Neocatechumenal Way

Neocatechumenal Way
Icon of the Virgin Mary by Kiko Argüello, the Spanish painter who initiated the Neocatechumenal Way.

The Neocatechumenal Way, also known as the Neocatechumenate, NC Way or, colloquially, The Way or The Neocats is an organization within the Catholic Church dedicated to the Christian formation of adults. It was initiated in Madrid in 1964 by artist and musician Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernandez as a response to the Second Vatican Council, and in 2008 was given definitive approval by the Holy See, receiving the status under Canon Law of a Public Juridical Person, sharing in the fullness of Catholic faith.[1]

Taking its inspiration from the catechumenate of the early Catholic Church, by which converts from paganism were prepared for baptism, it provides a post-baptismal catechumenate[2] to adults who are already members of the Church. Committed to the "New Evangelisation" called for by Pope John Paul II, the Neocatechumenal Way also runs 75 "Redemptoris Mater" diocesan missionary seminaries in locations as diverse as Rome, Karachi, Sydney and Guam, and is responsible for hundreds of "Families in Mission", living in many cities around the World.

The Neocatechumenate is implemented in small, parish-based communities of between 20-50 people. There are around 40,000 such communities throughout the World, with an estimated 1 million members.[3]

The Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way were approved ad experimentum in 2002 and the Church gave final approval of the statutes on June 13, 2008.[4]


History of the Neocatechumenal Way

The Pontifical Council for the Laity's decree officially describes the history of the Neocatechumenal communities (the Neocatechumenal way is a community; it is neither an organization nor a movement) as follows: “The Neocatechumenal Way began in 1964 in the slums of Palomeras Altas, Madrid, through the work of Mr. Francisco (Kiko) Argüello and Ms. Carmen Hernández who, at the request of the poor with whom they were living, began to proclaim to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As time passed, this kerygma was embodied in a catechetical synthesis, founded on what is called the tripod: "Word of God-Liturgy-Community", that seeks to lead people to fraternal communion and mature faith.

This new catechetical experience, born in the wake of the changes implemented after the Second Vatican Council, attracted the keen interest of Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo,[5] who encouraged the initiators of the Way to spread it to the parishes who asked for it.[6] This experience of evangelization thus spread gradually through the Archdiocese of Madrid and to other Spanish dioceses. In 1968, the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way arrived in Rome and settled in the Borghetto Latino. With the permission of Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua,[7] then Vicar General of His Holiness for the city and district of Rome, the first catechesis began in the parish of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and the Canadian Martyrs. Since then, the NC Way has continued to spread to dioceses around the world and even to mission countries”[8]

In 1974, thanks to Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the Congregation for Divine Worship publicized on their official magazine, a brief note Praeclarum exemplar appreciating the works of the Neocatechumenal communities.[9]

During the commemoration of the 30 years of life of the Way on January 24, 1997, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) expressly urged the drafting of the Statutes as, "a very important step that will open the way to the formal juridical recognition by the Church, and giving you a further guarantee of the authenticity of your charism" [10]

Nature and mission of the Neocatechumenal communities

According to its Statute, the Neocatechumenal Way “is at the service of the Bishops as a form of diocesan implementation of Christian initiation and of ongoing education in faith, in accordance with the indications of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Church”.[11]

It is made up of a "post-baptismal catechumenate" (or baptismal catechumenate if the members have not received the sacrament of baptism), an ongoing education in faith and a service of catechesis.[12] From the initial catechesis, it typically takes several years and passing through stages of faith formation in the local communities, until a member reaches the renewal of the baptismal vows (or the baptism).

The Neocatechumenal Way is implemented in the dioceses under the jurisdiction, direction of the diocesan Bishop[13] and with the guidance of the Responsible Team of the Way “according to the lines proposed by its initiators”.[14]

Leadership of the Neocatechumenal Way

The Neocatechumenate is led by the "International Responsible Team of the Way", which is composed of its founders, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, together with Father Mario Pezzi, a priest of the Diocese of Rome. Under the terms of the 2007 statute, the three members of this leadership team will remain in place for life, after which an electoral college of senior neocatechumenal catechists will elect a new team which, with the approval of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will have a mandate to lead the NC Way for a period of 7 years until new elections are held.[15]

Leadership at national and regional level is given by around 700 teams of "itinerant catechists", comprising a priest and 2 or 3 lay people, appointed and supervised by the International Responsible Team. Depending on the number of communities in a particular area, a team of Itinerant Catechists may be responsible for the implementation of the NC Way in a country, a group of countries or a region of a country.

