The Pope will mark 40 years of the Way in Rome with a celebration this Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica. The group began in Italy -- it was first founded in Spain -- in November, 1968, when the initiators Francisco (Kiko) Argüello and Carmen Hernández, with a priest from Seville, landed in Rome invited by Don Dino Torreggiani, a priest whose cause for beatification is under way.
In Saturday's celebration, the initiators will present to the Holy Father with what that first community has become: some 49 adults and 100 children, as well as other fruits.
From Rome -- the diocese where the Neocatechumenal Way is most established -- the Way has spread to all of Italy, where today there are some 5,000 communities, including some 200,000 adults and countless children, a communiqué from the organization reported. From Rome many itinerant teams have been sent out, bringing the Way to 120 countries and forming 20,000 communities in more than 5,500 parishes.
The Neocatechumenal Way has enjoyed the support of the recent Pontiffs, beginning with Pope Paul VI, the communiqué explained.
It noted how in a first audience in 1974, Paul VI greeted the Neocatechumenal communities with these words: "Here are the fruits of the Council! And this is something that consoles us enormously. You accomplish after baptism what the early Church once did before it: before or after is secondary. The fact is that you aim at the authenticity, at the fullness, at the coherence, at the sincerity of Christian life. And this is a great merit that consoles us enormously."
Pope John Paul II seconded his predecessor's praise, recognizing the Way in a 1990 letter as an "itinerary of Catholic formation valid for our society and our times."
And the present Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has known the Neocatechumenal Way since his years as a professor, helping to introduce it in Germany, the communiqué noted.
It explained: "[Benedict XVI] also guided the process that led to the definitive approval of the statutes [last year]. Already when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger had the theological content of the kerygmatic catechesis examined thoroughly, as well as the various passages of the Neocatechumenate, and in 2003 he communicated the final approval to the Pontifical Congregation for the Laity. In preparation for the final approval, the Holy See has also recognized some liturgical adaptations."
On Saturday, the Holy Father will also be presented with 14 communities from Rome (each formed by 30-60 persons) who have finished the Neocatechumenal itinerary, and who in agreement with their pastors and the cardinal vicar of Rome, are ready to leave as “communitates in missionem” to the most difficult and secularized areas of the periphery of the diocese.
There will also be the presentation of 14 missionary groups, requested from various bishops in secularized areas of great cities, such as Cologne, Budapest, Vienna, Stockholm and New York, and bishops from marginalized areas, such as among the Aborigines. Seven of these groups will go to Europe, two to America, three to Oceania and three to India. Each group is composed of one priest, four families with numerous children and two sisters to help sustain the families, totaling 40-50 persons.
These 14 groups will join the first seven families sent by the Pope in January 2006.
Some 212 more families will be presented before they are sent to support bishops around the world, following in the footsteps of 500 families who went several years ago.
These and other Neocatechumenal Way individuals and families will be offered to the Pope as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations. The event will conclude with the singing of the "Te Deum" and the apostolic blessing. Some 25,000 people are expected to attend.