After five years work, the Holy See has finally approved the canonical statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way.
Catholic Online reports the decree of approval, dated the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, was solemnly consigned to the initiators of the way, Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez together with Father Mario Pezzi, by Cardinal Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The Neocatechumenal Way has not been approved as an association, a movement or a religious congregation, but as an itinerary of Christian initiation for the rediscovery of baptism, that is, a post-baptismal catechumenate at the service of the dioceses and parishes.
Illustrating the importance and complexity of the process, the approval of the Statutes of the Way has been the fruit of a joint effort of some five dicasteries: the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for the Clergy and Catechesis and the Congregation for Catholic Education, Catholic Online says.
The approval of the Statutes formalises the recognition already given in 1990 by Pope John Paul II, who recognised the way as an "itinerary of Catholic formation valid for society and for these times."
The work of preparation was drawn out because the juridical categories most commonly used by the Code of Canon Law are those of association or foundation, which do not correspond to the nature of the Neocatechumenal Way.
Catholic World News says the Neocatechumenal Way were apparently caught by surprise by the news that the Pontiff had given final approval to their statutes.
Kiko Arguello, the founder of the group, was traveling in the Holy Land when the web site operated by Neocatechumate members in Rome announced the Pope's decision.
Canonical statutes for the Neocatechumenal Way were approved ad experimentum by the Holy See in 2002, for a period of 5 years. But final approval was delayed, with informed sources suggesting the Vatican remained concerned about some aspects of the organisation, including unusual liturgical practices that had provoked a correction from the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2005.
In April the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Bishop Josef Clemens, told the Italian news site, Petrus, that final approval might not come for some time. But the Pope's final decision was announced barely one month later.
'Neocatechumenal Way' Approved by Holy See (Catholic Online, 26/5/08)
Final canonical approval for Neocatechumenal Way (Catholic World News, 23/5/08)