Carrying Forward the New Evangelization (Part 1)

Interview With Neocatechumenate Initiator

By Inmaculada Álvarez

PORTO SAN GIORGIO, Italy, JULY 2, 2008 ( Baptism is the answer to secularization, since it is the sacrament that frees man from slavery to sin, affirmed one of the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Kiko Argüello affirmed this when he spoke with ZENIT on the occasion of the June 13 final approval of the group’s statutes. The Way, as Argüello explains, is a parish-based spiritual renewal movement that is helping to bring the Second Vatican Council to the lives of ordinary Catholics.

Q: What does this final approval of the statutes mean?

Argüello: Great joy and profound gratitude to the Lord and the Holy Virgin Mary, who has always helped us, and especially to Peter, in the person of Benedict XVI, who ratified the statutes.

For us it is a confirmation of 40 years of the Way throughout the world. From the slums of Palomeras Altas, to Rome in the Latin Borghetto, also in one of Lisbon’s poorest neighborhoods, waiting for the Lord to manifest his will. To come to this final approval, we have endured suffering, persecutions, processes, etc., which in the end have borne fruit.

Q: The decree of approval of the Neocatechumenal Way states that it responds to the intuitions of Vatican Council II. In what ways?

Argüello: We believe that the Way was inspired by God to actualize the Council in the life of parishes. In the first meeting we had with the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, when they examined for the first time the celebrations of the Way — at the time the Way was accused of “repeating” the sacrament of baptism, which wasn’t true — the committee of experts, which was then studying the elaboration of the “Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum,” was very surprised by what we were doing, because the Holy Spirit was already doing what they were trying to create.

Father Gottardo Pasqualetti, an expert in liturgy, came to one of our Masses. Later I received a call from the secretary of the Congregation to let me know that they were going to proclaim a “laudatio” in Latin for the whole Church. In it they said that if God does not inspire charisms that actualize a Council, it’s impossible to bring it to fulfillment.

When the Congregation studied the Way, the first thing it saw was that it was a gift of God to take Vatican II to the parishes, not a human project. And this is reflected in the “laudatio’s” text: saying that if after the Council of Trent, God had not inspired charisms to carry out the conciliar reform, the latter would have been very difficult, and that the same is true in the case of Vatican II: “‘praeclarum exemplar’ … in the Neocatechumenal communities.”

Another aspect is love of Scripture, referred to in the constitution Dei Verbum. This is evident in the Way, which has hermeneutical keys of interpretation of Scripture that allow for the rediscovery of the Old Testament in connection with the New, in addition to being able to contribute to liturgical and pastoral renewal, etc.

Also to be highlighted is the ecumenical spirit which has flourished through the Way; the Orthodox Church has shown great interest.

Q: Why is baptismal catechesis the key to evangelize modern man?

Argüello: Because baptism opens to us the door of the Church, participation in divine nature. As St. Paul says, “For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

The problem of the man of today is that, because of original sin, he lives everything for himself; he has placed himself at the center of the universe, substituting God as the center of his person, and does not realize that he lives enslaved, condemned to live for himself. This causes profound suffering, because the truth is something else; because God is total love, total giving to the other that he has shown in Christ; man suffers because he doesn’t love like Christ.

In countries where transcendence has been denied for years, where God has been denied, as in the former Communist countries, the rate of suicides is very high, because happiness is to live in the truth, and truth is love. And this original sin can only be erased through baptism.

That is why it is important to call men back to the faith, through preaching, the proclamation of the kerygma, the proclamation of Christ dead and risen. When Peter makes this proclamation on the day of Pentecost, the people are moved and ask him what they should do. Peter replies: “Be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The first baptismal fonts were pools — the Council talks again of immersion — to which the neophyte descended by steps. This first form of baptism represents perfectly what this sacrament means: death of the old man and resurrection to new life, to man regenerated by the Holy Spirit, who can love and give himself. That is why the crucified Christ is the true image of the free man.

Q: Is this, therefore, the answer to secularization?

Argüello: Of course. How can man be free of the sin that acts in him? Only Christ can free man, make him able to love others, make him share in his divine nature. This is something fantastic that changes man’s life; it must be told to the whole universe; the world must be re-evangelized.

As Pope John Paul II said, this new evangelization requires new ways, new contents, and this is what God has inspired through the Way. Now that the statutes have been approved, we can offer this Way to bishops and to the entire Church, to carry forward the new evangelization.

Q: The Way differs from other existing movements in its juridical form, given that it isn’t an association of faithful. Could you explain what type of form it has adopted?

Argüello: Precisely one of the novelties of the Way, as Bishop [Juan] Arrieta explains, who is a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, is that it has been given a public juridical personality, that is, that we act in the name of the Church.

The form it has adopted is that of a foundation of spiritual goods. To date foundations were created on the basis of patrimonies of a material type, as opposed to the Way, which manages a good of the Church, which is the catechumenate of adults, according to the guidelines set out by the initiators.

It is based on the bishop, given that it is the diocesan bishop who has full power in regard to Christian initiation. Consequently, the Way has no material good; the diocese is the titular of the goods. As the decree of approval states, the Way is an instrument, an itinerary of catechesis offered to the bishop for the evangelization of those who have fallen away.

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