Communion continues to be given seated, as at a banquet. This is the upshot of a letter that the heads of the Way have written to Benedict XVI
ROMA, March 6, 2006 – The founders and heads of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Argüello (see photo), Carmen Hernández, and Father Mario Pezzi, have decided to obey the severe reprimand issued to them by Benedict XVI on January 12. But they did so with strong reservations over one point in particular: Eucharistic communion.
Their act of partial obedience is found in a letter that they wrote to the pope on January 17. The letter – reproduced here below – was made public on February 27 by the Catholic website www.korazym.org.
Benedict XVI’s reminder concerns the manner in which the Neocatechumenal groups celebrate the Mass. The pope wants them to conform to the prescriptions of the liturgical norms that are valid for the whole Church.
For example, the Neocatechumenals receive communion seated, around an altar that is shaped and decorated like a large, square dinner table. They divide and consume a large unleavened loaf, made with two-thirds white flour and one-third whole wheat flour, which is prepared and baked for a quarter of an hour, all according to detailed rules established by Kiko. They drink the wine from cups that are passed from hand to hand, always in a seated position.
But the pope wants them to “pass to the normal way in which the entire Church receives Holy Communion,” within no more than two years’ time. The details of this request and others are set forth in a letter dated December 1, 2005, written in the name of the pope to the heads of the Way by cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican congregation for the liturgy: a letter made public by www.chiesa.
And so, in their reply to Benedict XVI, Kiko, Carmen, and Father Pezzi stated that they were willing to “follow in every way, with great respect and obedience, the rubrics of the Roman Missal.” They promised that they will make arrangements with the bishop of each diocese for their own members to participate in the Sunday Mass together with the rest of the faithful “at least one Sunday a month.” But on the crucial point of communion, they make it clear that they want to keep going their own way.
They stop, in fact, at thanking the pope for granting them two more years. And then they return to defending their manner of distributing communion. They give as the model for this the “eschatological banquet” at which Christ has the disciples “sit down,” as written in Luke 12:37: “He will have them recline at table, and will come to wait on them.” Furthermore, they emphasize that giving communion “in this way” is an essential instrument for converting those who are far removed from the Church, and that abandoning it would compromise their mission.
The letter to Benedict XVI from Kiko, Carmen, and Father Pezzi was also distributed by them to all the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way, who received it as an official directive for their respective communities.
At the end of the letter, the heads of the Way recall “the many bishops who have supported us.” In effect, at the synod on the Eucharist held in Rome last October there were bishops who asked for an extension of the method of taking communion while seated, as in use among the Neocatechumenals.
One of these was the bishop of Agana, on the island of Guam, Anthony Sablan Apuron, president of the bishops’ conference of the Pacific.
In a recent radio interview, Apuron again defended the practice of distributing communion as at a banquet, and downplayed the value of the letter from Cardinal Arinze.
It is, in fact, the widespread opinion among the Neocatechumenals that Arinze’s letter is something provisional, modifiable, a simple “instrumentum laboris,” and that in the end their practice will receive substantive approval.
This opinion remains current even after the reminder from Benedict XVI on January 12.
In any case, this is the thought of neither Arinze nor the pope. In a February 15 interview with Vatican Radio, the cardinal prefect of the congregation for the liturgy restated that the letter is “the conclusion of the whole affair.” And this is how he explained the process that led to the writing of the letter:
“The letter was occasioned by the results of the examination, conducted by this congregation, of how the Neocatechumenal Way has celebrated the Holy Mass for many years. […] For this examination we had a mixed commission of persons nominated by the Neocatechumenal Way and persons nominated by our congregation. The discussions brought up many of the practices that they employ during the Mass, […] and many of these were not in accordance with the approved books. This is the background. The entire situation was examined over many sessions of the mixed commission, for a period of two years or longer. And there was also, at the bidding of the Holy Father, a discussion among seven cardinals of the Roman curia, who examined everything. So this letter is the conclusion of the whole affair.”
What follows here is the letter written to the pope by the heads of the Neocatechumenal Way:
“We would like to thank You from the bottom of our hearts…”
Porto San Giorgio, January 17, 2006
The love of God the Father, the holy humility of Christ, and the consolation of the Holy Spirit be with You.
We would like to thank You from the bottom of our hearts for the Audience You granted to us, with the sending forth of 200 families, and for Your words, in which You emphasized “the importance… of the Holy Mass in evangelization” and that – as “your long experience can well attest” – “the centrality of the mystery of Christ celebrated in the liturgical rites is a privileged and indispensable way to build living and persevering Christian communities.”
After the Audience, all of the 700 itinerant catechists from all the nations met together, and we are very content with the “norms” that Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, imparted to us in Your name. In this regard, we wish to express our gratitude to You, to Cardinal Arinze, and to the Congregation for what is written in the letter.
We renewed together our willingness to follow in everything, with great respect and obedience, the rubrics of the Roman Missal (Gloria, Credo, Lavabo, Orate fratres, Agnus Dei…).
With respect to the first point of the letter (“at least one Sunday per month, the Communities of the Neocatechumenal Way must participate in the Holy Mass of the parish community), each team of itinerant catechists will speak with the Bishop of each Diocese in order to arrange this participation, paying particular attention to the least brethren and those farthest away.
