Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way - Nature of the Neocatechumenal Way". Retrieved October 21, 2011. (primary source)
- Pontifical Council for the Laity, Decree
- Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way Title 1 Art. 4 (primary source).
- "Decreto". Retrieved October 21, 2011. (primary source)
- Neocatechumenal Way receives Vatican approval for its teachings, instructions from Pope (EWTN)
- Church Gives Final OK to Neocatechumenate (Zenit)
- "Benedict XVI's Address to Neocatechumenal Way". Zenit. The world Seen from Rome. January 17, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 20110.
- Cf. Statutes Art. 8 § 2.
- Cf. Statutes Art. 12 § 1.
- Cf. Statutes Art. 13 § 1.
- Cf. Notice of the Congregation for the Divine Worship on the celebrations in the groups of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L’Oss. Rom. (Italian), 24 December 1988
- On Liturgical Norms for the Neocatechumenal Way (Zenit).
- Final Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Art. 13, § 3.
- Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Legislative Texts, Canonical Observations of the Definitive Approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, 2008, http://www.camminoneocatecumenale.it/new/default.asp?lang=en&page=statuto08_4 (primary source)
- Interview with Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, December 14, 2008
- Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title II, Art. 14 § 1
- Gordon Urquhart, The Pope's Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Catholic Church, Bantam, 1995 p.109
- Michael McGrade, "The Last Trojan Horse", Christian Order, October 2002
- Enrico Zoffoli, "The Neocatechumenals: Who they are, What their creed is, What we should think of them"
- Liturgy: Benedict XVI Brings the Neocatechumenals Back to the Right Way (Chiesa).
- Madeleine Bunting, An Elite of the Damned. The Guardian, March 2, 1996.
- Neo-cats go off on their own way UCA News
- Japan's bishops want Neocatechumenal Way to leave for five years (CNA).
- Neocatechumenal Way in Lingayen-Dagupan
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Neocatechumenal Way.|
- Official Neocatechumenal Way website
- The Neocatechumenal Way in an Italian Church
- The Neocatechumenal Way in Canada (unofficial website)
- The Neocatechumenal Way in Singapore (unofficial website)
- Catechesis and communities of the Neocatechumenal Way in Poland (unofficial website)
- Kiko, the Wrath of God (interview with Kiko Argüello)