A refreshing thought is that Kiko’s death must see great changes in the working and influence of the movement. But he looks dreadfully healthy at the moment. The picture of him that the El Pais website carried with the article suggests a powerful and charismatic personality. I’m reminded of Hitler by it all.
Kiko, the Wrath of God
He is the leader of the most powerful neoconservative movement in the Church, with a million and a half followers in 106 countries and 70 seminaries. A charismatic visionary who defends the most intransigent postulates of Catholicism. His group, the "kikos", moves in complete secrecy. This is Kiko and this is his movement.
But I am converted.
You’re converted, you say! Yes! yes! yes! You’re converted! What I mean to ask you is whether you wish to join the Way.
Any time is a good time to attract followers. The first press conference in more than 40 years given by Kiko Arguello, (pr Ar-gu-e-yo), the founder and head of the Neocatechumenal Way, the most powerful neoconservative movement in the Catholic Church, begins and ends with the journalists standing, reciting an Our Father. Some don’t know it, they stammer. The spectacle is worth contemplating. Arguello, 69, is a dry man, slightly stooped, with a Lucifer-like beard, white hair, a rough and reddened face, and charged eyes. He wears a striped black suit, and a dark shirt and tie; he grasps a bible with a black leather cover. In moments of tension he lights one unfiltered cigarette after another which he immediately stubs. He has a hero’s voice, shaken by tobacco, hymn singing and thousands of sermons. He reminds you of the preacher in a Western.
This is the third time he asks the journalist whether he wants to be converted. With his arm leaning paternally on his shoulders. He’s already asked him about his religious ideas in other meetings – ‘Do you believe in God?’ ‘Are you baptized?’ ‘How many children have you?’ ‘Give me a kiss’. On the other hand he’s been a long time granting a reasonable interview. Arguello distrusts El Pais. ‘Why do you want to report on the Way for an agnostic and left wing paper? In order to give me a hiding? I’ve got every copy of El Pais here that has had anything to say about me and about the Cardinal (Rouco, Cardinal of Madrid). The brotherhood has advised me not to speak to you. If I do, it’s because I love you’.
Arguello doesn’t talk to media that are critical of his politico-religious line. ‘Why waste time?’ And he rarely talks to the rest. He doesn’t give interviews. To try to get him to be specific about his ideas is useless, he escapes into complicated talk about vital experiences. He is a master of the monologue. His followers don’t know where or how or on what he lives. The majority don’t know him personally though they finance the Way with their donations. The disciple, once he’s passed the ‘second scrutiny’ (a personal examination that happens after the first years in the Way) must hand over to the community 10% of his income: the tithe – (el diezmo). If his partner is in the Way they both have to hand over the same percentage. Nobody knows where this money goes nor how it’s administered. There are no invoices. As well, at the end of each religious celebration one of the ‘brothers’ passes round a plastic bag (the so called bag of filth) into which each one puts what he can; from several euros to a gold bracelet or the deed to an apartment. The bag keeps circulating until the amount set by those in charge is reached. There are minutes of suspense. How many times will it go round? During the construction of The House of Galilee, the grandiose seat of The Way in Israel, the official asked 1000 euros from each of the disciples to finish the work. While the bag was being passed around the rest sang, ‘Consider how the lilies of the field grow: they don’t work, they don’t spin, but I tell you that not even Solomon in his glory was arrayed like one of them.’ In order to advance in The Way it is essential to get rid of your riches.
They are the ones who enrich the organisation; however Kiko rarely mixes with his support base. He is continually travelling the world. He says that he exists thanks to alms. At the same time he has a direct line to the Vatican. And for his faithful, to God Himself. ‘Kiko has invented nothing’, they say, ‘the Holy Spirit has inspired him.’ Kiko is celibate and dresses in black but he is not a priest. ‘He would never put himself under the control of a Bishop’, explains an old follower. He preaches, but he does not have a theological formation. He resolves the existential conflicts of his disciples, but he is not a psychologist. ‘Who is Kiko?’ He defines himself as an artist, ‘A poor fellow, a sinner; the happiest day of my life will be when I die. Pray for me.’ If he is asked about the cult of personality which gravitates around him, his skin reddens and he answers with a sour look, ‘In the Church there is always someone who begins things.’
