Liturgical Concession and Challenges for the Neocatechumenate

Throughout various points in time the Holy See has addressed the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Neocatechumenal Way. One of these occasions, on December 1, 2005, a few days after Benedict XVI met in a private audience with Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández and Fr. Mario Pezzi, Cardinal Francis Cardinal Arinze sent a letter containing the "Holy Father's decisions" regarding the liturgy. The statutes also gave certain directions and reaffirmed some of the concessions given in Cardinal Arinze's letter, they are outlined as such:

1. "as for any admonitions, these must be brief and follow the directives of Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani and Ordo Lectionum Missae";

2. "the homily is reserved to the priest or deacon";

3. about "echoes", that they "be brief and not have characteristics of an homily";

4. "on the exchange of peace, permission is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to continue using the indult already granted.";

5. "the Neocatechumenal Way, in its celebration of the Holy Mass, should follow the approved liturgical books, keeping in mind what is laid out above under the numbers 1,2,3,4,5, and 6".

Regarding the manner of receiving the Holy Communion, the letter states that the communities must adopt the prescribed way of receiving communion. In the final statutes, the Holy Communion will continue to be received under both species and the neocatechumens receive it standing, remaining at their place". The statutes also mention the sacrament of Penance celebrated according to the rite of reconciliation for multiple penitents, with individual confession and absolution.

Challenges for the Neocatechumenal Way

During the 40 years since its inception and especially in the '80s and '90s, some bishops, priests and senior clergymen, including the late Cardinal Basil Hume, who refused to ordain priests formed at the Redemptoris Mater seminary, have expressed concerns regarding the validity of this experience, of its teachings, liturgies and its practices. Many argued that the doctrine taught was not in alignment with the teachings of the Catholic Church and detracted to the point of being in line with Protestant beliefs and the Protestant negation of the sacraments. With the first ad experimentum approval of the statutes in 2002 and again with the final approval of 2008, by the highest authority of the Catholic Church, all the concerns have been cleared and the liturgical practices have been reconfirmed and will continue as before.

In some instances, a few diocesan bishops have issued letters or decrees to control this reality at a local level, or regarding the modalities of its liturgies. The final approval of the statutes along with the concessions written in the letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship in December 2005, confirm the legitimacy of the liturgical practices of the Neocatechumenal Way.

A letter from the bishops of the Holy Land (2/2007)

Three days later, on the 25, The Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land write a letter to Kiko saying, amongst other things:
1. Brothers and sisters of the Way: You are welcome in our dioceses.
2. Pursuant to the letter that Pope Benedict XVI addressed to you on January 12, 2006, and the one from the Congregation for Divine Worship on December 1, 2005, was ask you to take your place in the heart of the parish in which you proclaim the Word of God, avoiding making yourselves a group apart.
3. Your first duty, if you want to help the faithful grow in faith, is that of rooting them in the parishes and in their own liturgical traditions in which they have grown up for generations.
4. The rite is like an identification card, and not only one way of praying among others. We implore you to have the charity to understand and respect the attachment of our faithful to their own liturgies.
5. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity in the parish, and not of fragmentation. And so we ask that the Eucharistic celebrations, in all the Eastern rites as well as in the Latin rite, be presided over always by the pastor, or in the case of the Latin rite, in full agreement with him. "Where the bishop is, there is the Church," wrote Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Teach the faithful to love their liturgical traditions, and put your charism at the service of unity.
6. We also ask you to undertake a serious study of the language and culture of the people, as a sign of respect for them and as a means of understanding their soul and their history, in the context of the Holy Land: religious, cultural, and national pluralism.