Church in the World
‘Divisive’ seminary to be shut
- 10 May 2008
A NEO-CATECHUMENATE seminary in Japan is to close after the country's bishops convinced Vatican officials that the movement was causing divisions in the Church by its way of thinking and in its attitude towards Japanese culture. Four senior Japanese bishops, including the president and vice president of the national episcopal conference, met for nearly an hour on 25 April with Pope Benedict XVI, according to a recent Union of Catholic Asian News report. It was the third time in five months that they were in Rome to express serious concerns over the presence of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in their country.
The movement, founded in Spain in 1964, has spread to 105 countries and operates a missionary seminary in the small Diocese of Takamatsu some 320 miles south-west of Tokyo.
Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe, the Bishop of Takamatsu, encountered difficulties with the "Neo-Cats" four years ago when he was appointed head of the diocese. He and other bishops raised their concerns directly to the Pope and other Vatican officials last December when they came to Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits. "In the small Catholic Church of Japan, the powerful sect-like activity of Way members is divisive and confrontational. It has caused division and strife in the Church," said Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, the bishops' conference president, during his group address to the Pope.
But it is believed that Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples (Propaganda Fidei) and favourable to the Neo-Catechumenal Way, intervened to "protect" the movement. Japan's 16 Catholic dioceses, with 500,000 members, are directly dependent on the cardinal's office, rather than the Congregation for Bishops or the Secretariat of State, because they are considered to be in mission territory.
Undeterred, Bishop Mizobe appealed to Vatican officials a second time when he came back to Rome early last month with Japan's highest-ranking bishops. That second visit still produced no results. The bishops returned for a third time and were finally able to meet privately with Pope Benedict.