In the letter, the Holy Father confirms that "as far as it pertains to the celebrations of the Paschal Vigil and the Sunday Eucharist, […] articles 12 and 13 [of the Statutes], read in their entirety, constitute therefore the regulatory charter of reference."
This message was in response to a letter sent previously by Kiko Argüello in which he told the Pope of his concern about several negative interpretations of the words of the Holy Father addressed to a group of some 12,000 neocatechumens on February 1st, 2014.
In his response, Pope Francis not only confirmed the full validity of the Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, but acknowledged "the evangelizing dynamism of the Neocatechumenal Way, the experience of authentic conversion of life of so very many faithful, and the fruits of good generated thanks to the presence of the communities all over the world."
The Pope confirms his "paternal closeness" and sent "loving encouragement to [Argüello] and to all adherents to the Way." The letter concludes assuring the initiator of the Way of the "closeness" and "memory in the Lord" of Pope Francis, while sending "from His heart to you, to the International Team and to all the adherents to the Neocatechumenal Way, His Apostolic Blessing."
ZENIT spoke with Argüello to explain the significance of this letter.
* * *
ZENIT: What motivated you to write to the Holy Father?
Argüello: During the course of the audience that the Pope had on February 1st, Francis sent 450 families in mission in China, Vietnam, India and Mongolia, as well as in many other cities in Europe and in the world.
In the indications given to the families, full of joy in seeing so many children, he said that at times, to find communion with the dioceses where the families are sent, that they could renounce "some details" to foster the ecclesial communion with the diocese. We agree that ecclesial communion is very important, but these words were read out of context and interpreted negatively by some who are not favorable towards the Way: immediately they took away the Eucharist celebrated in community on Saturday night at the Sunday vigil, and eliminated the Paschal Vigil of the community, and this was a terrible harm.
This development prompted me to write a letter to the Pope expressing my concerns. Because the problem is: who decides which details can be removed? Maybe it meant that the statutes approved by the Holy See were no longer valid?
Because of these interpretations, some pastors and bishops have begun to change the liturgical praxis of the Neocatechumenal Way that was approved in 2008 by five Congregations of the Holy See, after a process that lasted several years.
ZENIT: What does the response of the Holy Father mean in this regard?
Argüello: The Holy Father, in this letter sent by Archbishop [Angelo] Becciu, confirms that what he has said in the indications to the families does not touch at all the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way and, citing article 12, which speaks on the Paschal Vigil, and article 13, which speaks of the Eucharist of the Way, he confirms that "as far as it pertains to the celebrations of the Paschal Vigil and the Sunday Eucharist" those articles are "the regulatory charter of reference" for the Way.
So, thanks to God, the Pope has saved us, because the details of one song or of a particular thing can be changed, we agree, but we had these interpretations that seemed to nullify the statutes.
We are very happy that the Pope loves us and defends us.
ZENIT: Why are these two articles so important?
Argüello: Article 13 is very important because it says that the Neocatechumenal Way celebrates the Eucharist after the first vespers of Sunday in small communities, and that these celebrations are part of the liturgical ministry of the parish and are open to everybody.
This is something wonderful because the communities are full of young people and we were able to ensure that the youth, instead of going to nightclubs on Saturday night, come to the Sunday Eucharist. The Holy See, understanding this pastoral reason, allowed some concessions to help the participation of so many young people. For us this is fundamental, because in the end, there is one point: why do we have so many children? It is as if some wished to punish us for this.
The fact of having obeyed Humanae Vitae has made it so that we are full of youth and these youth are all in the Church and from these youth the vocations to the seminary are born. There are 100 seminaries where the vocations that come from these families can be found and the Pope has understood this very well.
Regarding article 12, the communities from all over the world are helping the parishes to rediscover the Paschal Vigil. The Holy See, in the fundamental document on the Paschal Vigil, Paschalis Solemnitatis, expressed sorrow in seeing that the Paschal Vigil, instead of being "the mother of all vigils" and the center of the liturgical life of the Faithful, has been reduced instead in many parishes to an evening Mass.
Article 12 of the statute states that "the Neocatechumenate will stimulate the parish to have a richer celebration of the Paschal Vigil." His Eminence, Cardinal [Antonio] Cañizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has precisely underlined this role of the Neocatechumenal communities, saying that the Polish Episcopal Conference, for example, has thanked the Way because it is helping to recuperate and rediscover the importance of the Paschal Vigil in all of Poland.
--- --- ---
On ZENIT's webpage:
For the full text of Archbishop Becciu's letter to Kiko Argüello: