SEEKING COMMUNION IN CHARITY
Pastoral Instructions on the Neo Catechumenal Way in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan
In my letter to the People of God in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan about the Neo Catechumenal Way issued last May 1, 2010, I commended the Neo Catechumenal Way as "a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and society of our times. Its goal to bring people to fraternal communion and maturity of faith through the tripod of "Word of God-Liturgy-Community" is a gift from the Lord to His Church.
Like all gifts, the Neo Catechumenal Way must be cared for and protected from the effects of original sin in us. It must be shielded against the pride and arrogance of its leaders. Those who walk the Way must never be found lacking in charity and deviating from the path of Truth."
Our pastoral charity for the members of the Catholic faithful who have taken the Neo Catechumenal Way moved us last year to impose various pastoral guidelines in order to preserve its stability and maintain its purity in the life of the Spirit. I reiterate that they were pastoral and not penal instructions.
I commend the leaders for diligently attending to the pastoral directive that the sections on the Church from the Catechism of the Catholic Church be read to the members as well as the fervent praying of the rosary in the weekly celebrations of the Word. I recognize the diligent reporting of the donations made by the members. The communities have shown their obedience to the pastors of the Church since the issuance of the pastoral guidelines.
Moved by the same pastoral charity that prompted us to issue the guidelines last year, in prayerful consultation with the members of our local clergy who have Neo Catechumenal communities in their parishes, we hereby issue the following instructions as a fruit of the year long moratorium that is due to end on June 12, 2011, Pentecost Sunday:
1. While we recognize with faith and pastoral love the spiritual gifts that the Neo Catechumenal Way has brought to the Church, we must remind our Catholic faithful who now walk the Way that this is just one of the many and multifarious movements of renewal in the Church. The Church as a mother has a spot in her heart for all other lay associations and movements, lay ministries and apostolates evangelization programs and varied pastoral approaches. We must respect other movements and associations and be open to other ministries as the Spirit moves us, avoiding all the time any form of exclusivity and prejudice. I also admonish those who are walking the Way to consider that their parish priests, oftentimes laden with many pastoral duties, have to attend to all the Catholic faithful according to his limited time and physical capabilities.
2. The prohibition to have special Masses for the Neo Catechumenal communities in parishes is lifted conditionally. Subject to the availability of the parish priests, the Neo Catechumenal communities may celebrate the Eucharist on Saturday evenings once a month. On the other Sundays of the month, the members must attend the regularly scheduled parish Masses. In the past year, members continued to comment that the parish Mass as prescribed by the Holy See was "lacking, incomplete and not as meaningful" as the Mass of the Neo Catechumenal Way. According to our pastoral judgment, the members of the Way have not yet reached the correct understanding that there is no difference between the Mass in the parish and the Mass with special groups. Let us take to heart the words of Blessed John Paul II "even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation" regardless of the song melodies or special gestures.
3. Without consulting the Archbishop, the national team of the Neo Catechumenal Way unilaterally decided not to resume any steps for the communities in our archdiocese although these communities were due to receive them. Let it be said categorically that the Archbishop was not informed and did not approve of this decision from the national team. Consequently, all the communities deserving to receive steps must not be deprived of this progression in the Way. The moratorium on all initial catecheses and the opening of new communities ends on Pentecost Sunday this year.
4. The praying of the rosary during the weekly celebration of the Word must be continued for another year.
5. The pastors of parishes are counseled to give reasonable pastoral presence and care to the Neo Catechumenal communities in the parishes. The members of the Neo Catechumenal Way must be encouraged by the parish priests to join the other parish ministries, apostolates and associations. The pastors of parishes are likewise instructed to insure the orthodoxy of doctrine that is transmitted to the members during the weekly celebrations of the Word. The parish priests watch over the implementation of the Neo Catechumenal Way in the name of the Archbishop insuring that the discipline and doctrine of the Church are faithfully adhered to (cfr. Statutes Art 27). No new communities in the parish may be opened without the approval of the parish priest.
6. The parish priests are hereby granted full authority in the name of the Archbishop to determine the schedule of the celebration of the monthly Eucharist and the weekly celebration of the Word or even to suspend some their activities if in his pastoral judgment they stand along the way of parochial pastoral programs or if the doctrine and discipline of the Church are undermined. I shall regularly seek the evaluation, recommendation and counsel of my brother parish priests in the spirit of fraternal communion to insure that the Neo Catechumenal communities truly contribute to the pastoral life of the faithful.
The pursuit of communion in faith and charity is the task that is laid out before us. I admonish the members of the Neo Catechumenal Way to always seek communion with the parish priests and the parish community. Likewise, I encourage the parish priests to give the Neo Catechumenal communities in their parishes their pastoral care and charity recognizing in them the face of the Lord. The promotion of communion necessitates conversion of mindsets and paradigms for both the shepherd and the sheepfold. For this holy task of promoting communion in charity, I invoke my pastoral blessings so that in all things God may be glorified.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, June 12, 2011, Pentecost Sunday
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
The Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
(Central Pangasinan, Philippines)