At the beginning of this New Year I send
you greetings. I pray that this year you will journey with me, your
Bishop, to bring about “Rebirth and Unity” in our diocese.
Last year on December 13, 2010, having received a message from
the Vatican Secretariat of State that they wished to have a
discussion regarding the Neocatechumenal Way, I went to Rome with
three other Bishops from Japan. We presumed that we would meet
around a table with the Holy Father, Secretary of State, Cardinal
Bertone, and Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of
Peoples, Cardinal Dias.
When we arrived at our hotel, however, we were advised that the
place and time of our meeting had been changed and that the Holy
Father, five Cardinals and one Archbishop (Undersecretary of the
Secretariat of State) would be in attendance. To our surprise Bishop
Hirayama was also included in the meeting, which proceeded with the
aid of simultaneous translation. I will not go into detail about the
contents of the meeting.
In the January 2 and January 16, 2011 editions of the Catholic
Newspaper of Japan there is an article regarding the meeting and
there is also concrete information in Catholic channels on the
internet about the content of the meeting.
At the end of the year and at the beginning of this year many of
the clergy and Christian people of the diocese asked for a report of
the meeting in Rome. I was asked what the future policy of the
Diocese of Takamatsu would be regarding the Neocatechumenal Way.
I also received the painful admonition that maintaining the
position of “not knowing, not being told” would not be admissible.
On the internet both in Japan and internationally, the fact that the
Bishops of Japan were called to Rome has been widely reported. You
can read on the Internet that the Archdiocese of Clifton in England
forbade all activities of the “Way” and that the Bishops’ Conference
of Palestine has published a document asking the Neocatechumenal Way
to practice self-control in their activities.
Recently the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in
the Philippines announced that an inspection of the Neocatechumenal
Way in the archdiocese would be carried out. Comments in Italian,
Spanish and English regarding articles about the “Way” are readily
available on the internet. What such articles tell us clearly is
that problems with the Neocatechumenal Way are not exclusive to the
Diocese of Takamatsu and the Church in Japan. The whole world is
paying attention to the Church in Japan. Because of the seriousness
of this issue, I made the decision to report clearly to you what has
taken place and to explain to you the policy of our diocese.
After returning from Rome, the papal nuncio asked to have a
meeting with us on December 23. Archbishop Okada of Tokyo and three
Bishops attended the meeting. We were told that there was a strong
possibility that a special envoy of the Holy Father would be sent to
Japan. Until that time, however, with regard to the activities of
the “Way”, it was agreed that each Bishop is free to proceed as he
sees fit for his diocese.
At the meeting in Rome the four Bishops from Japan emphasized
that this problem is concerned with the disciplinary laws of the
diocese and as such is under the jurisdiction of the local ordinary.
We emphasized that the fact that the Neocatechumenal Way has been
approved by Rome does not automatically imply that a local diocese
must accept them.
We also emphasized the fact that the person who understands the
situation of the local church best is its Bishop and that any
decisions made in Rome should begin with a discussion with the local
ordinaries. The opinions of the Cardinals in attendance were
diverse, and the meeting was simply an expression of the opinion of
each person present rather than a discussion. It was clear that the
fact that the Bishops’ Conference of Japan made the decision to
suspend the activities of the Neocatechumenal “Way” is a big problem
for the Vatican. It was necessary, therefore, to think of a plan of
action. In this regard the Holy Father stated that he would think
positively about sending a special envoy of the Holy Father to
The special envoy from the Vatican will surely come to our
diocese. If we look at the reverse side of the decision that it is
necessary to send a special envoy, we realize how wide the fissure
in our diocese is. Besides, this is the second time such an envoy
has come. In 2003 Cardinal Kim from Korea was sent as a special
envoy to our diocese and after his visit he compiled a detailed
In that report he analyzed the situation in the diocese and
proposed ways to remedy the situation. Cardinal Dias, Prefect of the
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said that the envoy
will be sent to hear the opinions of the Christian people of the
diocese. Until this time I have tried to deal with the problem of
the Neocatechumenal Way as quietly as possible and without making
public statements. I was waiting for the members of the
Neocatechumenal Way to decide for themselves to use self-discipline
in their activities. Now that this problem has become a worldwide
issue, however, I cannot wait any longer.
After I came back from Rome I realized that I have an obligation
to speak to the people of the diocese. If the people of the diocese
do not have information about the situation, when the envoy comes,
there is a possibility that they would refuse to speak out or end up
affecting ignorance because they had not been informed, and the
result would be that the envoy would leave the diocese without a
true grasp of the situation.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Takamatsu I have come to the
following conclusion regarding the issue of the Neocatechumenal Way.
This problem is one that concerns the local Church, namely the
Diocese of Takamatsu. It is an issue that can only be settled here
in the diocese. The Holy Father and the Prefects of the
Congregations agree that this is a problem of the local Church and
that it is the Bishop who must settle it.
It is not permissible for any organization or movement to use
whatever power they can to stop the Bishop from taking action in his
diocese. It is important for all of us to earnestly and seriously
face the events that have occurred in our diocese for the past 20
years and are still happening. This is not the time to devote
oneself only to the interests of one’s group but rather a time to
think of ways that one can be of service to the diocese. In our
diocese, gathered around our Bishop. we are standing at an important
turning point in the road towards true “Rebirth and Unity”.
The conclusion I have come to is that, until we have received the
results of the visit of the special envoy of the Holy Father, I ask
you to suspend all activities of the Neocatechumenal Way in the
diocese. This decision has been approved by both the Presbytery
Council and the Pastoral Council of the diocese. It is not a
decision that means that dialogue has ended but rather an
opportunity for reflection for all of us.
When a process goes amiss it is said that one should always
return to the starting point. I believe that “NOW” is a good time
for us to return to the starting point. This decision does not mean
that the members of the Neocatechumenal Way are excluded from the
diocese. My wish is that we use this time of reflection to make true
dialogue possible. I respect the members of the Neocatechumenal Way
and hope that they will take an active part in the activities of the
diocese. I wish also that all the people of the diocese play an
active role in the three-year process we have begun in order to
revitalize our diocese. There is not one person in the diocese that
can be exempted from playing a part in this process.
January 20, 2011
Bishop of the Diocese of Takamatsu
The translation of the letter was provided by Bishop Mizobe