Vatican City, 1 February 2014 (VIS) – Today Pope Francis received in audience eight thousand members of the Neocatechumenal Way, the Catholic formation itinerary initiated by the Spanish laypeople Francisco Jose Gomez Arguello (better known as Kiko Arguello) and Carmen Hernandez who, along with the Italian priest Mario Pezzi, form the “International Responsible Team of the Way”.
“The Church is grateful for your generosity!” said the Pope. “I thank you for everything you do in the Church and in the world. And in the name of the Church, our Mother, I would like to make some simple recommendations to you. The first is to take the greatest care to construct and conserve communion within the particular Churches in which you carry out your work. The Way has its own charisma, its own dynamics, a gift which, like all the gifts of the Spirit, has a profound ecclesial dimension; this means listening to life of the Churches to which your leaders send you, to recognising the value of their richness, suffering for their weaknesses when necessary, and walking together as a single flock, under the guidance of the pastors of the local Churches. Communion is essential: at times it can be better to set aside some of the details that your itinerary requires in order to guarantee unity between the brothers that form the single ecclesial community, of which you must always consider yourselves to be a part”.
Pope Francis' second recommendation was, “wherever you go, it will do you good to think that the Spirit of God always arrives before us. The Lord always precedes us! Even in the most distant places, even in the most diverse cultures, God sows everywhere the seeds of his Word. From this, there arises the need for special attention to the cultural context in which you, as families, go to carry out your work; it is an environment often very different to that from which you come. Many of you take great pains to learn the local language, at times difficult, and these efforts are commendable. Even more important will be your effort to 'learn' the cultures you encounter, to recognise the need for the Gospel that is present everywhere, but also that action that the Holy Spirit has accomplished in the life and history of every people”.
Finally, the Holy Father urged them all to “care, with love, for each other, especially the weakest. The Neocatechumenal Way, as an intinerary for the discovery of one's own Baptism, is a demanding path, along which a brother or sister may encounter unexpected difficulties. In these cases, the exercise of patience and mercy by the community is a sign of mature faith. The freedom of each person must not be forced, and it is necessary to respect the eventual decision of those who decide to seek, outside the Way, other forms of Christian life that may help them to grow in their response to the call of the Lord”.
The Holy Father concluded, “I encourage you to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere, even in the least Christianised environments, especially in the existential peripheries. Evangelise with love, take God's love to all. Tell those you encounter on the streets of your mission that God loves man just as he is, even with his limits, with his errors, with his sins. Be messengers and witnesses to the infinite goodness and inexhaustible mercy of the Father”.