After listening to him at various functions of The Way and speaking with him on a handful of occasions, I get the impression that Kiko Arguello is an ultraconservative visionary who is a master of word and gesture; whose mood changes; mystic, magnetic and flattering. And also the bearer of the wrath of God. ‘Hell exists,’ he reiterates. Tenacious and insistent. Endowed, says a monsignor, with ‘holy stubbornness’. An alarmist. ‘The antichrist is coming. Europe is on the road to apostasy’. According to himself, he’s persecuted. A potential martyr. He transmits, without distorting it and without fail, the message that God has communicated to him. With self confidence. Without embellishment. For hours. In the language of the common people. Rough and ready. He describes The Way as ‘This platform,’ or ‘this commotion in which we are placed.’ He speaks from the gut, not from theory. He says what comes out, what breaks out of him. At times incoherently. Stuffed with biblical quotations. He sings, he dances, he paints, he enthuses and interrogates his audience. ‘Who hasn’t got a divorced relative? Let me see, you, tell us your life story. How many children have you?’ He’s charismatic. The nearest thing to a televangelist that we have in Spain.
He says that the media of the left manipulate him politically. But his discourse is political. When we ask him about the situation in Spain, he answers with suspicion, ‘Lamentably the laws of the socialist government are breaking up the family. In Nordic countries kids are suiciding at 20 because they come from broken families. It’s the result of easy divorce.’
In his replies Arguello condemns same sex marriage radically. Contraceptives. Abortion. Euthanasia. Socialist ideas. And separatism (i.e. of church and state?) And religious progressives. And lukewarm bishops. And left wing Jesuits. And priests who don’t give up their parishes to The Way. And to monsignors who are reluctant to cooperate. That’s to say, anyone who doesn’t think the way he does. Himself, he has his ideas clear. ‘Certainly, the devil exists; he’s among us, he’s a fallen angel.
And does he attack you too?
He attacks us all. He’s got control of Monsignors to make them oppose The Way. He’s done us a lot of damage. The Demon is always ready. If you are married he’s lying in wait to make you fall in love with another woman. But in The Way, marriages don’t break up. Do you know why?
Because the relationship of love between those who have eternal life within them is different. A couple who don’t separate have life eternal. The love of a couple develops and matures; the passion of lovers is not the same as the love of Christ, which is a total love.
And if things go wrong for a couple?
For that there is the brotherhood of the community. When a marriage is in danger, the whole community prays for them; calls to them and supports them; and saves them.
Kiko Arguello sees the world in black and white. Sexuality is the axis of his catechesis. Pornography. Homosexuality ‘which is a sickness that can be cured.’ The rejection of contraceptives – ‘25% of condoms fail.’ His writings warn of the dangers of having adolescent children. ‘Parents are called to be realists, and to speak to their daughters of the dangers to which they expose themselves with certain modes of dressing(like exaggerated miniskirts or uncovered navels).if they don’t want to be surprised one day to find them pregnant, or even worse, to discover that they’ve had an abortion. In Rome during the press conference of June 13 he tells us that The Way celebrates its Eucharist on Saturday nights, amongst other things, ‘in order that the young won’t go to discotheques to fornicate and take drugs; the young of our communities don’t fornicate or take drugs or suicide.’
He wants to re-evangelize the world. Whether the world likes it or not. It is his mission. From the old Europe to China, passing through Latin America and the old Soviet republics. Already he has sent thousands of families and seminarians to catechize in the most abandoned corners of the planet. ‘Apostles,’ he calls them. A priest, stationed in Rome, recalls his surprise at finding in Kazakhstan a family of kikos from Valencia preaching door to door. “We are renewing the Church. We are the liveliest of all Christians, charged with the new evangelization through little communities who live like the first Christians and go forward together, explains Arguello.
Those who know Arguello maintain that he is proud, arrogant and authoritarian. He considers himself the equal of any cardinal. He keeps an iron control of his organisation of concentric circles which transmit directly his instructions. He has no lieutenants. There is no director of The Way, no press officer, no director of finances. He himself is the initiator. Nobody questions him. He is the author of the texts and symbols. Of the aesthetic, the music, and the songs; of the rites and practices; of the language and the lifestyle. And of the design of his churches, whose paintings, of neo-byzantine inspiration, he himself executes.
His followers are known as kikos. A parallel church, which consists of a million and a half faithful divided into 16,000 communities set in 6,000 parishes in 106 countries; with 3,000 priests, 1,500 seminarians in 70 seminaries. Beyond that they have entered into universities and colleges; into the Episcopal Conference, the army and the media. They direct the religious news agencies Zenith and H2O. They have stacked neoconservative demonstrations against socialist governments in Rome and Madrid. They are the infantry of the most intolerant church. An army of resistance against change. At their head Kiko is always working out strategies and productions. It is necessary to gain attention, to move the faithful. The wheel must keep turning. He loves to wield his powers. In front of his faithful he reels off in a high voice an exhausting cosmopolitan agenda. And close contact with the cardinals. Better persecuted than irrelevant. ‘The moment for evangelization has arrived,’ he says.
His biography as a visionary leader covers 44 years that lead from a shanty in Vallecas (Madrid), surrounded by gypsies, junkies and prostitutes armed with a bible and a guitar to suppers with the Pope in the shadows of the Vatican. To painting the frescoes of the cathedral of Madrid. To erecting an international seat in his image and likeness in Israel, on the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus Christ began to preach which was inaugurated by John Paul 2 himself in 2000.
It has not been an easy journey. Kiko Arguello has climbed forcefully. And with determination. And with what idea? God will provide? In the beginning some in the Church considered him a heretic. A Lutheran. A madman. A hippy out to gain attention. Even today, for many, he is the creator of a sect within the Church; accepted by the hierarchy, but always on a knife edge. With his masses and celebrations. His internal codes and systems of recruitment. And an absolute secrecy about his practices.
The texts of Kiko, the transcriptions of his catechesis by which the Way of all the communities in the world are guided, (they’re called mamotretos), are not available to the ordinary members. Only the Catechists, their iron guards, have access to them. ‘The rest won’t understand them,’ he says. You’ve got to be advanced in The Way. They are amongst the mysteries of The Way. But in reality, when we finally get access to the famous mamotretos, their content is disappointing. It’s more of the same. His mystical and personal experiences, his catastrophic vision of the world. And a continuous request for money from his faithful. The following are sentences extracted from the catechesis of Kiko in Spain: ‘Anyone who has an inheritance, anyone who has anything, let him put here 5 million pesetas for the construction of the seminary of Madrid.’ ‘Today I read something that has hurt me a great deal, that the singer Elton John is homosexual and wants to marry his friend, a kid, and he has been given a legal marriage in England.’ ‘Annulment of marriage is a trap of the devil.’ ‘We are entering a new age, and God is preparing us for the re-evangelization of the world.’
