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Neocatechumenate on the Holy See's Guidelines

Interview With Giuseppe Gennarini

NEW YORK, JAN. 1, 2006 (Zenit) - The Neocatechumenal Way welcomed the Holy See's dispositions on the celebration of Mass within the Way's communities.

The guidelines were presented in a letter, dated Dec. 1, signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. It is addressed to the Way's initiators and directors: Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández and Father Mario Pezzi.

To better understand the document, we interviewed Giuseppe Gennarini, a spokesman who is in charge of the Way in the United States.

Q: What is the significance of this letter for the Way?

Gennarini: For the first time, the Holy See has accepted several variations to the way the Eucharist is celebrated within the context of the Neocatechumenal Way, as licit adaptations to help contemporary man to better receive the grace communicated by the sacraments.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only case in which the Holy See has granted such an explicit permission to an ecclesial group.

Until now we had done so with verbal authorization from the [Vatican] congregation, but not in writing. In fact, John Paul II had always supported this concept, and he even expressed it in his apostolic letter "Dies Domini," in which he spoke about the possibility that "in view of special needs in the area of formation and pastoral care" such celebrations of the Sunday Mass could take place.

Q: Which are the liturgical variations allowed by the congregation to the Neocatechumenal Way?

Gennarini: Cardinal Arinze's letter accepts the principle of special celebrations for the Neocatechumenal communities on Saturday evening.

To better understand the importance of such concession, we must take into account that many have opposed this practice of the Way, considering it elitist or divisive, although the liturgies of the Way are open to all.

In spite of these criticisms, this principle has been officially approved. The request for partaking once a month in the general celebrations of the parish is already a widespread practice, as for example in the context of such liturgical solemnities as Christmas, Epiphany, the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the patronal feast, the Assumption, All Saints' Day, and the Immaculate Conception.

The letter also restates the article of the Roman Missal regarding [commentaries], but extends its use from an extraordinary practice to an ordinary one. The "echoes" before the homily have also been accepted; this is something completely new in the Church and receives here some general guidelines.

The letter also allows for the sign of peace to take place before the offertory. To understand the magnitude of this concession, we must remember that only a few weeks before the signing of this letter, the prefect of the congregation had explained to hundreds of bishops attending the Synod on the Eucharist that no one would be allowed to change the place of the sign of peace. In fact, several bishops' conferences had requested such a variation, but it has never been allowed.

Finally, the way of distributing Communion as it currently takes place, is allowed for a long period of time, if only "ad experimentum." Such a grant shows that this practice is not irreverent, but fully legitimate, as can be attested by anyone who participates in a Eucharist of the communities.

This concession is written within the context of the final approval of the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, which are right now approved also "ad experimentum." When this period "ad experimentum" ends, the interdicasterial commission of the five congregations which approved the statutes … will verify the necessary adaptations.

Q: Why is it important to celebrate the Mass in small groups?

Gennarini: More than 70% of the members of the Way used to be non-practicing Catholics. The liturgical celebrations in the context of a small community creates a welcoming environment for the unchurched.

In the context of an increasingly secularized, individualistic and anonymous society, the Way offers in the parish an environment where people, whether baptized or not, may rediscover the faith in the context of real communion.

One of the problems in the Church today in the anonymity in our parishes. Through this experience, for instance, married couples can experience forgiveness, and are able to transmit the faith to their children. One of the fruits of the Way is the rebuilding of the family through this communal experience.

Thousands of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are emerging from these rebuilt families, and all of this thanks to the celebration of the Eucharist in small faith communities.

The community saves the family, and, as stated in ...

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