VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2002 ( The Vatican announced the approval of the Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, the spiritual renewal movement born in the mid-1960s in Spain.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity in a statement said the official decree of the statute´s approval will take place this Friday at the council´s headquarters.

The Neocatechumenal Way has spread to more than 105 nations. It includes 1,500 communities in 800 dioceses and 5,000 parishes. It has opened some 40 diocesan seminaries.

Among those who will attend Friday´s ceremony are the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way team: founders Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, and Italian Father Mario Pezzi.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford, president of the pontifical council, will preside over the event that also will be attended by some 40 catechists of the Neocatechumenate, as it is also known.

The Vatican statement released today explained that this step is "an event of notable ecclesial importance, as the Neocatechumenal Way, which arose in Spain in 1964, has spread at present to more than 100 countries of the world, some of them mission territories."

"In the line of renewal inspired by Vatican Council II, the Way places itself at the service of diocesan bishops and parish priests as a way to rediscover the sacrament of baptism, and for ongoing education in the faith," the document continues.

The Way carries out this task by proposing "to the faithful who so desire to revive the richness of Christian initiation in their life, through the route of catechesis and conversion."

Moreover, "the Neocatechumenal Way is an instrument for the Christian initiation of adults who are preparing to receive baptism," the Council for the Laity added.

In a letter addressed to Cardinal Stafford on April 5, 2001, John Paul II confirmed that the Council for the Laity has the authority to approve the Statute of the Way, a task that took the Vatican body five years to complete. It worked with other Roman Curia agencies in the process.

To carry out its work, the Council for the Laity contacted bishops and episcopal conferences around the world "to evaluate the experience of the Way at the parish, diocesan and national levels."

"Numerous patriarchs, cardinals and bishops worldwide have written the Holy Father to encourage the examination and approval of the Statute," the Vatican document added.

"This process of writing and examination of the Statute has been a time of discernment on the part of the Holy See of the proposal and experience of the Neocatechumenal Way," the statement said.

"The normative, which is now approved, has the objective of regulating the praxis of the Neocatechumenal Way and its harmonious integration in the ecclesial fabric, at the same time offering a help to pastors of the Church in their paternal and vigilant [support] of the Neocatechumenal communities."