Nature, mission and leadership of the Neocatechumenal communities

According to its Statute, the Neocatechumenal Way "is at the service of the Bishops as a form of diocesan implementation of Christian initiation and of ongoing education in faith, in accordance with the indications of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Church".

It is made up of a "post-baptismal catechumenate" (or baptismal catechumenate if the members have not received the sacrament of baptism), an ongoing education in faith and a service of catechesis.

The Neocatechumenal Way is implemented in the dioceses under the jurisdiction, direction of the diocesan Bishop and with the guidance of the Responsible Team of the Way "according to the lines proposed by its initiators".

The Neocatechumenate is led by the International Responsible Team of the Way, which comprises the Initiators, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, together with Father Mario Pezzi, a priest of the Diocese of Rome. Under the terms of the 2007 statute, this team will remain in place until the demise of its members, after which an electoral college of senior neocatechumenal catechists will elect a new team, and with the approval of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will have a mandate to lead the NC Way for a period of 7 years until reelection.

Leadership at national and regional level is given by around 700 teams of "Itinerant Catechists", comprising a priest and 2 or 3 lay people, appointed and supervised by the International Responsible Team. Depending on the number of communities in a particular area, a team of Itinerant Catechists may be responsible for the implementation of the NC Way in a country, a group of countries or a region of a country.

Pope John Paul II summarized the role of the Itinerant Catechists in a Private Audience for 2000 priests of the Neocatechumenal Communities in December 1985 (reported in the Italian edition of Osservatore Romano, 11 December 1985):

"They contribute by forming the first neocatechumenal communities of a parish, and are supposed to maintain regular contact with the Bishops of the diocese in which they work; the itinerant teams preserve a constant link with the responsibles of the Neocatechumenal Way, visiting periodically the communities they catechized and taking care of the development of the Neocatechumenal Way in the territory assigned to them, being fully faithful to the charism given to the initiators and obedient to the local Ordinary."

The Itinerant Catechists do not make any formal commitment to their missionary role, and are free to resign at any moment.

Missionary activity

In front of the secularization of Northern Europe and vast areas in the world, the Initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, have begun the experience of families in mission. This charisma serves to establish the presence of the Catholic Church in countries where there is none (this is referred as Implantatio Ecclesiae) or to strengthen the presence of Catholic communities in particularly difficult areas.

About two-hundred families met with Pope Benedict XVI asking for the missionary mandate before beginning their mission to mainly France, Belgium, Germany and China on January 12, 2006 bringing the number of "Families in Mission" from the Neocatechumenal Way to over five-hundred in the entire world. The Pope also spoke about the "certain norms" contained in the letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Neocatechumenal communities. He explained that the purpose of these norms is to make the apostolate of the Neocatechumenal Way "even more effective" in communion with all the People of God.

In March 2008 the Neocatechumenal Way held a meeting with nine cardinals, including Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, and 160 European bishops who gathered March 24-29 at the Domus Galilaeae International Center on the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee. Cardinal Schönborn said that during the last 40 years Europe has said ‘no' to its future three times: in 1968 when it rejected 'Humanae Vitae'; then, 20 years later, with the legalization of abortion; and today with homosexual marriages. He also called the Neocatechumenal Way an answer of the Holy Spirit to this situation. A joint declaration from the bishops said Here we have an important proposal, the proposal of the Neocatechumenal Way, which is to renew the life of the family.

January 10, 2009, the Pope met with over 10,000 people for a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way in Rome. In this celebration there was a sending of several whole communities who have finished the way on mission, as well as Itinerant catechists, mission families, and the Missio Ad Gentes. The Missio Ad Gentes, a newer form of mission in the Neocatechumenal Way, involves the sending of three, four, or five whole families to a certain area under the request of the bishop.

The Redemptoris Mater Seminaries

Kiko and Carmen also started the "Redemptoris Mater" Seminaries. These diocesan seminaries are presented as a fruit of the Second Vatican Council as well as a fruit of the prophetical vision of Pope John Paul II and accept only priestly vocations coming from the Neocatechumenal Way. The idea to establish these seminaries started in Rome, the diocese of the Holy Father, to establish a seminary with these characteristics:

• international, i.e. with vocations coming from different nations;

• missionary, i.e. that upon ordination, the priests are available to go wherever the ordinary sends them.

In 1988, the first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was erected by Cardinal Poletti, Vicar of the Holy Father in Rome.

In June 2007, Abuna Elias Chacour (Melkite Archbishop of the Archeparchy of Acri, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee) has proposed the establishment of a new "branch" of the Neocatechumenal Way "to work specifically in the Eastern-rite Church" (Melkite liturgy). Archbishop Chacour states in his message that he has searched for "someone or some community to preach the Good News to my parishioners" as an answer to proselytism of the sects, and that the Neocatechumenal Way is an answer. Fr. Rino Rossi received the letter with great joy and reported to ZENIT that "We share the sense of urgency expressed by Archbishop Chacour to evangelize 'the living stones' in the land of the Lord."

It has now also been announced that a Redemptoris Mater Seminary of the Melkite Rite is due to open in 2008.