Sunday, December 28, 2014


The controversy in the Archdiocese of Agana over the manner in which Holy Communion is distributed in the eucharistic celebrations of the Neocatechumenal Way

Submitted by Tim Rohr

A PDF copy of this post may be accessed here.

The controversy in the Archdiocese of Agana over the manner in which Holy Communion is distributed in the eucharistic celebrations of the Neocatechumenal Way (NCW) is no small matter. This is primarily due to Archbishop Apuron’s public response to a 2005 directive from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments (CDW).

In December of 2005, in the midst of the “ad experimentum” period granted to the Neocatechumenal Way, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect for the CDW, issued a letter 1 to the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way beginning with the address: “The Holy Father wishes you to know…”

In the letter, Cardinal Arinze notes six items of concern relative to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist by the neocatechumenals. Item 5 reads as follows:

5. On the manner of receiving Holy Communion, a period of transition (not exceeding two years) is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to pass from the widespread manner of receiving Holy Communion in its communities (seated, with a cloth-covered table placed at the center of the church instead of the dedicated altar in the sanctuary) to the normal way in which the entire Church receives Holy Communion. This means that the Neocatechumenal Way must begin to adopt the manner of distributing the Body and Blood of Christ that is provided in the liturgical books.

Only a few weeks later, speaking on the Archdiocese of Agana radio station (KOLG 90.9 FM), Archbishop Apuron publicly challenged Cardinal Arinze's authority to issue the directive, saying:

“Arinze, to tell you the truth, is really not for the Way, and I don’t know what credentials he has, I mean I don’t want to get into an argument in terms of an individual but Cardinal Arinze, with due respect, uh, I, you know uh, I don’t know why he uh uh wants us to conform to what...and you know the… “ (He then changes the subject.) 2

This might have been seen as an error or a small slip up except that it occurred in the context of 40 minute long address in which Archbishop Apuron defends the Neocatechumenal Way in terms of “we” and “us” (categorically identifying himself with the NCW apart from the rest of the diocese) and goes so far as to cast Cardinal Arinze’s letter as an historically unique permission for the NCW to continue its practices:

“ fact, really looking at the letter, mostly, beside the interpretation of the two is the first time in the history of the church that we were give permissions for the variations that is being done in the Neo Catechumenal Way, officially by the pope.” 3

The program, which at the time was aired live every Monday morning, was normally rebroadcast in the afternoon of the same day and twice more later in the week. Word quickly got out about the Archbishop’s statements and many were waiting for the rebroadcast to hear for themselves what was a very obvious taking of sides by Archbishop Apuron, not just against those of us who are not members of the NCW, but against the legitimate authority of the Church (the CDW).

The rebroadcast never came. Realizing the full impact of the Archbishop’s scandalous remarks, the show’s producers decided not to rebroadcast the episode. However, they did not initially announce why. Angry listeners began calling the station asking the technician on duty why the program was not being rebroadcast. The technician simply told the callers what he was told: “I don’t know, they just told me not to run it.” (The technician was my son.)

The next day a meeting was called by Deacon Frank Tenorio, the manager of the station. The object of the meeting was to come up with a statement that could be released explaining why the program with the Archbishop’s damaging remarks was not being rebroadcast.

With the Archbishop present, Deacon Tenorio proposed that we blame it on “technical difficulties.” The shows hosts, Fr. Michael Crisostomo and Mr. Fred Rodriguez, (and others) were present at the meeting. Everyone seemed shocked into stillness. Deacon Tenorio, in front of the Archbishop, had just proposed a lie. There was no protest from Archbishop Apuron. Apparently he was content that we lie for him.

After a long moment, I called it a lie. Again, no response from the Archbishop. Finally, Fr. Crisostomo proposed something benign that was at least not a lie.

This episode would have long been forgotten except for Archbishop Apuron's continued campaign to advance the neocatechumenal agenda in this diocese, a campaign he actually began in Rome in 2005 at the Synod on the Eucharist where in front of Pope Benedict and the rest of the synod fathers, he proudly advocated for the anomalous liturgical practices of the NCW. Here is an excerpt from a report by the Catholic News Service:

Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana, Guam, said perhaps "the church needs to restore the 'breadness' of the bread," by using the "unleavened bread used in the ancient and primitive church rather than the wafer-thin, mass-produced bread we use as hosts for our people today."

He said using signs that "fully and powerfully represent the reality they signify and not just approximate them" might lead the faithful to "better appreciate the Eucharist."

