The Archdiocese of Agana has asked for a halt on the formation of new Neocatechumenal Way communities across the island in an effort to heal the divides among Guam's Catholic faithful.
The request was issued to NCW leaders by Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, who said in a statement that he was in the process of developing church policies that balanced the concerns of traditional Catholics with the "blessing" the NCW has been for many.
"I have asked the lead catechists here in Guam to put a 'pause' on the formation of new communities for a period of about a year," Byrnes said in the release. "During this time I intend to appoint a priest delegate to help me discern the effects of our efforts, to review the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way and to ensure that catechists are sufficiently formed and certified for their important role. By this I wish to create a kind of moral and spiritual space in which healing can begin."
While Byrnes affirmed the NCW as a Catholic community recognized and approved by the Holy See that has brought many into the fold of the Catholic faith, he also acknowledged the many appeals from "a significant number of the faithful about the way the Eucharist is celebrated" by the NCW.
To that end, Byrnes' statement outlined a number of "norms" governing liturgical protocols as a means of "fostering clarity" for Guam's Catholic faithful.
Among Byrnes' new norms is the rule that Sunday Eucharist must be celebrated at a consecrated altar. For the complete explanation of the new norms, see Byrnes' complete statement on The Guam Daily Post website.
Chancery staff explained to the Post that "special dispensations" had been granted by the Vatican to NCW communities given their particular purpose.
Byrnes explained his reasoning for the allowances granted to the NCW communities as following in the spirit of remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI concerning NCW communities in 2012.
In 2012, Pope Benedict described the apparent differences between traditional Catholic services and NCW services as designed "precisely to encourage people who have drifted away from the church or have not received an appropriate formation to draw close to the riches of the sacramental life."
According to Post sources, many NCW communities held Masses outdoors, at private residences and in other unconventional locales, especially in those communities with particularly small congregation numbers.
In order to account for the necessary rearrangement of Mass schedules for the different parishes around the island, Byrnes said he would allow for a two-week period to adjust to the new norm requiring Masses to take place at consecrated altars.
"That is to say that I expect all Masses to take place at a consecrated altar or in an approved chapel by the 5th Sunday of Lent," he wrote.
All the other norms go into effect this Sunday, March 20.
"The need to build adherence to liturgical norms is imperative however, and will only enrich the fruits of the Neocatechumenal movement," Byrnes said. "I ask all Catholics to have the spirit of Christ during this time of adjustment and be charitable with one another especially during this holy season of Lent."