Pope Francis met with about 8,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way today, (1 February) in the Paul VI Hall. During the audience, with a solemn prayer and blessing, the Pope sent off members of the community on mission to countries throughout the world. Prior to the blessing, he praised the members of the Neocatechumenate for their generosity and service to the Church, then he went on to give three “simple recommendations.”
Firstly, Pope Francis said it is more important for members of the Neocatechumenal Way to be in communion with the local church than to uphold all the particulars of its own spiritual path.
“Sometimes it can be better to renounce living in every detail what your own path demands, in order to guarantee unity among the brothers who form the one ecclesial community, of which you must always feel yourself a part,” he said.
Next, Pope Francis urged the Neocatechumenate to respect local cultures in which they wants to settle. It is helpful to learn the local language, he said, but “much more important will be your commitment to learning the cultures that you meet, recognizing that the need for the Gospel is everywhere, but also recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and the history of every people.”
Finally the Pope asked the Neocatechumenate to foster internal freedom within the group and respect those who decide to leave. “Everyone’s freedom must not be coerced, and the eventual choice of anyone who decides to seek other forms of Christian life … outside [ the Neocatechumenate] must be respected.”
A Vatican Radio translation of the Pope's full message follows below:
"Dear brothers and sisters,
I thank the Lord for the joy of your faith and for the ardor of your Christian witness. Thanks be to God. I greet you all cordially, starting from the International Responsible Team of the Neocatechumenal Way, together with the priests, seminarians and catechists. I send an affectionate greeting to the children, in attendance in great number.
My thoughts go out in a special way to the families, who will go out to different parts of the world to proclaim and witness to the Gospel. The Church is grateful for your generosity! I thank you for all that you do in the Church and in the world. And precisely in the name of the Church, our Mother,... I would like to propose to you some simple recommendations.
The first is to have the utmost care to build and to preserve the communion within the particular Churches in which you will work. The Way has its own charism and dynamic, a gift, which like all of the gifts of the Spirit, has a profound ecclesial dimension; this means paying attention to the life of the Churches to which your leaders send you, to enhance the riches, to suffer for the weaknesses if necessary, and to walk together, like one flock, under the guidance of the pastors of the local Churches. Communion is essential sometimes it can be better to renounce living in all the details that your itinerary demands, in order to ensure the unity among those who form one ecclesial community, of which you must always feel that you are part.
Another recommendation: wherever you may go, it would do you well to think that the Spirit of God always gets there ahead of us. The Lord always precedes us! ... Even in the most faraway places, even in the most diverse cultures, God scatters everywhere the seeds of his Word. From here, flows the necessity to give special attention to the cultural context in which you, families, will go to work: it consists of an environment often very different from the one from which you come.
Many of you will have to work hard to learn the local language, sometimes it will be difficult, and this effort is appreciated. Even more important will be your commitment to “learn” the culture you will encounter, knowing how to recognize the need of the Gospel, which is present wherever, but also that action that the Holy Spirit has accomplished in the life and in the history of every people.
Finally, I exhort you to care lovingly for each other, in a particular way for the weakest. The Neocatechumenal Way, as an itinerary of discovery of one’s own baptism, is a demanding road, along which a brother or a sister can come upon unforeseen difficulties. In these cases, the exercise of patience and of mercy on the part of the community is a sign of maturity in the faith. The freedom of each person must not be forced, and even the eventual choice of someone who decides to seek, outside of the Way, other forms of Christian life that help him to grow in the response to the call of the Lord must be respected.
Dear families, brothers and sisters, I encourage you to bring everywhere, even in the most de-Christianized environments, especially in the existential peripheries, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelize with love, bring to everyone the love of God. Tell everyone you will meet on the streets of your mission that God loves man as he is, even with his limits, with his mistakes, with his sins.
For this, he sent his Son, so that he could take our sins upon himself. Be messengers and witnesses of the infinite goodness and the inexhaustible mercy of the Father. I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, that she may inspire and always sustain your apostolate. In the school of this tender Mother, be zealous and joyful missionaries."
Source: Vatican Radio/VIS