It’s difficult to describe the emotions expressed in Kiko Argüello’s eyes. For him, the words addressed today by Pope Francis to the Neocatechumenal Way were a strong encouragement for this “itinerary of Christian formation valid for modern times”, as defined by St. John Paul II.
Like his predecessors, Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has given the Church’s blessing to the work of evangelization that the Way has brought forward for almost half a century across the globe, above all through the families.
In an interview with ZENIT, Argüello says that the Holy Father’s meeting today showed how “God is so good to us.”
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ZENIT: Kiko, what were your thoughts on the Pope’s words at today’s audience with the Neocatechumenal Way.
Argüello: We are amazed by the love he has shown us! I already met with the Holy Father in a private audience before today’s [meeting] and I showed him the work that the Way has done up until now, especially with the families: the missio ad gentes, the vocational meetings, Family Day…He was very impressed. And today, he wished to show the love he has for the Neocatechumenal Way. Maybe someone thought that after all those beautiful and positive things he said, there would be a “but”…Instead there was no “but”…We are very happy, also because the Pope’s address is a program for the whole [Neocatechumenal] Way. It is also a way to help the Church understand what is a missio ad gentes and how it can act today. Because maybe, in the end, there might have remained an idea of the first missionaries who went to Africa, to America to evangelize. Instead, today there is a need for something new and I can say that the Way fulfills this mission with great creativity, showing an original form of presence of the Church in the world.
ZENIT: On a personal level, after almost 50 years since the Way began, remembering the first evangelization in the shanty towns of Madrid, and seeing now the fruits have spread throughout the world, how do you feel?
Argüello: It is beautiful! (Laughs) Today, especially, I feel consoled by God. Above all, I feel consoled by the words of the Holy Father. I admire this Pope very much. Also in the last convivence of itinerants from around the world, I expressed my sadness at the criticisms that have been addressed towards him. I hear many say that the Pope is a “populist”, a “communist”, too concentrated on the social…I think they are all mistaken because this Pope is ‘declericalizing’ the Church. And it is providential in today’s times.
ZENIT: Returning to the families: in a time in which –as Pope Francis has noted that the family is struck from all sides – what do these mothers, fathers and children who leave everything to evangelize mean for the Church and for the world?
Argüello: The Christian family, open to life, is a salvation for the world…These families – those already in mission in all the continents, as well as those who leave today, who are ‘formed’ to evangelize after so many years in the Way – are a salvation for the Church but above all, for society. Because their children will be the future architects, lawyers, doctors…They will be, in short, the society of the future. And today’s world needs Christian people who do not rob, who do not lie, who are not corrupt! Moreover, from these families come many vocations. It is also thanks to them that we have 103 seminaries around the world…
ZENIT: After this audience with the Pope, what lies ahead for the Neocatechumenal Way?
Argüello: In the next few months, we will be going around the world for the vocational meetings. I will be in Italy, in Genova, Palermo and maybe Macerata, and also in Spain. The novelty is that we will also go to Africa. Because there are so many brothers and sisters who ask me: “Kiko, when are you coming to Africa?” They are poor people, humble, very drawn to the words of Christ: “Come and follow me!” So they are also waiting to personally live through a meeting where someone asks them: “Are there families for the mission?”; to stand up and go. Now we are organizing a great meeting with almost 25,000 people. We will see…
ZENIT: Another historic event for the Neocatechumenal Way was the concert in Auschwitz, in the presence of many rabbis. Does this dialogue with the Jewish people continue?
Argüello: Yes! After the concert, the Jewish people were so amazed by our spirit of love towards them that they asked for a meeting of all the rabbis with me and the other representatives of the Way. We might do it in May, but it is not confirmed.
ZENIT: One last question: Thinking of what lies ahead for the Way and the words of encouragement from the Pope today, what is your hope today?
Argüello: (Laughs) That the devil does not get so angry that he tries to entrap me![Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]