Pope John Paul II summarized the role of the itinerant catechists in a Private Audience for 2000 priests of the Neocatechumenal Communities in December 1985 (reported in the Italian edition of Osservatore Romano, 11 December 1985):

"They contribute by forming the first neocatechumenal communities of a parish, and are supposed to maintain regular contact with the Bishops of the diocese in which they work; the itinerant teams preserve a constant link with the responsibles of the Neocatechumenal Way, visiting periodically the communities they catechized and taking care of the development of the Neocatechumenal Way in the territory assigned to them, being fully faithful to the charism given to the initiators and obedient to the local Ordinary."

Throughout the years that cover the lifespan of a local neocatechumenal community, the catechist team exercises authority over the community's faith based activities, and provides its members, as they 'walk' in their community, progress in faith and understanding of the Catholic doctrines following the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The itinerant catechists do not make any formal commitment to their missionary role, and are free to resign at any time.

Missionary activity

Responding to the secularization of Northern Europe and vast areas in the world, the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way introduced a program of families in mission. These missionary families serve to establish the presence of the Catholic Church in countries where there is none (this is referred as Implantatio Ecclesiae) or to strengthen the presence of Catholic communities in particularly difficult areas.[16]

On 12 January 2006, about 200 families met with Pope Benedict XVI asking for a missionary mandate before beginning their mission to mainly France, Belgium, Germany and China - bringing the number of Neocatechumenal “Families in Mission” to more than five-hundred in the entire world.[17]

In March 2008 the Neocatechumenal Way held a meeting with nine cardinals, including Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, and Cardinal Stanisław Rylko, and 160 European bishops who gathered March 24–29 at the Domus Galilaeae International Center on the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee. Cardinal Schönborn said that during "the last 40 years Europe has said ‘no’ to its future three times: in 1968 when it rejected 'Humanae Vitae'; then, 20 years later, with the legalization of abortion; and today with homosexual marriages." He also called the Neocatechumenal Way an "answer of the Holy Spirit to this situation." A joint declaration from the bishops said "Here we have an important proposal, the proposal of the Neocatechumenal Way, which is to renew the life of the family."[18]

On January 10, 2009, the pope met with over 10,000 people for a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way in Rome. From this celebration several whole communities were sent on mission, along with itinerant catechists, mission families, and the Missio Ad Gentes. The Missio Ad Gentes is a newer form of mission for the Neocatechumenal Way that involves sending three, four, or five whole families to a particular area at the request of the bishop.[19]

The Redemptoris Mater Seminaries

The seal of Redemptoris Mater seminaries

Kiko and Carmen were also inspired to open the Redemptoris Mater seminaries. This itinerary of Catholic formation prepares and awakens vocations in many young people before they enter the seminary. It accompanies them during their time of formation; once ordained as presbyters it continues to sustain them as an instrument for their permanent formation. The idea to establish these seminaries started in Rome, the diocese of the Holy Father, to establish a seminary with these characteristics:

  • international, i.e. with vocations coming from different nations;
  • missionary, i.e. that upon ordination, the priests are available to go wherever their ordinary sends them.[20]

In 1988, the first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was established by Cardinal Poletti, Vicar of the Holy Father in Rome.

In June 2007, Abuna Elias Chacour (Melkite Archbishop of the Archeparchy of Acri, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee) has proposed the establishment of a new "branch" of the Neocatechumenal Way "to work specifically in the Eastern-rite Church" (Melkite liturgy). Archbishop Chacour states in his message that he has searched for "someone or some community to preach the Good News to my parishioners" as an answer to proselytism of the sects, and that the Neocatechumenal Way is an answer. Fr. Rino Rossi received the letter with great joy and reported to ZENIT that "We share the sense of urgency expressed by Archbishop Chacour to evangelize 'the living stones' in the land of the Lord."[21]

Today there are Redemptoris Mater Seminaries all over the world in distinct places such as Managua (Nicaragua), Rome (Italy), Newark (NJ, USA), Madrid (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Guam, and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic).

It has now also been announced that a Redemptoris Mater Seminary of the Melkite Rite is due to open in 2008.

Statistics of the Neocatechumenal Way

The following table contains statistics for the number of communities in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and other countries. Communities are established in a parish within a diocese, and each community usually consists of between 20 to 50 people. (The details shown may not be up to date)

