John Paul II Visit: to the parish of St. John the Evangelist,

Spinaceto, Rome 18/11/1979


Translated from the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, 19-20 November 1979 with additional material from a tape recording .

The Holy Father's meeting with the representatives of the Neocatechumenal Groups who are following their way of faith with the people of Spinaceto was particularly intensive. Here, too, at St John the Evangelist as in the parish of St Luke, which the Holy Father visited two Sundays ago, it was the Neocatechumens from the parish of Canadian Martyrs who introduced the Way of faith. One of the catechists, Giampiero Donnini, spoke to the Pope on behalf of everyone. "Holy Father, we are truly happy and thank the Lord for your presence here, because these communities, which have been walking in the parish since 1974, are opening a way of evangelisation within the interior of the parish, something you spoke about in your Apostolic Exhortation Catechesis Tradendae. They are doing a double service, within the parish, so that the parish can renew itself, to begin to welcome people who are far away from the Church; to welcome above all the atheists, the Marxists, the drug addicts, people who are, as you have said this evening in your homily, desperate, empty, for whom life has no sense. Father, we are discovering a wonderful thing: that Jesus Christ is alive and that he is risen! And that Jesus Christ risen and alive, is in his Church, with the power to overcome death in us. We are seeing, Father, for example, starting from our own marriages, that God has truly rebuilt them from nothing. We were divided, and the Lord has made us understand that conversion, as you reminded the Cardinals in your recent speech, is the fundamental work of the Church today: conversion in the light of the Second Vatican Council. We are working in this direction, Father, in this parish. We are helping the parish priest who called us in 1974, not looking for a new movement but to serve the parish so that it would be prepared to welcome the faraway people, the people who have no more hope, and who are asking what is the meaning of their lives. In this way, they are given the opportunity to rediscover their baptism, to see that baptism is not only something written down in the register, but that it is the power of God who is regenerating us to a new life, to the life of sons, as you have said so many times, to this change of nature. Another thing Father. We find ourselves, as you say in the Catechesi Tradendae, giving a very important service. The diocese of Rome, I'm speaking of your diocese as Bishop, and we thank the Cardinal Vicar who is here; your diocese of Rome is actually carrying out this renewal. God has inspired some itinerant vocations and there are more than one hundred people, including married couples with children, also priests and young men and women, who are devoting their lives to the Gospel throughout the world to help the parishes in this renewal. Today the liturgy is very important as a moment of catechesis, of evangelisation - for without the liturgy, evangelisation is dead and the community doesn't grow. How can the Church grow without the Eucharist? How can the Church grow if there isn't a moment when we can come before Jesus Christ, and make Passover with him, experiencing that he comes to take us from our situation of death and sin, and bring us to the Father? That's why we need, Father, we need a special audience with you, if you grant one to us, the five of us who are looking after this way in Italy, to submit to you this experience of evangelisation, to share with you the joy and also the problems that we inevitably experience, because it is most important for us to be in communion with you and to have your blessing." After having thanked Giampiero, the Holy Father wished to give emphasis to the great spiritual and evangelical content of the work being carried out in this direction in the Parish: All the things you have said give me consolation because they show that the Church in your parish and also in the whole city of Rome, the Roman Church, by means of your communities, is a living Church. It is not only an administrative reality, even if with very great traditions, but a living reality. This living reality is made up of each one of us when enlightened by the grace of faith. Faith - so many have faith. I think that there are few in the world who have no faith at all. They always have something. But there are degrees in the intensity of faith, of its roots in our personality. So we need to make sure that these roots of our faith, of our personality, of our conscience, of our soul are always deeper. In this way faith, built in each one of us, strong in each one of us, so aware, so personal, becomes apostolic. I think that this is the vital sense of your Neocatechumenal Communities. The name is beautiful too: neocatechumenal, Neocatechumenal Communities. Because the name reminds me of the catechumens in the past who once prepared for Baptism over a long period of time, for months, even years, especially during Lent, and then, so prepared, they received baptism with great fervour, with great joy. This was the tradition of domenica in albis, "white Sunday" when they wore the catechumenal robes. Nowadays, in a certain sense, we lack this, because Christians are baptised as little children, when they ares two weeks or a month old, depending upon the parents. We miss a little that institution of the early Church, that preparation that makes us live baptism. Baptism has become something that is done, not something that is matured. So the Neocatechumenal Communities seek to complement, to complete, what we lack. Mature men and women like you go back towards the moment of their Baptism, to re- live this again, to prepare again what already exists in everyone of us. We are baptised, the reality of baptism exists in everyone of us, but we need to see again what baptism is, its true dimension, its supernatural, divine, sacramental dimension with all its richness, with all its consequences. I think this is a good way to do it! Furthermore, you do this, you live this, in the Communities. It is not a process that takes place in solitude, it is a process of the Community, a process that takes place together. You live the joy of rediscovering baptism, its true meaning, its full reality: together, you do it together! And so the spirit that animates everyone of us, transmits itself to the others, and there is a sharing of experiences, a sharing of enthusiasm and joy. This expresses itself in the prayer too, this expresses itself in the songs. These communities sing - and how they sing! Then, certainly for a parish, such a community, such a group, is undoubtedly leaven; for, as you have said, there really are so many people who have come from far away, but also many whose lives were far away from the Church, living in the different ideologies, living with different preoccupations. These people need others who, aware of the significance of Baptism, live beside them to bring them to understand. They are baptised too, the great majority of them. I do not think there are many people in this parish who are not baptised. But once baptised that Baptism became more or less dead; it is as though dead! Others are needed, co-parishioners, to come and bring that Baptism to life in their friends, in their neighbours, and so on. Then this really is leaven. And the leaven has to permeate the mass, as Christ says in the Gospel.