DECREE OF APPROVAL OF STATUTES OF THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY ‘AD EXPERIMENTUM’
Cardinal J. Francis Stafford,
President, Pontifical Council for the Laity
On 28 June, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford gave to the founders of the Neocatechumenal Way the decree of approval ad experimentum for five years of the Statutes of the Way. Earlier the Holy Father had designated the Pontifical Council to oversee the writing of the Statutes. The approval formalizes the Holy Father's recognition expressed in a Letter of 30 August 1990 in which he stated: "I recognize the Neocatechumenal Way as a valid means of Catholic formation for society and for the present time". The Neocatechumenal Way was approved as a way of Christian initiation for the rediscovery of Baptism and ongoing formation of the baptized. It is also approved as a form of adult catechumenate to prepare adults for Baptism. The canonical challenge was to find an appropriate formula for the Way. It is not an ecclesial movement or an association of the faithful but a way of reviving Baptism or preparing for Baptism.
The Decree of approval is for five years (ad experimentum).
The Neocatechumenal Way beganin 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 the tripod: "Word of God-Liturgy-Community", that seeks to lead people to fraternal communion and mature faith.
Beginnings in Madrid and Spain
This new catechetical experience, born in the wake of the renewal inspired by the Second Vatican Council, attracted the keen interest of Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo, then Archbishop of Madrid, who encouraged the initiators of the Way to spread it to the parishes who asked for it. This experience of evangelization thus spread gradually through the Archdiocese of Madrid and to other Spanish dioceses.
Beginning in Rome
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, 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 Way has continued to spread to dioceses around the world and even to mission countries.
Itinerary for rediscovery of Baptism
The Neocatechumenal Way is at the service of the bishops and parish priests as an itinerary for the rediscovery of Baptism and an ongoing education in the faith, offered to the faithful who want to revive in their lives the riches of Christian initiation by travelling this path of conversion and catechesis. As the Holy Father wrote, in this process an important help can be offered by "a post-baptismal catechesis in the form of the catechumenate by presenting again some elements from the 'Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults' with the purpose of allowing a person to grasp and live the immense and extraordinary richness and responsibility of the Baptism he has received" (Christifideles laici, n. 61).
The Way—whose itinerary is lived in parishes and in small communities made up of people of different ages and social conditions—has the ultimate goal of gradually bringing the faithful to intimacy with Jesus Christ, making them active subjects of the Church and credible witnesses of the Good News of our Saviour everywhere. The Neocatechumenal Way is also an instrument for the Christian initiation of adults who are preparing themselves to receive Baptism.
Guidelines given for the Way
The actual practice of the Way follows the guidelines contained in the Catechetical Directory The Neocatechumenal Way, Guidelines for the teams of catechists (cf. Statutes,art. 2,2), subject to the joint approval of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Clergy and for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
At different times and in different ways, the Holy Father has addressed the Neocatechumenal Way in order to stress the abundant fruits of Gospel radicalism and the extraordinary missionary zeal that it brings to the life of the lay faithful, to families, to parish communities, and the wealth of vocations; it inspires to the priestly and religious life, proving to be an "itinerary of Catholic formation, valid for our society and our time" (AAS 82  1513-1515).
Request for statutes
In the audience granted to the initiators and directors of the Neocatechumenal Way from around the world on 24 January 1997, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 30 years of life of the Way, the Holy Father expressly urged the drafting of the Statutes, "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" (Address to the Neocatechumenal Way, 25 January 1997, p. 4; ORE, 5 February 1997, p. 9). From that moment, accompanied by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the initiators began the process of elaborating a set of norms that would able to regulate the practice and integration of the Neocatechumenal Way into the ecclesial framework.
Pontifical Council of the Laity
On 5 April 2001, in an Autograph Letter addressed to Cardinal James Francis Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Supreme Pontiff, while repeating his request, reconfirmed this Council's competence to approve the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way and entrusted to its competence the future guidance of the Way (cf. Letter to Cardinal Francis Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, 5April 2001; ORE, 2 May 2001, p. 5).
Taking into account the numerous spiritual fruits that the practice of the Neocatechumenal Way—whose existence has been accepted and appreciated in many local Churches for more than 30 years—has contributed to the new evangelization, and which have been reported to the Pontifical Council for the Laity by many letters of recommendation of Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops;
After careful examination of the text of the Statutes, the result of a laborious process of collaboration between the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who made use of the contribution in their areas of specific competence offered by the different departments of the Roman Curia;
Taking note of the request sent to this Council on 5 April 2002,of Mr Francisco (Kiko) Argüello, Ms Carmen Hernández and Fr Mario Pezzi, members of the international leadership team of the Neocatechumenal Way, asking the Council to hasten the approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way;
Relying on articles 131 and 133, § 1 and § 2, of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia, the Pontifical Council for the Laity
the approval "ad experimentum" for a Period of five years of the Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, as duly authenticated by the Council, of which a copy must be deposited in the archives of the Council. This is done with the confidence that the approved statutes offer firm and secure guide-lines for the life of the Way and are an important aid for Pastors in their fatherly and careful accompaniment of the neocatechumenal communities.
Given in the Vatican on 29June 2002,Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, Apostles, Patrons of the City of Rome.
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31 July 2002, page 11
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