To travel The Way of Kiko Arguello, to arrive at true baptism, which comes about through immersion in the Jordan, in Israel, with the priest with the stole over the bather, can take a Christian between 20 and 30 years. Throughout this time, he will make an infinite number of steps, tests and examinations. Celebrations and retreats. Rites and exorcisms. He will renounce riches. He will renounce success. He will renounce friendships. He will expose his weaknesses before the brotherhood arranged in a circle around him. He will humble himself before them. The catechist, the guide, has absolute power over the catechised, who owes him obedience. One old female follower of Kiko explains it this way: ‘They so shape our sentiments that we become capable, after some years, of leaving partner, children, work, money…, whatever, if a catechist asks it of us. And if you don’t fulfil anything he asks of you, you will be expelled from the community. The catechists are described by another ex-kiko as ‘hard people, controlling, intransigent, who modify the minds of their disciples.’ When Arguello is asked what formation the catechists are given to channel psychologically, vocationally, emotionally, economically the life of the members of the community, he answers upset, ‘What preparation are they going to get? A wonderful preparation. In a community they don’t need more. There are the 3000 pages of the mamotreto to enable them to carry out their mission.’ Nobody knows whether The Way ever finishes.
It’s all his own work. This thick cocktail in which the practices of the primitive Christians are mixed with the Hebraic tradition; evangelical, fundamentalist interpretation of the Scriptures with group therapy; guitars, palms and dances with the formulas of itinerant preachers of the protestant sects. Without forgetting the ideological similarity with Born Again Christians in the United States who brought George Bush to power.
Everything is the work of his imagination. And, according to his followers, of the Holy Spirit. So, on the thirteenth of June last, in Rome, Francisco Jose Gomez de Arguello was happy. Nervous and exhausted, but happy. That morning Monsignor Stanislaus Rilko had finally, on the orders of the Pope, put his signature on The Decree of Approval of the Statutes of The Neocatechumenal Way. It gave canonical status to the kikos, to their aims and practices. The Vatican had given in. Kiko Arguello had steamrolled his critics. He had achieved it – giving legal form to an organisation based on the most absolute lack of definition. He had managed to have The Neocatechumenal Way not defined by the Holy See as a religious association. nor an order, nor a priestly brotherhood, not even as a lay group. The Way is like nothing else in the Church. It is an ‘itinerary of Christian initiation’. Anything more ethereal is impossible. It has neither juridical personality nor juridical heritage. ‘We are something more profound than an organisation. We administer spiritual goods,’ says Kiko. The Pope and Rilko wanted us to be an association. And I said, no, no, no!’
The Neocatechumenal Way is a mystery. It has no elegant social seat in Rome like the Jesuits or Opus. The kikos have nothing for the eyes of the public than discrete quarters situated in two bare cellars in Rome and Madrid. But its followers and ex-followers tell of numerous pieces of real estate in Italy and in Spain. At the beginning of the nineties, (seemingly under the inspiration of Cardinal Suquia), they created an organization named The Family of Nazareth Foundation for Itinerant Evangelization, which, according to its statutes, registered in the Ministry of Justice in 1993, is dedicated to ‘sustaining the itinerant evangelizing activity of the members belonging to the Neocatechumenal Way. Especially to the displaced in dechristianized zones. The recently approved statutes of The Way foresee that other similar foundations will be set up in other dioceses to channel income.
What’s more, The Way doesn’t answer for its acts to anyone. It is a method of Catholic formation at the service of the Bishops. The kikos lend their services to the Church in exchange for dismantling the former Church and setting up their own. They arrive in a parish, ask permission of the Parish Priest, program catecheses, set up communities and begin The Way. They go in parallel. They are the elect. They show their faithful divided into little sealed off communities, (which rarely mix with other communities, and even more rarely with the faithful of the traditional parish) their particular vision of how to reach Paradise, at the same time as they control their lives. For the kikos, beyond The Way there is nothing. Outside is ‘the world’. And it is evil. And it is not possible to be happy if you are not in The Way. This is the message that the brotherhood receives for decades. Their children, at nine years of age, after First Communion, begin to take part in their liturgical acts, and at thirteen are fully incorporated into the community. They will know no other form of life. Neither at home nor in the parish. So it’s difficult to break with Kiko. After years shut up in community, there remains nothing outside The Way. Not friends, not love, not possible salvation. Those who abandon it are called ‘ex’ (from rebotados – ex-priests or ex-nuns) in the jargon of Arguello. And it’s foretold that ‘the blood of Christ will fall on them’. When an offspring abandons The Way, catechists prohibit the parents from having contact with them again. And vice versa.
