Neo-Catechumenal Way Welcomed Pope's Lebanon Trip

Mideast Director Explains Youth Response

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By Salvatore Cernuzio

ROME, SEPT. 24, 2012 ( A few days have gone by since Benedict XVI left Lebanon, but the warm welcome the Pontiff received from the Lebanese people is still very alive.

On Sept. 16, the day after the Holy Father’s meeting with some 25,000 youth — including many Muslims — young people from the Catholic lay Neo-Catechumenal Way gathered for a traditional vocational meeting. 

Father Gianfranco Vitola spoke to us about this meeting in a brief interview with ZENIT.

ZENIT: How many young people of the Neo-Catechumenal Way attended the meeting with the Holy Father at Bkerke?

Father Vitola: Close to 250. The number was conditioned by the fact that invitations were limited for each of the Movements and that there was also a limit of age, going from 16 to 35.

ZENIT: After the meeting with the Pope, the usual vocational meeting of the Neo-Catechumenal communities was held, no?

Father Vitola: Yes. The meeting was held in the sports field of a Catholic school in the village of Rumieh, just above Beirut, on Sunday evening, September 16, the last day of the papal trip. Kiko [Argüello, initiator of the Way,] wasn’t present as he was involved in the gathering of Porto San Giorgio with seminarians from all over the world. Hence, the meeting was presided over by the itinerant team responsible for Lebanon. Present were the Michel Aoun, bishop of Jbeil-Byblos of the Maronites (Lebanon); the bishop of Kuwait, Camillo Ballin, and the Catholic-Coptic patriarchal vicar, monsignor Kyrillos Kamal William Samaan.

ZENIT: How did the meeting unfold?

Father Vitola: After a presentation by brothers from abroad – namely from Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Cyprus – and of Lebanese who came from Beirut, Bcharre, Zgharta and so on, we celebrated a Liturgy of the Word with the proclamation of the kerygma treated in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. And immediately after, the reading of John’s Gospel, where Jesus renews his call to Peter. In fact this was the meaning of the proclamation of the Word: not to live any longer for oneself but for Him who died and rose for us. Above all, that the call to follow Christ is not based on human capacities, but on His power and His fidelity.

ZENIT: How many youth expressed their willingness to respond to Christ’s call by “rising”?

Father Vitola: A total of 20 boys rose for the seminary and 18 girls for the convent or evangelization.

ZENIT: The Pope addressed the new generations directly, exhorting them to resist temptations, to trust God and to work for a future of peace between Christianity and Islam, in as much as they are the only means to guarantee this dialogue. How did the young people of the Way receive the Pontiff’s words?

Father Vitola: With great enthusiasm but also with much seriousness, aware that all these are not just pure and simple ethical exigencies, but the fruit of a real and proper “vocation” to live a life as children of God, conferred with a heavenly “citizenship” which overcomes, in Christ, all the oppositions that usually divide men.

ZENIT: What fruits, therefore, did Benedict XVI’s visit bring to the country already?

Father Vitola: It’s too early to say with precision, however noted certainly was stronger attention not only to strictly political topics, but also and especially to those connected with the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: How can the reality of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in Lebanon be described?

Father Vitola: It is a small but fecund reality, made up of some 30 communities inserted in Maronite or Greek-Catholics parishes, rich in families open to life and with so many children. Present at Beirut, moreover, is an inter-ritual missionary seminary which has already ordained 11 priests incardinated or ascribed to different Catholic Churches of Eastern rite.

ZENIT: What is foreseen for the future of the Lebanese Neo-Catechumenals in view, precisely, of the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith proclaimed by the Pope?

Father Vitola: The conviction not to be persuaded by the “current mentality” expressed unfortunately in the emigrant flight from the Middle East and in conformation to models of anti-Christian behavior — the so-called “civilization of death” — so widespread today in the world. Added to this, also is a renewed missionary impetus on the part of all youth and families.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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