Americas - Nation Communities
Argentina Argentina 1,500
Belize Belize 4
Bolivia Bolivia 400
Brazil Brazil 5,600
Canada Canada 44
Chile Chile 460
Colombia Colombia 2,000
Costa Rica Costa Rica 350
Cuba Cuba 45
Dominican Republic Dominican Rep. 560
Ecuador Ecuador 570
El Salvador El Salvador 500
Guatemala Guatemala 800
Honduras Honduras 440
Mexico Mexico 3,200
Nicaragua Nicaragua 300
Panama Panamá 200
Paraguay Paraguay 500
Peru Perú 960
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico 130
Turks and Caicos Islands Turks and Caicos Islands 6
United States United States of America 750
Uruguay Uruguay 200
Venezuela Venezuela 1,100
Middle East - Nation Communities
Egypt Egypt 30
Iraq Iraq 9
Israel Israel 15
Jordan Jordan 2
Kuwait Kuwait 3
Lebanon Lebanon 52
Palestinian territories Palestine 2
Asia - Nation Communities
China China 9
Hong Kong Hong Kong 4
India India 250
Japan Japan 20
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 9
Malaysia Malaysia 14
Pakistan Pakistan 20
Philippines Philippines 700
Singapore Singapore 7
South Korea South Korea 40
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 7
Republic of China Taiwan 25
Europe - Nation Communities
Albania Albania 22
Andorra Andorra 20
Austria Austria 38
Belarus Belarus 11
Belgium Belgium 30
Bulgaria Bulgaria 10
Croatia Croatia 250
Cyprus Cyprus 5
Czech Republic Czech Republic 40
Denmark Denmark 7
Estonia Estonia 3
Finland Finland 9
France France 60
Georgia (country) Georgia 4
Germany Germany 50
Greece Greece 6
Hungary Hungary 40
Republic of Ireland Ireland 25
Italy Italy 10,000
Republic of Kosovo Kosovo 2
Latvia Latvia 9
Lithuania Lithuania 20
Luxembourg Luxembourg 1
Malta Malta 100
Monaco Monaco 4
Netherlands Netherlands 40
Norway Norway 1
Poland Poland 1,000
Portugal Portugal 300
Romania Romania 50
Russia Russia 5
San Marino San Marino 5
Serbia Bosnia and Herzegovina Republic of Macedonia Serbia, Bosnia & Macedonia 30
Slovakia Slovakia 65
Slovenia Slovenia 40
Switzerland Switzerland 35
Spain Spain 7,000
Sweden Sweden 14
Turkey Turkey 10
Ukraine Ukraine 45
United Kingdom United Kingdom 51
Oceania - Nation Communities
Australia Australia 60
Guam Guam 31
Kiribati Kiribati 3
Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands 10
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea 1
Africa - Nation Communities
Egypt Egypt 30
Morocco Morocco 2
Sudan Sudan 5
Tunisia Tunisia 2
Zambia Zambia 50
Namibia Namibia 2

The highest number of communities found in Europe (and the World) are found in Italy (10,000 communities) and Spain (7,000 communities).

The highest number of communities in the world in a country per capita is found in Malta, which has 100 communities in an island of 400,000 persons, which is the equivalent of twice the number of communities both in Italy and in Spain.

The Neocatechumenal Way in the Holy Land

During the vocational meeting held near the Sea of Galilee by the Neocatechumenal Way right after Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land in May 2009, Kiko Arguello briefly described the Way in the Holy Land, which encompasses Israel and Palestine. There are around 30 communities which follow several different Christian rites, and are an example of the ecumenical breakthroughs which the Neocatechumenal Way has made in recent years.

There are seven communities following the Latin Rite, in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Betlehem and Cana.

Apart from running a Redemptoris Mater Seminary within the Domus Galilaeae, the Greek Catholic (Melchite) rite also has 12 communities in several Palestinian villages: three each in Shefamer, Tarshiha and Melia, two in Ibilin and one in Cana.

Additionally, there are two Maronite communities in Gish and Haifa, as well as two Hebrew-speaking communities in Haifa and Tel Aviv. The Neocatechumenal Way in the Holy Land has also started in the Greek Orthodox Church.

The World Youth Days

Every three years the World Youth Day has been organized by the Roman Catholic Church, during which the Pope summons youths from all over the world to a chosen city. The Neocatechumenal Way has been an active organizer within the World Youth Days and has rallied young members of the Neocatechumenal communities to attend. During the last World Youth Day, held in Sydney, Cardinal George Pell said that of the 110,000 international visitors that attended, 40,000 were from the Neocatechumenal Way.[22] During the week before the WYD the youth from the Way went announcing the gospel to all peoples of Australia. In Cologne in August 2005, nearly one hundred thousand youth from the NC Way met in Cologne (nearly about 10% of the total of all the youths from around the World who attended the event).

After the meeting with the Pope held for all the youths, the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way organize a meeting with young members of the Neocatechumenal Way, during which a vocational call is done by Kiko Argüello. In Sydney around one thousand five hundred (1,500) men answered the call for the priesthood and eight hundred and fifty (850) young women stood up to show their willingness to a consecrated life. In Bonn (2005) around one thousand five hundred (1,500) young men, together with another nine hundred (900) young women answered the call.

