TOKYO – The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) has called for the cooperation of priests and laypeople to confront “problems” with the Neocatechumenal Way, which he said has had a negative effect in the country.

“In those places touched by the Neocatechumenal Way, there has been rampant confusion, conflict, division and chaos,” Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka said in a statement published in Katorikku Shimbun, the Catholic Weekly of Japan, on Jan 12. His statement was reported by the Asian Church news agency, UCA News.

“In Japan, the net effect has been negative,” Archbishop Ikenaga said in his statement. “We bishops, in light of our apostolic pastoral responsibility, could not ignore the damage.”

Pope Benedict XVI refused a December request from four Japanese bishops, including Archbishop Ikenaga, to suspend the Neocatechumenal Way for five years.

Archbishop Ikenaga’s statement, dated Dec 20, suggests that the bishops are unwilling to let the matter rest there.

“Until now, the CBCJ has engaged with both the Holy See and the Neocatechumenal Way. But now the time has come to gain the participation of the laypeople of Japan,” Archbishop Ikenaga wrote in the statement.

He said the pope plans to send an envoy to Japan soon. He said the bishops hope those who have come into personal contact with the Neocatechumenal Way will relate their experiences to the pope’s envoy.

“The fact is, it’s very difficult for the real state of affairs to be conveyed to a place as far away as Rome,” he wrote.

“We hope that they [the Neocatechumenal Way] will take a hard look at why things haven’t worked out here so far and, for the first time, help us root out the cause of the problems, so that we can find the path to a solution.”

The Neocatechumenal Way was set up in Japan around 1970 in the Diocese of Hiroshima. In 1990, the affiliated Redemptoris Mater seminary was built in Takamatsu diocese, which has the smallest number of resident Catholics of any Japanese diocese. - CNS

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