He said in his experience small faith communities more successfully grasped the faith.

In order to foster that sense of a close community, he suggested the priest take the Eucharist to seated people.

"What sort of a banquet does one go to which requires you to stand rather than sit?" Archbishop Apuron asked.

He said that, in the Gospels, St. Mark said "Christ served the apostles -- he did not ask or invite them to come up" in order to receive his body and blood.

The archbishop praised the Neocatechumenal Way in Guam and said he has witnessed "a remarkable growth in faith in the lives of thousands of people" who are part of this parish-based process of faith formation. 4

In another news report, Archbishop Apuron is said to have... 

“asked that the practice of receiving communion while seated be extended, because ‘if the Eucharist is a banquet, then this is the most appropriate posture.’” 5

(We note here that Archbishop Apuron's belief that the Eucharist "is a banquet", is based in Kiko Arguello's theology of the Eucharist as solely a banquet to the exclusion of it being a Holy Sacrifice.)

Archbishop Apuron personally bragged about his comments at the synod during the above mentioned radio program on KOLG:

“ you know, it was made public that I argued first of all for the kiss of peace to be moved, or at least the possibility of having to move the kiss of peace at before the offertory after the homily, before moving into the liturgy of the eucharist as is done in the eastern church. And that’s what separates us from the eastern church but it had been the much earlier practice of the church in the primitive church, the receiving communion seated. My argument, and in front of the pope and the bishops there…” 6

Thus, we can be assured, given his public statements in Rome to the pope himself, that the KOLG incident was NOT a “slip up”, and that Archbishop Apuron was in fact, in those statements on KOLG, stating clearly and emphatically that he not only believed that the liturgical inventions of Kiko Arguello, the founder of the NCW, to be “most appropriate”, he also, in rejecting Rome’s authority on the matter, was publicly embracing an alternative hierarchy.

This “alternative hierarchy” has continued to rule Archbishop Apuron to the present day. And while many of us were willing to overlook most of damage that seemed to be mostly occurring around the edges of our church, we could not longer ignore it once Archbishop Apuron began his attack on the very heart of our church with his public persecution and maltreatment of the clergy, first in 2008 when he threatened three priests from the Philippines with an effective deportation should they not serve the NCW, 7 and then again in 2013 and 2014 with his public attacks on Fr. Paul Gofigan 8 and Msgr. James Benavente, 9

(Fr. Gofigan, because he stood in the way of the NCW's control of the largest parish on the island, and Msgr. Benavente because he has long been rumored to be Apuron's most likely successor, and not being "Neo", he had to be eliminated.)

In April of 2008, four months after the two year “grace period” given by Cardinal Arinze for the NCW to change its communion practice, and one month prior to the final approval of the Statute of the NCW, I approached a priest, a member of the Neocatechumenal Way and a professor at Guam’s Redemptoris Mater Seminary, and asked him why, given the deadline, the NCW had NOT complied with Cardinal Arinze’s directive.

I am copying here the full conversation on this issue between this priest, who for the purposes of this post I shall refer to as Fr. X, and myself:

(Note: The priest's name will be supplied in the version submitted directly to the visitators. I do not consider this priest to be the culprit in this matter. He appears to be just the messenger. However, hopefully he has seen how much damage all this has led to. The priest is welcome to identify himself in the comments below if he wishes. Highlights are mine.)

4/26/08 (from Tim Rohr to Fr. X)

I have spent quite a bit of time compiling questions, but before I submit any of them, perhaps this one needs to be answered first. Has the NCW on Guam obeyed the directive of Pope Benedict XVI as transmitted through Cardinal Arinze's office on December 1, 2005 regarding the reception of Holy Communion:

5. On the manner of receiving Holy Communion, a period of transition (not exceeding two years) is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to pass from the widespread manner of receiving Holy Communion in its communities (seated, with a cloth-covered table placed at the center of the church instead of the dedicated altar in the sanctuary) to the normal way in which the entire Church receives Holy Communion. This means that the Neocatechumenal Way must begin to adopt the manner of distributing the Body and Blood of Christ that is provided in the liturgical books.

The two year transition period expired as of Dec 1, 2007. However, every person in the NCW that I have asked about this says that they still receive Holy Communion according to the way described above from which the NCW was instructed to depart.

