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Wednesday, 8 February 2006
Benedict XVI Brings the Neocatechumenals Back to the Right Way
The confidential document in which the pope cracks down on abuses in how the Neocatechumenal Way celebrates the Mass
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, December 27, 2005 – In his powerful pre-Christmas address to the curia, Benedict XVI dedicated a passage to the synod of bishops on the Eucharist, which was held in the Vatican last October.
The pope expressed his appreciation of the fact that “there is a reawakening in the Church of the joy of adoring the risen Lord present in the Eucharist flesh and blood, body and soul, divinity and humanity.”He recalled that this revival of Eucharistic adoration was also displayed during World Youth Day last August in Cologne.
And he contrasted with this a tendency that arose after the council, a tendency he sees as negative:
“In the period of liturgical reform, the Mass and adoration were often seen as conflicting with one another: according to a widespread objection at the time, the Eucharistic bread was given to be eaten, not contemplated.”
This tendency has left its mark on how the liturgy is celebrated in many places. And it still finds significant proponents.
For example, in the synod of last October, the archbishop of Agana on the island of Guam, Anthony Sablam Apuron, president of the Pacific bishops’ conference, asked that the practice of receiving communion while seated be extended, because “if the Eucharist is a banquet, then this is the most appropriate posture.”
He was seconded by Zbigniew Kiernikowski, bishop of Siedlce in Poland, who said that in order to emphasize fact that the Mass is a banquet, “the bread should look like food,” and “the chalice should be extended to be drunk from.”
Both of these bishops gave as an example to be followed the way in which the Mass is celebrated among the Neocatechumenals.
And in fact, among the new movements that have arisen in the Catholic Church, the Neocatechumenal Way is the one that goes the farthest in introducing innovations to the celebration of the Mass.
In the Neocatechumenal Way, communion is taken while seated around a large square table, with a large loaf of bread that is divided among the participants and wine that is passes from hand to hand and is taken in large swallows.
But communion is not the only area in which there is a departure from the traditional liturgy. There are significant innovations in other parts of the Mass.
For example, the readings from the liturgy of the Word are commented upon by the catechists of the group, who make lengthy “admonitions” followed by “resonances” from many of those present. The priest’s homily is hardly distinguished, or not distinguished at all, from the rest of the comments.
The times and places for the Mass are also unusual.
The Neocatechumenals do not celebrate their Masses on Sunday, but on Saturday evening, in small groups and separate from the parish communities to which they belong.
Each Neocatechumenal group corresponds to a different stage of the Way, so each group of 20-30 persons has its own Mass. If there are ten groups of Neocatechumenals in a parish, there will be ten different Masses on Saturday evening, in ten separate locations.
The statutes approved by the Holy See in 2002 require that the Masses of the Neocatechumenals be “open to other members of the faithful” (article 13.3), but in fact nothing has changed. The greetings, presentations, and applause during the entrance ceremony form a natural barrier to outsiders.
Benedict XVI has written the last word on all of this.
In mid-December, the founders and directors of the Neocatechumenal Way – Spaniards Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernandez, and the Italian priest Mario Pezzi – received a two-page letter from cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, with a list of “decisions of the Holy Father” which they must obey.
The letter is reproduced down below. Of the six points detailing the pope’s directives, only one permits the Neocatechumenals to continue what they are doing. This regards placing the exchange of peace before the offertory, a traditional practice in the Christian liturgy which is still in use today, for example, in the Ambrosian Rite celebrated in the archdiocese of Milan.
All the other points require the Neocatechumenal Way to eliminate a large portion of its liturgical innovations.
Until recently, the founders and directors of the Way had shielded these practices by claiming they had received verbal authorization from John Paul II. But with Benedict XVI, playtime is over.
And it’s coming to an end for the liturgical abuses practiced throughout the Church. In this regard, pope Joseph Ratzinger’s document in conclusion of the synod of the Eucharist will be of great interest.
Cardinal Arinze’s letter was delivered to Argüello, Hernandez, and Pezzi under confidentiality. But on December 22, the Vatican affairs journalist Andrea Tornielli broke the news of it in the newspaper “il Giornale.”
Here it is, in its entirety:
"I am to inform you of the Holy Father’s decisions..."
The complete text of Benedict XVI’s December 22, 2005 address to the Roman curia, in an English version edited by “Asia News”:
Posted by Church Mouse, 9:54 PM
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