These young men and women, begin a process of discernment in their own dioceses and NC Way communities (most of the priestly vocations go to a "Redemptoris Mater" seminary), which may lead to priesthood or consecrated life.[23]

At a meeting in Loreto in September 2007 led by Pope Benedict XVI, which was organized as a run-up to the WYD in Sydney in 2008, more than 100,000 Neocatechumenal Way youths exclusively from Europe attended the meeting.

In the July 2008 meeting in Sydney, around 40,000 young members of the Neocatechumenal Way from around the world met for a vocational meeting presided by Cardinal Pell, and a large number of cardinals and archbishops as well as bishops from around the world. The youths embarked on evangelization routes around Australia in all the states and territories before gathering for the WYD celebrations at Randwick Course and later for the Neocatechumenal Way Vocational meeting were around 2,300 young people answered the call for vocations.

Since the meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1984 the Way has had vocational calls in order to “harvest the fruits” which grew in the encounters with the Holy Father. When the call was made in Loreto, some 2,000 men and 1,200 women stood up; showing their willingness to become priests or to live a consecrated life and received a blessing.

In the Sydney meeting in 2008, Kiko called for a 250,000 Neocatechumenal-youth presence at the Madrid World Youth Day. And in deed, some 300 000 youth formed the gathering at Madrid's central meeting point at Plaza de Cibeles and adjacent streets like Castellana and the Gran Vía, the day after papal celebrations at Cuatro Vientos.

The Statutes

Through the statutes the Neocatechumenal Way was endowed with “public juridical personality" status.[24] Granted through the Pontifical Council for the Laity and reinforced in the Statutes,[25] this means the Neocatechumenal Way is closely governed by an ecclesiastical authority, that it performs entrusted functions “in the name of the church,” and that it has no material goods of its own.[26]

The Statutes describe the nature of the Way and regulate its charism and specific tasks within the Church[27]. It took at least ten years for the Vatican officials and the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way to create a juridical document for the dynamic new reality that emerged as a grass-root off-spring of the renewal of the Second Vatican Council. The first approval of these statutes was received in June 2002 and marked ad experimentum (meaning "provisional") for five years. Final approval of the Statutes came in June 2008.[4]

The Statuta of the Neocatechumenal Way[28] refer extensively to many post-Vatican II Church documents, to prove that essential elements of the charism of the neocatechumenal itinerary of Christian initiation are in the heart of the present day teaching of the Church about the catechesis. One of the most often quoted document is the General Directory for Catechesis by Vatican dicastery Congregation for the Clergy, e.g.:

  • Christian initiation as basic and fundamental for a parish. The General Directory for Catechesis reads:
Initiatory catechesis is thus the necessary link between missionary activity, which calls to faith, and pastoral activity, which continually nourishes the Christian community. This is not, therefore, an optional activity, but basic and fundamental... Without it, missionary activity lacks continuity and is sterile, while pastoral activity lacks roots and becomes superficial and confused: any misfortune could cause collapse of the entire building. No 64 cf also 91 (Statuta, Art. 6 §2)
  • role of a parish priest, no 225 (Statuta, Art. 6 §2), and of teams of catechists - no 268 (Statuta, Art. 17 §3)
  • community dimension:
Catechesis prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church - no 86 (Statuta, Art. 17 §1).
Ongoing formation in the faith is directed not only to Christians individually, to accompany them on their journey towards holiness, but also to the Christian community as such so that it may mature also in its interior life of love of God and of the brethren, as well as in its openness to the world as missionary community The desire of Jesus and his prayer to the Father are an unceasing appeal: 'May they all be one; even as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me' (Jn 17:21). Approaching this ideal, little by little, demands of the community a great fidelity to the action of the Holy Spirit, constant nourishment with the Body and Blood of the Lord and ongoing education in faith, in listening to the Word. - no 70 (Statuta, Art. 22 §1)
  • fostering vocations - no 86 (Statuta, Art. 18 §1)
  • transmitting faith by parents to their children - nos 226-225 and 255, cf. CIC c.774 §2; CCEO c. 618.

The Statutes refer to a Catechetical Directory, which has been recently approved by the Pontifical Council for Laity.

The Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way

After thorough examination by various Vatican dicasteries, among them Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Dec. 26, 2010 Pontifical Council for the Laity approved the 13 volume text of the catecheses which are handed on to neo-catechumens during the whole of neocatechumenal itinerary.[29][30][31] Pope Benedict XVI, who knows the content of the catechesis of the Way from the time he was a bishop of Munich praised the approval, calling it ecclesiastic seals for the whole of neocatechumenal teaching:

Another significant step carried out in these days, with the approval of the competent dicasteries of the Holy See, is the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way. With these ecclesiastical seals, the Lord confirms today and entrusts to you again this precious instrument that is the Way, so that you can, in filial obedience to the Holy See and to the pastors of the Church, contribute, with new impetus and ardor, to the radical and joyful rediscovery of the gift of baptism and to offer your original contribution to the cause of the New Evangelization. The Church has recognized in the Neocatechumenal Way a particular gift aroused by the Holy Spirit: as such, it tends naturally to insert itself in the great harmony of the ecclesial body. (Address of Benedict XVI delivered upon receiving in audience members of the Neocatechumenal Way, Jan. 17th, 2011)[32]


Liturgy is regarded by the Way as one of its three fundamental elements (tripod), along with the word of God and Christian community. (Cf. Statutes Art. 8§2) Paschal mystery, celebrated in the Sacred Triduum, is seen as a liturgical axis and source of Christian life and a fulcrum of the Neocatechumenate which leads to rediscovery of Christian initiation. (Cf. Statutes Art. 12§1) After the Easter liturgical celebrations, the most important place is given to the Eucharist as something that completes Christian initiation and builds a small community in which catechumens follow their itinerary (Cf. Statutes Art. 13§1).

Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has accompanied the liturgical renewal of the Eucharistic celebration by the Neocatechumenal Way from the very beginning[33]. Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist at the meeting with the communities in Porto San Giorgio in 1989, exactly as the communities do it, including the communion rite in a sitting position.

Francis Arinze, then Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was not fully willing to accept the differences in the liturgy of the neocatechumenal Eucharist, accepted by his predecessors. On 12 December 2005, he wrote a private letter to Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Father Mario Pezzi on behalf of Pope Benedict.[34] This letter directed: "In the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Neocatechumenal Way shall accept and follow the liturgical books approved by the Church, without omitting or adding anything." The letter directed members of the Neocatechumenal Way to adopt the prescribed method of receiving Holy Communion, to participate in parish life, and to celebrate Mass with the rest of the parish community on at least one Sunday each month.

This private letter of Cardinal Arinze has been superseded by the Final Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way when it expresses that “the celebrations of the Eucharist of the neocatechumenal communities on Saturday evening are part of the Sunday liturgical pastoral work of the parish and are open also to other faithful.”[35] This means that by participating in the Saturday evening Eucharistic celebration with their communities, members of the Neocatechumenal Way are already partaking in the Holy Mass of the parish community.

In his Canonical Observations on the Definitive Approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, Msgr. Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts summarizes the liturgical concessions of the Neocatechumenal Way as follows: “First, that the neocatechumens celebrate the Eucharist in the small community, after the First Vespers of Sunday. Second, that this celebration, after First Vespers takes place according to the disposition of the diocesan bishop. Third, that these celebrations [...] are part of the pastoral work and consequently are open to all the faithful. Fourth, that in these celebrations the liturgical books approved by the Roman Rite are followed, 'with the exception of the explicit concessions from the Holy See' (always with unleavened bread), moving the rite of peace before the consecration, communion under both species, brief admonitions and echoes and, finally, a new way for the distribution of Communion: 'Regarding the distribution of Holy Communion under the two species, the neocatechumens receive standing, remaining at their place.'[36] In practice, the faithful receive the broken consecrated bread (now the Body of Christ) into the palm while standing, take seat and wait until all the faithful receive the consecrated bread. Then the presbyter says 'Body of Christ, bring us everlasting life!' and the whole congregation consumes together. Sharing the cup takes place afterward, individually, while the faithful are standing at their seats and the presbyter carries the chalice around.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Razón, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship expressed his view on the Eucharistic celebration of the Neocatechumenal Way: “There are no liturgical anomalies [in the Eucharist]; everything is in full compliance of the guidelines of the ‘Ordo Missae.’ What I have really seen there are Eucharists celebrated without any hurry, with a great faith, and where you can perceive the joy and the thanksgiving for the gift which is being bestowed in the Eucharist.” [37]

The Statutes also mention the sacrament of Penance celebrated according to the rite of reconciliation for multiple penitents, with individual confession and absolution.[38]


During the 40 years since its inception the Neocatechumenal Way has drawn some criticism, especially in the 1980s and the 1990s, by some priests, theologians and by local bishops, who expressed concerns about the orthodoxy of its teachings and the validity of its liturgical practices. In 1995, the Italian Passionist priest and theologian Enrico Zoffoli published a savage critique of the Neocatechumenal Way in which he accused the movement of heretical ideas: “Their doctrine is seriously compromised with errors against fundamental dogmatics of the Church, the Popes and the Councils. They negate the Redemption, the sacrifice character of the Eucharist, the transubstantiation, etc... they misunderstand the sin and the Grace concepts... their doctrinal statements are fundamentally wrong.” In particular, he warned bishops of the dangers of allowing Redemptoris Mater seminaries to open in their dioceses: "The building of Neocatechumenal seminaries, where candidates are prepared for the priesthood educated in accordance with the doctrinal errors of Kiko, could be one of the worst threats for the Church of tomorrow.".[39]

The Neocatechumenal Way has never made any official pronouncement regarding the accusations of heresy, but have always relied on declarations by the Holy See. The two strongest signs of approval by the Holy See was the approval of the Statutes in 2008 and in the reaffirmation of the Orientations for the Teams of Catechists, also known as the Catechetical Directory, of the approval first issued in 2003 and then again in January 2011.[40] These indicate the approval of the Church in both the structure of the Neocatechumenal Way and also of its teachings.

Another area for concern has been the allegations that the Way could have a divisive impact on the Catholic parishes it moves into. The Neocatechumenal communities are made up of people from the parish and they do not celebrate their Masses on Sunday but on Saturday evening with the Sunday Vigil Mass, in small groups in the church and separately from the parish communities to which they belong.[41]

In France, the Neocatechumenate was first introduced into the parish of St Germain-des-Prés in Paris. However, protracted disputation followed, and the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal François Marty, blocked any further expansion before his retirement in 1981.[42] During 1992, similar controversy at the parish of Pulnoy-Cerville prompted the bishop of Nancy to transfer catechists to another parish.[43]

In the Diocese of Clifton, Bristol, an extensive investigation of the communities in 1994 reported that the movement was "a form of spiritual enslavement" and that its presence in parishes was "completely divisive and destructive." The Bishop Mervyn Alexander issued a decree the next year banning the Neocatechumenal Way from further activity in the Diocese.[44]

A priest who follows the Neocatechumenal Way is sometimes erroneously referred to as a "Neocatechumenal Way priest". Supporters of the Way say the term is misleading because the Way is not a movement. Any priest may follow the Way, e.g. a diocesan priest as well as a Dominican priest. The priests formed in the Redemptoris Mater seminaries are expected to be subject to their diocesan Bishops.

At St. Vincent's church, Sydney, Australia, a Neocatechumenal Way priest was appointed in 2003; he replaced practices and structures introduced by the previous parish priest. Many of the indigenous parish members challenged this and disputes continued for several years.[45]

In the Philippines, the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan imposed a temporary moratorium on all initial catechesis in the Way within that Archdiocese in May 2010. No new communities will be opened, and no new members may be initiated. He explained that "despite its positive effects ... there are certain concerns about the direction the Neocatechumenate is leading to".[46]

Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada has described the Way's presence in Japan’s small Catholic community as "a serious problem" and "divisive and confrontational". In 2010, the Japanese episcopal conference announced that it would suspend the activities of the movement in Japan for five years. However, Pope Benedict XVI refused the request from four Japanese bishops on December 13 in Rome, saying that a delegate would be sent to see the situation speaking to both clergy and laity alike.[47] The Takamatsu Redemptoris Mater seminary was relocated to Rome in 2009.

A former assistant-general of the Marist Fathers, New Zealand social anthropologist Gerald Arbuckle SM warned superiors of Catholic religious orders that they need to limit involvement with the Neocatechumenal Way by members of their communities: "I believe that no authentic religious can belong to a sect.” In particular, he criticised the NC's rejection of "the Gospel commitment to inculturation" (the commitment to interact in a non-imperialistic way with local cultures).[48]

Recent developments

Pope meets with Roman clergy (2/2007)

On Thursday 22 February 2007, Pope Benedict XVI met the clergy of Rome in a question-and-answer session. Fr. Gerardo Raul Carcar asked the Pope for advice on how he should integrate movements in order to develop a real ministry of unity in the universal Church.

The Neocatechumenal Way was mentioned briefly by the Pope as follows:

"For example, we ask ourselves whether, after five years of experience, it is possible to confirm definitively the Statutes for the Neocatechumenal Way, whether a trial period is necessary or whether, perhaps, certain elements of this structure need perfecting. In any case, I knew the Neocatechumenals from the very outset. It was a long Way, with many complications that still exist today, but we have found an ecclesial form that has already vastly improved the relationship between the Pastor and the Way. We are going ahead like this! The same can be said for other Movements."

The Holy Father cited two rules for movements' growth: respect for the charism, and integration with and service of the Church.[49]

A letter from the bishops of the Holy Land (2/2007)

Three days later, on the 25, The Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land wrote a letter to Kiko saying, amongst other things: The Catholic bishops of the Holy Land wrote a letter welcoming the Neocatechumenal Way, giving indications for its work in the area.

