VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Japanese bishops, including the president of the bishops’ conference, met with Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials to discuss the Neocatechumenal Way.
The Dec. 13 meeting with four Japanese bishops had been called by Pope Benedict, said the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka.
He told Catholic News Service that the meeting lasted nearly two hours and included the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and "several other cardinals."
While the archbishop would not comment on the substance of the meeting, he said the bishops would have to have further discussions with the Vatican and the Neocatechumenal Way’s co-founder, Kiko Arguello.
The Japanese bishops "have to make a plan to proceed," he said, adding, "We have to proceed slowly."
Giuseppe Gennarini, a spokesman for the Way in the United States, told CNS Dec. 15 that the Vatican was going to appoint a delegate to continue the dialogue between the bishops and the Way.
The meeting came more than a year after the Neocatechumenal Way’s Redemptoris Mater seminary in Takamatsu was closed and transferred to Rome.
Bishop Francis Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu and the diocesan pastoral council wanted to shut down the seminary because of concerns that the activity of the Way’s members was damaging the unity of Japan’s small Catholic community.
The Vatican conducted an investigation in 2007, and in 2008, Cardinal Bertone released a letter announcing the seminary would be closed and that many of the seminarians and faculty would be transferred to the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Rome.
According to an April 2009 news release on the Japanese bishops’ website, the Neocatechumenal Way disagreed with the closure.
The bishops’ concerns with the Way and the seminary were so strong that they traveled to Rome twice in early 2008 after their "ad limina" visit in December 2007.
They met with Vatican officials and the pope to discuss what Tokyo Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, then-president of the bishops’ conference, said was "a serious problem."
"The powerful sect-like activity of Way members is divisive and confrontational. It has caused sharp, painful division and strife within the church," the archbishop said Dec. 15, 2007, in an address to the pope during the bishops’ "ad limina" visit, made every five years to report on the status of the dioceses. The archbishop appealed to the pope for assistance, saying his input "was direly needed."