Is it a sect? In the Catholic Church nobody dares to make that accusation. The Way is blessed by the Vatican. So some prefer to speak of ‘behaviour’, of ‘practices’, of ‘sectarian individuals’. But to watch, on the night of the last holy Saturday, March 22 2008, during the Paschal Vigil, the members of The Way, fasting, in the shadows, dressed in white tunics, carrying candles, singing for hours, baptizing their children by immersion, dancing in a circle till the sun goes down…,you can’t help feel a certain unease.
At the beginning of the sixties, Arguello was a young artist of good family in Madrid. He was a confessed agnostic, who during an existential crisis that ‘brought him to the gates of suicide’ went to live with the gypsies in the cottages of Palomeras Altas, a suburb of Madrid. The way many priests, as a result of Vatican 2, decided to meet God among the poor. Some would end up in the Left. Not Kiko. In the shanties, Kiko experienced a personal conversion. Not a social one. He heard the voice of God. He wept for hours. Like a good convert, he became more papist than the Pope. As Jesus Bastante, specialist in religious matters explains, ‘The convert, like Saint Paul, when he finds the truth, radically rejects his former life. He acquires a conviction that society is wicked. He is reborn. And like St Paul, from persecuting Christians he turns to persecuting pagans.’ Today Kiko affirms that 70% of his followers were non-practising Christians before knowing The Way. Today they are the newly converted.
After the ‘revelation’ the moment had arrived in which Kiko would put his theories into practice. He had to re-evangelize Christians who were asleep. To lead them to a new baptism. It was 1964. He would make contact with emerging groups of post-conciliar Catholics and with priests; he would never be adapted to the discipline of others. He refused to be below anyone. Always he wanted to be the centre of attention. He would absorb the practices of each group. The terminology. And the way they were structured. And then he, the artist, would give it its own form. Beginning with the Mass. They would take Communion seated, with authentic bread and wine. Singing Kiko’s songs. Explaining his experiences in public. He had to sell the product. He himself knew how.
In the shanties of Vallecas he was going to meet, in those first stages of his career, the woman who has been his companion, his alter ego and co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, through four decades, Carmen Hernandez, a nun of her generation, of a wealthy family, a Licentiate in theology, who from her girlhood had wanted to be a missionary, but had never submitted to the discipline of the religious orders. ‘We were two misfits; that everything would go well is a miracle,’ says Arguello. Kiko would bring to The Way his charisma, his interpretive gifts, his restlessness. Carmen Hernandez the doctrinal base that Arguello lacked. They would unite forces. The relationship between them is one of the great mysteries (one of the favourite terms of The Way) of the kikos. Their followers explain immediately that they are not a couple. It is certain he is the leader. But she is not disposed to remain without her moment of glory. She is the voice of his conscience. In public and in private. And she presses him conscientiously.
Carmen Hernandez(note the t-shirt) and Italian priest Mario Pezzi,
who joined the couple in the late sixties.
May 22, 2008. Parish of Saint Catherine Laboure, Madrid. This church, opened in 2003 by Cardinal Rouco, summarizes Arguello’s aesthetic ideal. What he wants to establish in his parishes. ‘Kiko is a genius,’ says Mattia del Prete, one of the architects of The Way. White marble, golden domes, wall to wall carpet of electric blue, frescoes by Kiko himself. The altar, in the centre; the benches surrounding it and a little pool for baptism by immersion. The icons, the chalice, the wine-glass, the elevated cross, the flowers on the table, the jacket of gold-work that covers the Gospels, all is the work of his artist’s mind. It is not easy to get into his private celebrations. They are behind closed doors. This night, the founder is meeting his oldest followers. They wear white linen tunics. Except the journalist. And Kiko, always in black. He speaks for hours. However, in the purest tradition of comic couples, his sentences are replied to, criticised, even ridiculed aloud by Carmen Hernandez, the co-founder, seated at his back. We are in family. No-one seems surprised. But Carmen’s amusing replies during public ceremonies, and even during the press conference in Rome, make anyone unprepared for them blush. At one moment, Carmen says, ‘I tell the truth and you make it up.’ Kiko puts his hands to his head, shows the whites of his eyes, looks to heaven and asks for divine mercy. She laughs sarcastically: ‘Own up, Kiko! You only want the journalists to take your photo. Here is Saint Kiko!’
