On Liturgical Norms for the Neocatechumenal Way

Interview With Cardinal Arinze

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Liturgical norms issued by the Holy See to the Neocatechumenal Way were the result of more than two years of work, in which seven cardinals participated at the Pope\'s request.



So says Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, in this interview on Vatican Radio.

The cardinal commented on the letter that his dicastery sent in the name of Benedict XVI on Dec. 1 to leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way and on the Holy Father\'s address to members of the Way on Jan. 12.

Q: What do these documents say?

Cardinal Arinze: It is better to read the Holy Father\'s address […] I am not going to read the whole address, but only the part that addresses the liturgy. It was a joyful meeting: The Holy Father blessed many families of the Neocatechumenal Way that were about to be sent on mission.

Among other things, the Holy Father said: \"The importance of the liturgy in evangelization, and in particular of Holy Mass, has often been stressed by my Predecessors, and your long experience can certainly confirm that the centrality of the mystery of Christ celebrated in the liturgical rites is a privileged and indispensable way to build living and persevering Christian communities.\"

The Pope continued saying: \"Precisely to help the Neocatechumenal Way to render even more effective its evangelizing action in communion with all the People of God, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments recently imparted to you in my name certain norms concerning the Eucharistic Celebration, after the trial period that the Servant of God John Paul II conceded. I am sure you will attentively observe these norms that reflect what is provided for in the liturgical books approved by the Church.\"

These are the Holy Father\'s words. He was saying to them: \"I have given you directives through this congregation; follow them.\"

Q: What is the content of these directives?

Cardinal Arinze: On December 1, 2005, at the conclusion of many talks over a period of at least two years or more, our congregation wrote a two-page letter to the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way.

I will simply give the summary: \"In the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Neocatechumenal Way will accept and follow the liturgical books approved by the Church without omitting or adding anything.\"

This is the basic principle. To follow the approved books; not to add or take away.\" All the rest is detail; six more precise points are presented to respond to some petitions of the Neocatechumenal Way on matters relating to the Eucharistic celebration.

In the first place, on the Saturday night celebration: Sunday is the Lord\'s Day.

The Holy Father has decided that the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way, at least one Sunday a month, must participate in the holy Mass of the parish community. For the other three weeks, the Neocatechumenal Way must engage, in each diocese, in dialogue with the diocesan bishop.

In regard to the homily, pronounced always by the priest or the deacon, a brief occasional intervention may be made that does not have the appearance of a homily. This can also be accepted.

On the greeting of peace, the Neocatechumenal Way is granted the possibility of taking advantage of the indult already given, that is, that the exchange of peace take place before the Offertory, until a new disposition [is given].

In regard to the manner of receiving holy Communion, the Neocatechumenal Way is granted a period of transition, of no longer than two years\' duration, to pass from the generalized way of receiving Communion among its communities -- for example, seated, using an adorned table place in the center of the church, instead of the dedicated altar -- to the normal manner for the whole Church of receiving holy Communion.

This means that the Neocatechumenal Way must move toward the way established by the liturgical books for the distribution of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Finally, the Neocatechumenal Way must also use the other Eucharistic Prayers contained in the Missal and not only the second Eucharistic Prayer.

Q: How did this letter come about?

Cardinal Arinze: It stemmed from the results of this congregation\'s examination of the way in which the Neocatechumenal Way has celebrated holy Mass for many years, as, following the approval of the statutes by the Pontifical Council for the Laity -- for a five-year period -- the rest of the Vatican dicasteries had to effect the approvals in their domain. Our congregation\'s domain is the liturgy.

To carry out this examination, we created a mixed commission of persons named by the Neocatechumenal Way and by our congregation. In the discussions, many practices emerged which they carry out during the Mass. They were examined and it was seen that many of them were not done according to the approved books.

This is the background. Everything has been examined in many sessions by the mixed commission for a period of two years or more. And a discussion also took place among seven cardinals of the Roman Curia at the request of the Holy Father, who examined everything. Therefore, this letter is the conclusion of this whole process.