"Brothers and sisters of the Way: You are welcome in our dioceses," the bishops wrote in their letter released Sunday. "We thank God for the grace the Lord has given you and for the charism that the Holy Spirit has infused in the Church through your ministry of post-baptismal formation.

"We are grateful for your presence in some of our parishes, for the preaching of the Word of God, for the help given to our faithful in deepening their faith and in rooting them in their own local church."

Melkite Leader Invites Neocatechumenal Way (5/2007)

The leader of the Melkite Greek Catholics of Galilee has proposed the establishment of a new "branch" of the Neocatechumenal Way to work specifically in the Eastern-rite Church in Galilee.

Archbishop Elias Chacour recognized that this ecclesial reality is bearing "excellent fruits" in its evangelizing work within the Melkite Church.

Archbishop Chacour states in his message that he has searched for "someone or some community to preach the Good News to my parishioners" as an answer to proselytism of the sects, and that the Neocatechumenal Way is an answer.

To further develop the fruits of this evangelization, the archbishop proposes the establishment of a new branch of the Neocatechumenal Way that would work within the Melkite Church and adopt its liturgy.

"You follow with your procedures the same path and the same methods, my Ancestors, the Apostles, used at the beginning of Christianity two thousand years ago," Archbishop Chacour writes. "You proclaim the Word of God fearlessly with conviction and with determination."

Final Approval by the Holy See (6/2008)

On June 13, 2008, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, published a decree containing the definitive approval of the statutes of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. During a celebration held in the offices of the council, the cardinal handed the decree of approval and a final draft of the statutes to Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, initiators of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and to the Italian priest Fr. Mario Pezzi. The process of approval was prolonged because it involved the areas of responsibility of five separate Vatican dicasteries: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, and the Congregation for Catholic Education, all of which gave careful examination to the statutes, alongside the Pontifical Council for the Laity which co-ordinated and concluded the process.

"Thus ends the process that began in 1997" reads a communiqué on the subject released by the Neo-Catechumenal Way. A process that began "at the behest of John Paul II to give the Way 'formal legal recognition' and to make it a 'universal patrimony of the Church'". In the communique the founders of the Neo-Catechumenal Way explained how "our recognition and gratitude go out to Pope Benedict XVI who with great love has followed and approved the conclusion of this work.[4]

Benedict XVI Gives Thanks for Neocatechumenal Way (1/2009)

Benedict XVI gave thanks to God for the fruits of the evangelical efforts of the Neocatechumenal Way, as that Catholic lay group celebrated 40 years of foundation in Rome.

In an event on Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the anniversary, the Pope addressed some 25,000 members of the Way. The group's founders, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, as well as Father Mario Pezzi were in attendance.

"How can we not bless the Lord for the spiritual fruits which, through the methodology of evangelization that you apply, have been harvested in these years," the Holy Father asked. "How many fresh apostolic energies have risen up both among priests and among laypeople! How many men and women and how many families that had grown distant from the ecclesial community or had abandoned the practice of Christian life, through the announcement of the kerygma and the itinerary of rediscovery of baptism, have been helped to find again the joy of the faith and the enthusiasm of the testimony of the Gospel."

The Bishop of Rome recognized that the recent approval of the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way by the Pontifical Council for the Laity "has sealed the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows this work that the Lord has stirred up through the initiators [of the Way]."

The Pontiff went on to affirm that the full realization of the work comes with "docile adherence to the directives" of the bishops and "with communion with all of the other components of the People of God."

"This unity, gift of the Holy Spirit and incessant quest of believers, makes of each community a living and well-integrated joint in the mystical body of Christ," he said.

Finally, Benedict XVI gave thanks to God for the "great number of priests and consecrated persons that the Lord has risen up in your communities."

During the event, Argüello presented some of the fruits of the Neocatechumenal Way: more than 200 families who will go out to various parts of the world to announce the Gospel, joining another 500 already on mission; 700 people who have spread the experience of the Way around the world; 15 new groups of three to four families with a priest who will go to live in cities where the practice of the Christian faith is weak.

Argüello presented these and other groups to the Holy Father, who gave them his blessing.

The Pope then presented a representative number with a silver cross, symbol of the mission entrusted to them. The event concluded with the singing of the "Te Deum."

Neocatechumenal Way Accompanies Pope to Holy Land (5/2009)

More than 7,000 European youth of the Catholic lay Neocatechumenal Way accompanied Benedict XVI on his trip to the Holy Land in May 2009.