How has this singular couple managed to get so much power within the Catholic Church? The unstoppable rise of the kikos can’t be understood without considering two causes: the unstoppable growth of membership as a result of the fervent demographic policy of the movement (a woman must have all the children that God sends her) and the unconditional support of John Paul 2 throughout the 27 years of his reign.
In any of the celebrations of the kikos during which life experiences are related, all speakers offer their first names and tell the number of children they have given to the world. As the number climbs a murmur of approval goes through the benches of the church. When a member announces, ‘I have ten,’ applause breaks out. According to Arguello, the members of The Way have the greatest average number of children in Christianity, five per family. In the 44 years of The Way, thousands of children and grandchildren of the first followers have been incorporated into the communities. The growth of their ranks has been exponential. Today they pack the celebrations. And after every one of them, the crowds stirred up by Kiko’s catechesis, the founder asks for vocations: ‘Raise your hand if you want to go to the seminary!’ In the din of the moment, on fire, tens of young people join up without thinking it through. Many will march through the world as wandering preachers financed by The Way. Others will become their priests. And the bishops, deeply moved. Who will deny Kiko anything?
John Paul 2 was the most enthusiastic of these Bishops. The first of them. When Karol Woytila arrived at the Vatican in 1978 the churches and the seminaries were empty, the traditional orders (Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans) flirting with the Theology of Liberation and the diocesan clergy old and in confusion. Woytila was the result of the Cold War; he conceived of a church of resistance to Communism. ‘And from the first moment, his idea is to re-evangelize Europe. He sees that he can not count on the old orders’ explains a Spanish priest. ‘He finds himself alone. There is a spiritual vacuum and providentially the new neocon groups appear (Opus Dei, Focolares, Communion and Liberation, Saint Egidio, and the kikos) formed by lay people with a conception of the Church similar to his own, and he draws on them. They not only fill stadiums for him, but they are an antidote to the Theology of Liberation and the proliferation of evangelical sects in Latin America. They are ready to peach in the old Communist countries. And they profess a dog-like fidelity to him.
Kiko and Woytila are twin souls. They both want to re-evangelize Christianity. And they are two old enthusiasts of the theatre. They know the importance of image. As one monsignor relates, Carmen and Kiko cultivate John Paul conscientiously. They are masters in the art of flattery. As often as the Pope opens his window, rain or snow, there is a group of kikos with guitars, singing in honour of him. Kikos will sing for Woytila in every mass celebration at which he’s present in any corner of the world. Every Sunday Carmen Hernandez is with the Pope while he visits the parishes of Rome as bishop of his diocese. She becomes a habitual presence. Kiko and Carmen eventually penetrate the intimacy of the Pope and share private meals with him. They will talk with him with their habitual harshness of the state of the Church. They will give him reports about the fidelity of the bishops. Previously, the pair had won over to their cause the powerful secretary of the Pope, the Polish priest, Stanislaw Dziwisz. When he is made cardinal in 2006, they will be in the front rank, and the new cardinal will fraternally put his arm round Carmen’s shoulders. She confirms that they are still good friends: ‘He has invited us to Cracow, and he treats me like a queen. He invites me to seafood.’