Has the NCW been granted an extension of the time allotted? If so, I would encourage you to make it known so that the rest of Guam's Catholics are not scandalized by what appears to be disobedience. Or, is it that just some communities have not gotten the word? Or, is it that some communities are not in line with the full authority of the Church? Is this something that the bishop himself can decide? If so, then that should be made known. As I've said before, whatever Rome is okay with I am okay with. I have no issue with anything that Rome allows regardless of my personal preferences. We just need to know the real story. As it looks now, the NCW is not obedient and appears to be making its own rules. I think this question needs to be dealt with first. Thank you,Tim

4/26/08 (from Fr. X to Tim Rohr)
Dear Tim:
An extension has been granted.  The reason for this is that the statues that will be definitively approved have a modification of the instructions contained in the letter from Cardinal Arinze.  These statutes were to have been approved to coincide with the end of the two year period mentioned in the Cardinal's letter, but other issues regarding the statutes have been raised by one of the departments of the Roman Curia.  Kiko asked the Council of the Laity, which oversees the NCW, what should be done, and he was instructed by the Cardinal Prefect of the Council to continue the present practice until the statues are completed.  We are still waiting. 

Fr. X

4/26/08 (from Tim Rohr to Fr. X) 
Then this needs to be made known. I will be happy to do my part in getting the word out so that the opponents of the Way no longer use this as part of their evidence against the Way. Can you please supply a copy of the instruction from the Cardinal Prefect?

Thank you, 

4/26/08 (from Fr. X to Tim Rohr) 

Kiko spoke to Cardinal Rylko, the head of the Council for the Laity, back in December when the two year transitional period ran out.  Both Kiko and Cardinal Rylko knew that the statutes would contain a modification of Cardinal Arinze's instructions.  Rylko gave an oral reply to Kiko to maintain the present practice so that the Holy See would not be put in the awkward position of seeming to change its mind by going from Arinze's letter to the new statues in a very short time.  

The pope approved the statutes in the beginning of February and they were to be promulgated on February  27th.  But just before the promulgation, the statutes were removed from the hands of the Council of the Laity and sent back for further considerations by the other four dicasteries of the Curia that have to review any changes in the statutes.  We were just told to hold tight until you receive further word.  No explanations were given at the time.  There is, however, evidently still some strong resistance to the statutes on the part of some in the Curia and they are trying to introduce further changes.  However, there are no documents to show you at this point.  All our instruction have been oral, but we are satisfied with that.  We have no choice.  

All we were told is to take no action until the Holy See resolves these matters. This is what we are doing. However, I hope you understand that this information is not for publication.  I share it with you so that you will understand the delicate position we are in at the moment.  I would caution against reading into these events more what I have said.  I mention them simply to show that we are not disregarding Arinze's letter, but that subsequent events have changed the situation in which we find ourselves.  

Fr. X

4/27/08 (from Tim Rohr to Fr. X) 
Okay, I won't pass this on. However, I must say that it does seem odd that a change or abatement of a directive coming from such a high office as that of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and also one that made so much news upon its release, and one that affects the worship of over 1 million Catholics (the estimated pop. of the NCW) and the observations of many millions more (those aware of the directive but not in the NCW), could be left to just a conversation between Kiko and the Cardinal.

While I have no reason to doubt what you say is true, the potential for scandal is huge. Also, the Pope very clearly reinforced the directive from the CDW in his address to the NCW on Jan. 12, 2006. It is hard to believe that this Pope, perhaps the clearest thinker on the planet, would change his mind. Also, the fact that the practice is still in place even now shows that the directive that came out over two years was completely ignored.

The NCW was not given 2 years to continue its practice, but 2 years to change it. Obviously no effort was made to change it.

I also understand that one of the contingencies for the approval of the statutes is an investigation into "how fully the Neocatechumenal Way has adhered to the norms issued in December 2005 by the Congregation for Divine Worship". Why is there any need to investigate your obedience in this matter if in fact the approval of the statues is going to include a retraction of the directive???

I have to say that on a personal level your answer is a great discouragement. My issue is not with you, but with the continued mystery that seems to shroud more and more aspects of the NCW. I think for now, due to my increasing skepticism about the NCW, it will be wise of me to no longer engage in any attempt at dialogue or reconciliation between the NCW and those that are openly hostile to it. I will wait in silence for Rome to speak. Thank you for your time. 


