VATICAN CITY, JAN. 12, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is giving thanks to God for the fruits of the evangelical efforts of the Neocatechumenal Way, as that Catholic lay group celebrated 40 years of foundation in Rome.

In an event Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the anniversary, the Pope addressed some 25,000 members of the Way. The group's founders, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, as well as Father Mario Pezzi were in attendance.

"How can we not bless the Lord for the spiritual fruits which, through the methodology of evangelization that you apply, have been harvested in these years," the Holy Father asked. "How many fresh apostolic energies have risen up both among priests and among laypeople! How many men and women and how many families that had grown distant from the ecclesial community or had abandoned the practice of Christian life, through the announcement of the kerygma and the itinerary of rediscovery of baptism, have been helped to find again the joy of the faith and the enthusiasm of the testimony of the Gospel."

The Bishop of Rome recognized that the recent approval of the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way by the Pontifical Council for the Laity "has sealed the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows this work that the Lord has stirred up through the initiators [of the Way]."

The Pontiff went on to affirm that the full realization of the work comes with "docile adherence to the directives" of the bishops and "with communion with all of the other components of the People of God."

"This unity, gift of the Holy Spirit and incessant quest of believers, makes of each community a living and well-integrated joint in the mystical body of Christ," he said.

Finally, Benedict XVI gave thanks to God for the "great number of priests and consecrated persons that the Lord has risen up in your communities."

During the event, Argüello presented some of the fruits of the Neocatechumenal Way: more than 200 families who will go out to various parts of the world to announce the Gospel, joining another 500 already on mission; 700 people who have spread the experience of the Way around the world; 15 new groups of three to four families with a priest who will go to live in cities where the practice of the Christian faith is weak.

Argüello presented these and other groups to the Holy Father, who gave them his blessing.

The Pope then presented a representative number with a silver cross, symbol of the mission entrusted to them. The event concluded with the singing of the "Te Deum."