In 1990, against the judgment of certain bishops who are suspicious of the practices of The Way, Woytila publishes a letter of recognition which conveys his good regard for the kikos. In the document he exhorts bishops to value and to support the work of The Way. In other words he orders them to open the doors of their parishes. One follower suspects that the letter was drawn up by Arguello, who gave it to the Pope to sign. It was the great recognition.
The founder deploys the same strategy of seduction in the decade of the nineties with the Spanish episcopate. Especially when Antonio Maria Rouco Varela is made Archbishop in 1994. On the one hand, he flatters him to win him over; on the other, he offers him results: the seminary, full; the parishes, active; plazas packed, and an important source of power in relations with Rome. Rouco hands himself over, arms and baggage. He will become his ally. He will put at his disposal his fine gifts as a canon lawyer for the working up of the Statutes (which are drawn up between 1997 and 2002); he will permit him to open a seminary, and in 2004 will entrust to him the creation of the frescoes of Madrid Cathedral. In the Episcopal Palace of the capital there is a joke going round, ‘Rouco wants to go down in history as the Cardinal who entrusted the completion of his cathedral to a saint’. And the generous donations of The Way to the Archbishop to finishing the Cathedral mustn’t be forgotten either.
And above all, Kiko will provide Rouco with political influence. At a meeting in Rome in October 2007, during the beatification of 468 Religious assassinated in the Civil War, Arguello will propose to the Cardinal organising a great demonstration in Madrid ‘in defense of the Christian family’. There are barely three months left before the general elections. The polls predict a technical draw between the PSOE (Socialist Party of Spanish Workers) and the (right wing) Popular Party. Rouco is doubtful. It seems precipitate. Arguello reassures him, ‘Don Antonio, I will put 300,000 kikos in Columbus Place’. Rouco agrees. The demonstration takes place on October 30. Various Cardinals and 42 Bishops attend.
This supposed religious demonstration turns into a political rally against the Government of Rodriguez Zapatero and his initiatives like homosexual marriage and the school subject, Education for Citizenship. The dais rises above an icon painted by Arguello. Organisers accuse Zapatero of ‘breaking up the family’. Cardinal Garcia-Gasco goes further. ‘Radical laicism can bring about the dissolution of democracy and does not respect the constitution,’ he roars. Kiko closes the rally with his guitar. And sounds an alarm, ‘These atheistic and lay Governments want to make us believe that our life goes nowhere. But it is going to Heaven.’
The Socialist Party wins the elections of March 9, 2008. And Pope Ratzinger takes note. He does not want problems with the Spanish Government. Pressure, conflict.
With the June 13 approval of the Statutes of the Neocatechuminal Way (with the Holy See making minor modification relating to the peculiar nature of the movement), its leader, Kiko Arguello has got everything that he proposed 44 years earlier. He is one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church. The visible head of the neoconservatives. With a million and a half followers ready to take the streets and the parishes. The maker of numerous families, wholehearted missionaries and ordained followers who are already beginning to rise to the episcopacy. However his relationship with the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, hasn’t the complicity it enjoyed with Woytila. Pope Ratzinger, an eminent theologian who had to struggle with Arguello when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that is to say, in charge of orthodoxy, watches his adventures from a distance. And he has chosen to share areas of power between the traditional orders and the neocons. Something nice and something unpleasant. A line that certain bishops critical, or jealous, of Arguello’s power, share. So The Neocatechumenal Way has had problems with the Episcopal Conferences of Israel and Japan over certain liturgical and proselytizing practices of its members. Many ask what will happen to The Way when Arguello, the charismatic and undisputed leader, the soul and the creator of liturgy and the aesthetic, dies without an heir. ‘Nothing will be the same without Kiko,’ they say.
There is a joke that goes around the communities of The Way. Kiko is on his deathbed and a group of his followers visit him to tell him that a Pantheon is being built in Israel to bury him like a Patriarch. Kiko sits up, smiles sarcastically and answers, ‘Don’t complicate life, brothers; for the three days that I’m going to be dead?’