4/27/08 (from Fr. X to Tim Rohr) 
Dear Tim:  

All of the directions contained in Cardinal Arinze's letter have already been put into practice.  The only exception is the manner of receiving communion.  There are some practical problems due to the type of bread that we use.  We will the expressed direction of the Roman Missal which says that the bread should look like bread.  Hosts may be used as a second option if circumstances render it more feasible.  As a matter of practice, all parishes that I am ware of do not even attempt the preferred form because of the difficulties attached to it.  Arinze's letter presupposes the use of hosts as does the mode of distribution envisioned in his letter.  Kiko was granted an audience with the Pope in May, 2007, and discussed the issue.  Kiko proposed an alternative method which would meet these problems and which the Pope then accepted.  The statues, which incorporate the other provisions of Arinze's letter,  were then amended to reflect this modification.  

The fact that the statutes have been delayed is most unfortunate.  I trust their publication will go a long way to remove an suspicions. 

Fr. X

4/28/08 (from Tim Rohr to Fr. X) 

Okay, I'll wait. 

Tim 10

So as you can see, the 01 December 2005 directive from the CDW was NEVER obeyed, and as per this email conversation with Fr. X, the permission is said to have come from Cardinal Rylko. The question is whether or not Cardinal Rylko, if in fact this account is true, has the authority to overrule the 01 December 2005 directive from the CDW, and if so, why is there no documentation of this decision from Cardinal Rylko? According to Fr. X, all the instructions are “oral”. This is not the way Rome operates especially in matters regarding the celebration of the Eucharist.

Of course, the main context of Fr. X's comments is the pending approval of the Statute in which it appears he is assured the NCW will continue to be permitted to receive communion sitting. The Statute received final approval two months after this conversation (in June 2008), and there was NO permission to continue the neocatechumenal practice of receiving Holy Communion seated.

Specifically Article 13 § 3 states:

For the celebration of the Eucharist in the small communities the approved liturgical books of the Roman Rite are followed, with the exception of the explicit concessions from the Holy See. 49 Regarding the distribution of Holy Communion under the two species, the neocatechumens receive it standing, remaining at their place.

Footnote 49 is copied as follows with my comments in italics:

See Benedict XVI, Speech to the Neocatechumenal Communities on January 12, 2006, in Notitiae 41 (2005), 554–556;  (In this address, Pope Benedict emphasizes that the 01 December 2005 instruction from the CDW was issued on his behalf.)

CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP, Letter of December 1, 2005 in Notitiae 41 (2005), 563–565; (This is the letter from Cardinal Arinze instructing the neocatechumenals to cease the practice of receiving Holy Communion while seated.)

“Notification of the Congregation for Divine Worship on celebrations in groups of the Neocatechumenal Way,” L’Osservatore Romano, December 24, 1988: “The Congregation consents that among the adaptations foreseen by the instruction “Actio Pastoralis”, nn. 6-11, the groups of the above-mentioned “Way” may receive communion under two species, always with unleavened bread, and transfer “ad experimentum” the Rite of Peace to after the Prayer of the Faithful.”

  • Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way  – Final Approved Text – June 2008 11

To summarize, the 2008 Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way provides for the following exceptions:

  1. The communicants may receive communion under two species.
  2. The communicants may receive the sacred species remaining in their place standing (not sitting).
  3. The Rite of Peace may be transferred to after the Prayer of the Faithful.

However, relative to the manner in which Holy Communion is distributed in the neocatechumenal celebration of the eucharist in the small communities, this is the practice to this day in the Archdiocese of Agana:

  1. The celebrant, prior to his own communion, distributes the sacred host to the communicants who stand, remaining in their place.
  2. The communicants do not consume the sacred host but continue to hold it.
  3. The communicants wait till the sacred host has been distributed to all.
  4. They then sit, still holding the sacred host.
  5. The celebrant himself then returns to his chair, holds up the sacred host, says “Behold the Lamb of God…”, and communicates himself.
  6. The communicants, seated, then consume the sacred host.

Absent public permission from the Holy See, there are two major transgressions of the liturgical books:

  1. The priest has moved his own communion until after he has distributed the sacred host to the communicants.
  2. The communicants do not consume the sacred host upon receiving as required in the GIRM par. 161, but sit and then later consume.

On December 15, 2014, Archbishop Apuron publicly stated that Rome has given permission for these exceptions:

“Rome has approved it – even the way we’re receiving Communion. That they receive the host standing and they can sit down and everybody who receives it and they eat together, as the Priest stands and says, “Behold the Lamb of God…” you know, the acclamation before and they receive it sitting down. Rome has given permission for that. And it’s somewhere I need to find out where exactly, but they told us that permission is given.” 12

We now ask the present Visitors from the Holy See, to clarify once and for all whether or not “Rome has approved it.” If Rome has approved it, then we simply ask that said approval be properly made known so this ongoing scandal can be stopped. If Rome has not approved it, then we simply asked that the practice itself be stopped and that the instruction be made public.


