During the Sundays of Easter in this Year of Faith, the Neo-Catechumenal Way is carrying out an evangelization initiative called “100 Squares.”
One hundred squares, or plazas, situated nearby Roman parishes, are being used for evangelization, with people from around the world participating in the proclamation of Christ.
The method is the usual ones used by the Way for years in its open air missions: a dais, an icon, an ambo, a cross and numerous groups of young people armed with guitars, cymbals and drums and, above all, the spirit to witness to passers-by the wonders that the Lord has accomplished in their life.
The program was established by the initiators of the Neo-Catechumenal Way together with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, who on the first Saturday after Easter, April 6, celebrated a Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls to send forth the missionaries.
To learn more about this initiative, ZENIT spoke with Kiko Argüello, one of the initiators of the Way.
ZENIT: Kiko, for years the Neo-Catechumenal communities have been proclaiming the Good News on the streets. How did the idea come about to hold these great meetings in 100 Squares of Rome?
Argüello: Saint Paul says that “God willed to save the world through the foolishness of preaching.” This letter was written in Greek and, instead of the word “preaching,” Saint Paul uses the word kerygma, which means Good News. So we can say that, essentially, rather than a philosophy, a morality or a doctrine, Christianity is “news” that must be proclaimed and that saves those who receive it. It is the news that God sent his only Son so that he would give life to every man. And if man accepts this life that is offered to him, he receives salvation, victory over death, because Christ offered himself for each one of us, so that every sin of ours could be forgiven and we could receive the Holy Spirit who makes us new creatures.
ZENIT: In the Year of Faith that is under way, but also in a period of New Evangelization and, at the same time, of disarming secularization, how important is it to proclaim Jesus Christ also through new ways?
Argüello: It is essential for the Way to proclaim this “news.” The problem lies in understanding that today many people have a closed ear for any type of information, especially of a religious nature, due to prejudices, personal conflicts or passed experiences. Because of this, before proclaiming the kerigma, it is necessary to predispose people to listen, as Jesus Christ said. But how can it be done? As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, before every proclamation of the kerigma, God works a miracle, that is, he carries out an extraordinary event that puts man in the condition of opening his ears. However, these miracles cease when another even greater miracle occurs: the Church as a community that loves.
ZENIT: What is the objective of these great missions?
Argüello: To go out to the Squares means for us to give the great witness of so many young people who with their own experience attract passersby, perhaps only out of curiosity, moved especially by the singing, to hear the Good News of the Risen Christ. This is what the Neo-Catechumenal Way tries to do and that, among other things, we have been doing for years with the missio ad gentes. Thanks to this type of mission we have witnessed many conversions, especially of atheist people or those totally distanced from the Church, astonished and attracted by the songs, the cordiality among brothers, the experiences and the hearing of the kerigma, which touches man’s spirit profoundly, given that, as Saint Paul says, “it is the Spirit of Christ that gives witness to our spirit.”
ZENIT: Why, precisely, in the Squares?
Argüello: We don’t forget that we are in an historical moment of transition. In all ages, men have tried to find a refuge in the “sacred,” something that will defend them from natural catastrophes, sickness, and so forth. Today, however, man no longer has a need for religion because he has technology, scientific discoveries, etc. Just as the Church used religiosity, a “catechesis of the temple,” today we must find new ways that can reach contemporary man. There are those who say that today the “temples” — hence institutions, churches, etc. — are abandoned and, instead, the Squares are filled, Precisely because of this, we believe that it could be an event to show precisely in those places a new way of dialogue with persons, especially through the words of young people.
ZENIT: Pope Francis’ pontificate has been characterized up to now by the constant exhortation to go out, to follow Christ and evangelize, starting in fact from Rome. It seems that this initiative follows to the letter the Holy Father’s invitation. Does the Pope know about this initiative?
Argüello: After Benedict XVI proclaimed the Year of Faith we, of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, thought that a proposal for this very special time for the Church could be the proclamation of the Gospel in the streets. Then, when the new Pope was elected, we were surprised to hear in his homilies, in his audiences, the constant invitation to “go out” of oneself, out of parishes, out of homes, and go on the streets and the peripheries to evangelize. So it was a confirmation. In fact, when we suggested to the Holy Father the idea of evangelizing in the Squares, he said it was a “stupendous” mission and he encouraged us greatly.
ZENIT: What is Pope Francis’ relationship with the Neo-Catechumenal Way?
Argüello: He has always been a father and a good pastor for us. The itinerant team responsible for the Way in Argentina has told us that, when there were problems in some parishes, he himself intervened, speaking with the parish priest or actually inviting us to change parishes.
ZENIT: The initiative of the 100 Squares reminds us a bit of the several missions that the Neo-Catechumens carry out in the course of WYD pilgrimages. What is the Way preparing for the Rio de Janeiro Day?
Argüello: After the meeting with the Holy Father, we confirm the meeting with all young people of the world. In the Rio meeting, as in Madrid’s Cibeles Square, there will be a vocational appeal, this time geared especially to evangelization in Asia. We will invite boys and girls to be generous with the Lord, who is calling us to help Him, to take the Good News to all the corners of the earth.[Translation by ZENIT]