1,000 Families on a Mission

Pontiff Sends Out 17 More Neocatechumenal Way Groups

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By Salvatore Cernuzio

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- At an audience today with some 7,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way, Benedict XVI sent another 17 groups for the «missio ad gentes» and the Catholic lay group received the news that the celebrations characteristic of the Way have received Vatican approval.

The 17 groups sent out today — to live, for example, among the Aborigines in Australia, to Papua New Guinea and to the most secularized parts of Europe — join hundreds of these communities in working toward the new evangelization around the globe.

These «missio ad gentes» teams are comprised of three or four families, who together with a priest, are sent to areas where a bishop has requested them.

Before the audience, ZENIT spoke with Kiko Argüello, who along with Carmen Hernández initiated the Way, asking him to comment on the event.

Argüello: One of the proofs of the validity of this itinerary to form adult Christians are the mission families. Currently there are nearly 1,000 families of the Neocatechumenal Way in mission in different parts of the world.

This missio ad gentes means a new presence of the Church.

There are many people today who are completely secularized and no longer go to church, they are not interested in the churches, but when they see a group of Christians who love each other, that interests them, they are impressed by how they relate to one another.

We have many experiences of people who have asked to be baptized after seeing how we relate among ourselves, how we love one another.

I must say that in Europe many people suffer from loneliness. This is a terrible reality, typical of modern cities: the number of people living alone, the quantity of people who are alcoholic, the huge number of suicides, divorces, abortions…

It’s obvious that we need a new presence of the Church.

We answered the call of John Paul II, who in the symposium of the European bishops in 1985 said to the European bishops that the situation in Europe is very difficult, that Europe is headed toward apostasy, that the families are being destroyed.

Do not be afraid, said the Pope, on the contrary, we must nourish the hope that the Holy Spirit is already responding: we must return to the Cenacle, the first apostolic model when the Church lived in the houses and the people who came into contact with these communities were amazed, and wanted to become Christian.

This is what the Neocatechumenal Way is doing. Following the directions of John Paul II, we form Christian communities in even the most heathen environments, such as in Chemnitz, which was the model city of communist East Germany, where 98% of people are not baptized. The bishop of Chemnitz requested two missio ad gentes [teams], which have already resulted in two communities, with people who were not baptized. These people were surprised to see how a Christian community lives.

The missio ad gentes is a new presence of the Church, it is the answer for the new evangelization, it is the new evangelization in action.

The Pope is very happy to send 18 new missio ad gentes to Europe, in southern France to Toulon, Albi, Montpellier, Bayonne.

ZENIT: What do you think of the approval of the celebrations that mark the stages of Christian initiation brought forward by the Neocatechumenal Way?

Kiko: The recognition of the validity of this Christian initiation is a historic moment for us, it’s what we were waiting for. After years of study and analysis by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments, it has been approved.

In the recognition of validity, it says that the celebrations that mark the stages of growth in the itinerary of maturation of the new man are wonderful and are truly inspired, they help people convert and become Christian, they help them to grow in faith and unite themselves to Jesus Christ.

We are pleased and grateful to God for this recognition.

After so much suffering and hard work we are grateful to the Church, which officially recognizes the validity of this Christian initiation for the creation of a new man.

We insert the new man into a Christian community. It is our task to show what the pagans saw in antiquity, when they cried out, «Look how the Christians love one another.»

In ancient times there were the same problems as there are today: people were alone and suffered from loneliness and despair. When a man falls prey to the devil, he no longer knows how to love and becomes confused.

St. Paul wrote that Christ died for man so that man might live no longer for himself. In this way, he explains that the man separated from God is condemned to suffer from his own selfishness.

We are very grateful to Benedict XVI and the Church for this act in which we see and confirm that the Church is Mother and Teacher.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

* * *

The approval comes after 15 years of study by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, and concludes the path for the approval of the Neocatechumenal Way: In 2008 the Holy See approved the final version of the Statutes and in 2011 approved the doctrine contained in 13 volumes of the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Today Benedict XVI sent out 17 missio ad gentes teams: 12 to Europe (Albi, Nice, Bayonne, Toulon, Strasbourg, Lyon, Antwerp, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Tallinn, Vienna, Manchester), four to America (three in Boston and one in Venezuela), and one in Africa, in Libreville (Gabon). In addition, other families for the missio ad gentes were also sent, already formed, to the Ukraine, among the Australian Aborigines, and to Papua New Guinea.

These teams are added to the other 40 that have already been sent all over the world by Benedict XVI in previous years.

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