While the manner of distributing Holy Communion in the neocatechumenal community celebrations of the eucharist versus the rest of the local church is an outward sign of our division, we believe that the obstinance to the Holy See in this matter and as documented above, underlines a much more dangerous division, a division of belief in what the Holy Eucharist in fact is. We even must wonder whether or not our new neocatechumenal presbyters and even our own Archbishop believe the same thing the rest of us believe about the Real Presence: that Jesus Christ is ACTUALLY present, body, blood, soul and divinity, and not just MYSTERIOUSLY present in the community, as many neocatechumenals have intimated.

Further, Archbishop Apuron often evidences what many of us frighteningly suspect: that he no longer has a mind of his own, that he simply parrots what he is told to say, that he is under the control of his neocatechumenal masters, specifically Fr. Pius Sammunt, O.C.D., who is ever at his side and to whom Archbishop Apuron seems to submit every word and decision, and more specifically (and dangerously) Mr. Giuseppe Gennarini, the chief "catechist" and "responsible" for the United States and the Pacific.

I make this observation in a general way because over these many years, Archbishop Apuron's actions against the larger church do not make sense even if we account for the possibility of Archbishop Apuron being a "bad man", but I also make this observation specifically because much of what Archbishop Apuron says relative to the Neocatechumenal Way can be traced almost word for word to his neocatechumenal masters.

As an illustration, consider a statement by Archbishop Apuron already referenced:

“ fact, really looking at the letter, mostly, beside the interpretation of the two is the first time in the history of the church that we were give permissions for the variations that is being done in the Neo Catechumenal Way, officially by the pope.” 13

Now Consider what Giuseppe Gennarini told the news agency, Zenit only a few days earlier on January 1, 2006:
"For the first time, the Holy See has accepted several variations to the way the Eucharist is celebrated within the context of the Neocatechumenal Way, as licit adaptations... To the best of my knowledge, this is the only case in which the Holy See has granted such an explicit permission to an ecclesial group." 14
Sadly, we find this kind of parroting all too often in Archbishop Apuron's words, but exponentially more dangerous is his robotic obedience to Gennarini et. al. in the administrative decisions of this archdiocese, specifically his firing of Fr. Paul Gofigan and Msgr. James Benavente, but most dangerous of all, his ordaining of men from Redemptoris Mater Seminary even he himself knows should not be ordained. We trust you will learn all this for yourselves.


1 Letter from Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. Prot. 2520/03/L. Vatican City, December 1, 2005. To the esteemed Mr. Kiko Argüello, Ms. Carmen Hernandez, and Rev. Father Mario Pezzi.

2 Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron. KOLG, 90.9 FM, Catholice Educational Radio, Agana, Guam. January 2006.

3 Ibid.

4 Glatz, Carol. “Eucharistic adoration is key, but also has drawbacks, bishops say.” Catholic News Service. October 6, 2005.

5 Magister, Sandro. “Liturgy: Benedict XVI Brings the Neocatechumenals Back to the Right Way.” Chiesa News. December 27, 2005.

6 Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron. KOLG, 90.9 FM, Catholice Educational Radio, Agana, Guam. January 2006.

7 Apuron, Anthony. Letters to Frs. Hector Canyon, Manuel (Jun) Trenchera, Jr., Manuel Ombao. March 28, 2008.

8 Rohr, Tim. “The Removal of Fr. Paul Gofigan”.

9 Rohr, Tim. Posts relative to the removal of Msgr. James Benavente.

10 Rohr, Tim, X, Fr. X. Email conversation. April 2008. Attached.

11 Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way  – Final Approved Text – June 2008

12 Apuron, Archbishop Anthony S., Address to the parishioners of St. Francis Parish, Yona, Guam. December 15, 2014.

13 Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron. KOLG, 90.9 FM, Catholice Educational Radio, Agana, Guam. January 2006.

14 Neocatechumenate on the Holy See\'s Guidelines. Interview With Giuseppe Gennarini. Zenit. January 01, 2006.

1 comment:

  1. Pope Benedict XVI said the NCW Mass was to be open to all. It is also said that Communion on the tongue (the NORM) cannot be denied to anyone. Yet, try to receive Communion on the tongue at their Mass; they tell you to find another Mass.