The young people made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the eight days of the Pope's visit, and participated in the various events planned for those days in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Youths from all over Europe and beyond, met with the founders and leaders of the Neocatechumenate, in a retreat house run by the group on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Domus Galilaeae). They also visited Upper Galilee in order to hold meetings with Orthodox, Byzantine and Maronite young people of the region.

Notes, documents and references

  1. ^ See Statutes
  2. ^ The term post-baptismal catechumenate is also used in the §1231 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, related to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself, “By its very nature infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate.”
  3. ^ Source: Kiko Argüello meets with Benedict XVI (27 May 2007).
  4. ^ a b c Multiple sources report this Zenit, Radio Vaticana and CBC news
  5. ^ Casimiro Morcillo González (1904-1971) was the first Archbishop of Madrid.
  6. ^ (Carmen Hernández speech says Morcillo visited the slums (in Italian) June 28, 2002).
  7. ^ Father Dino Torreggiani (1905-1983), wrote a presentation letter to Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua (source: Kiko, Dossetti e 'le ironie della sorte' (
  8. ^ Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, June 2002.
  9. ^ Cfr. Notitiae, n. 95-96, June–August 1974, pp. 229-230.
  10. ^ Address to the Neocatechumenal Way, 25 January 1997, p. 4; ORE, 5 February 1997, p. 9.
  11. ^ Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title I, Art. 1, § 2.
  12. ^ Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title I, Art. 1, § 3.
  13. ^ Congregation For the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, 223: see c. 755 §1 CIC; c. 617 CCEO
  14. ^ Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title I, Art. 2, citing John Paul II, letter Ogniqualvolta, 30 August 1990, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), nr. 82 (1990), page 1515.
  15. ^ Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title VI, Art. 34-35.
  16. ^ Homily of Pope John Paul II recorded in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, 31st December, 1988)
  17. ^ Benedict XVI speech to Neocatechumenals (12-Jan-2006).
  18. ^ Neocatechumenal Way Saying "Yes" to Europe.
  19. ^ Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI to members of the Neocatechumenal Way on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of its Origins in Rome
  20. ^ (cfr. chapter 10 of Presbyterorum Ordinis)
  21. ^ Melkite Leader Invites Neocatechumenal Way | Zenit
  22. ^ Homily of Cardinal Pell
  23. ^ Source: Neocatechumenal Meeting Attracts 90,000 (from Zenit News Agency).
  24. ^ Pontifical Council for the Laity, Decree
  25. ^ Canon 116 § 2
  26. ^ Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way Title 1 Art. 4
  27. ^ "From the Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way - Nature of the Neocatechumenal Way". 
  28. ^ (in it) Neocatechumenal Way. Statuta - Final Approval. Rome: Neocatechumenal Center. 11 May 2008. pp. 67. 
  29. ^ "Decreto". Retrieved Oct. 21, 2011. 
  30. ^ Neocatechumenal Way receives Vatican approval for its teachings, instructions from Pope
  31. ^ Church Gives Final OK to Neocatechumenate | Zenit
  32. ^ "Benedict XVI's Address to Neocatechumenal Way". Zenit. The world Seen from Rome. Jan. 17, 2011. Retrieved Oct. 20, 20110. 
  33. ^ Cf. Notice of the Congregation for the Divine Worship on the celebrations in the groups of the Neocatechumenal Way, in L’Oss. Rom. (Italian), 24 Dec. 1988
  34. ^ On Liturgical Norms for the Neocatechumenal Way
  35. ^ Final Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, Art. 13, § 3.
  36. ^ Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Legislative Texts, Canonical Observations of the Definitive Approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, 2008,
  37. ^ Interview with Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, December 14, 2008
  38. ^ Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, Title II, Art. 14 § 1
  39. ^ Enrico Zoffoli, "The Neocatechumenals: Who they are, What their creed is, What we should think of them"
  40. ^ Neocatechumenal Way receives Vatican approval for its teachings, instructions from Pope
  41. ^ [1]
  42. ^ Gordon Urquhart, The Pope's Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Catholic Church, Bantam, 1995 p.109
  43. ^ Michael McGrade, "The Last Trojan Horse", Christian Order, October 2002
  44. ^ Madeleine Bunting, "An Elite of the Damned", The Guardian, 2 March 1996
  45. ^ David Marr, "The great St Vincent's break-in" Sydney Morning Herald, 31 July 2006
  46. ^ Neocatechumenal Way in Lingayen-Dagupan
  47. ^ Catholic News Agency report
  48. ^ [2] Gerald Arbuckle SM, "Is the Neocatechumenal Way Compatible With Religious Life?", Religious Life Review, Ireland, Jan-Feb 1994 , Vol.33, No.164.
  49. ^ Lenten meeting with the clergy of Rome: Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI

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