We also wish to thank you for the benevolence, mercy, and goodness You have shown to those farthest away in allowing the moving of the sign of peace and in granting a period of two years for the adaptation of the manner of distributing the Communion of the Body and the Blood of the Lord: we have always shown to the many brothers who have emerged from hell, full of wounds and of self-loathing, that in the Holy Eucharist the Lord makes present his love, dying and rising for them; and not only that, but prepares a table, an eschatological banquet, which makes Heaven present and where He himself, full of love, has them sit down and comes to serve them: “He will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them” (Lk 12:37).
In this way, every time we celebrate the Eucharist we experience the power this sacrament has to draw them into the Passover of Christ, bringing them from sadness to joy, from darkness to light, from death to life…
The Lord is preparing a people to evangelize the pagans. There are millions of people today who do not know Christ. The reality is that the Lord is calling us to evangelize as Christian communities that make the life of heaven present in our midst.
Thank You, Your Holiness! Together with the Cardinals and the many Bishops who have supported us, and above all in the name of the many who were far away and today bless Christ, we thank You with our whole heart.
Asking for Your Apostolic Blessing,
Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández, Fr. Mario Pezzi
And this is Cardinal Arinze’s letter of December 1, 2005, previously made public by www.chiesa:
”I am to inform you of the Holy Father’s decisions...”
Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum
From Vatican City, December 1, 2005
To the esteemed Mr. Kiko Argüello, Ms. Carmen Hernandez, and Rev. Father Mario Pezzi,
Following the conversations with this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist in the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way, in keeping with the guidelines issued in the meeting with you on November 11 of this year, I am to inform you of the Holy Father’s decisions.
In the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Neocatechumenal Way shall accept and follow the liturgical books approved by the Church, without omitting or adding anything. Furthermore, in regard to some elements the guidelines and clarifications are emphasized as follows:
1. Sunday is the “Dies Domini” as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wished to illustrate in the Apostolic Letter on the Lord’s Day. Therefore the Neocatechumenal Way must enter into dialogue with the diocesan bishop in order to make it clear that the community of the Neocatechumenal Way is incorporated into the parish even in the context of the liturgical celebrations. At least one Sunday per month, the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way must participate in the Holy Mass of the parish community.
2. As for any admonitions issued before the readings, these must be brief. Adherence must also be shown to what is set out in the “Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani” (nn. 105 and 128) and to the Praenotanda of the “Ordo Lectionum Missae” (nn. 15, 19, 38, 42).
3. The homily, because of its nature and importance, is reserved to the priest or deacon (cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 767 § 1). As for the occasional contribution of testimonies on the part of the lay faithful, the proper places and methods for these are indicated in the Interdicasterial Instruction “Ecclesiae de Mysterio,” which was approved “in specific form” by Pope John Paul II and published on August 15, 1997. In this document, sections 2 and 3 of article 3 read as follows:
§2 - “It is permitted to have a brief instruction that helps explain better the liturgy that is being celebrated, and even, in exceptional circumstances, a few testimonies, as long as these conform to the liturgical norms, are offered on the occasion of Eucharistic liturgies celebrated on particular days (for seminarians, the sick, etc.), and are thought truly helpful as an illustration of the regular homily delivered by the celebrating priest. These instructions and testimonies must not assume characteristics that might cause them to be confused with the homily.”
§3 - “The possibility of ‘dialogue’ during the homily (cf. Directorium de Missis cum Pueris, no. 48) can be used occasionally and with prudence by the celebrating minister as a means of exposition, which does not transfer to others the duty of preaching.”
Careful attention must also be paid to the Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” no. 74.
4. On the exchange of peace, permission is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to continue using the indult already granted, pending further instructions.
5. On the manner of receiving Holy Communion, a period of transition (not exceeding two years) is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to pass from the widespread manner of receiving Holy Communion in its communities (seated, with a cloth-covered table placed at the center of the church instead of the dedicated altar in the sanctuary) to the normal way in which the entire Church receives Holy Communion. This means that the Neocatechumenal Way must begin to adopt the manner of distributing the Body and Blood of Christ that is provided in the liturgical books.
6. The Neocatechumenal Way must also make use of the other Eucharistic Prayers contained in the missal, and not only Eucharistic Prayer II.
In short, 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.
Acknowledging the favors that the Lord has bestowed upon the Church through the many activities of the Neocatechumenal Way, I take this occasion to extend to you my best regards.
+ Francis Card. Arinze
And these are the words of Benedict XVI relative to the rite of the Mass, in the address he gave to the Neocatechumenals on January 12, 2006:
“Recently the congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments imparted to you, in my name, some norms concerning the Eucharistic celebration, after the trial period that had been granted by the servant of God John Paul II. I am certain that these norms, which draw upon the provisions of the liturgical books approved by the Church, will meet with attentive compliance from you.”
On this website, the earlier stages of these events:
> Vatican Storylines: Those Who Are Resisting Benedict XVI (19.1.2006)
> Liturgy: Benedict XVI Brings the Neocatechumenals Back to the Right Way (27.12.2005)