25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Opus Dei Prelature

The official inauguration ceremony of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei took place on March 19, 1983, in the Roman Basilica of Saint Eugene. Cardinals Sebastian Baggio, Josy Slipyj, Silvio Oddi, James Robert Knox, Umberto Mozzoni, Pietro Palazzini, Opilio Rossi and Mario Luigi Ciappi, OP, participated, as well as Monsignor Giovanni Battista Re, the Assessor of the Secretary of State. The event took place during the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided by Monsignor Álvaro del Portillo, Prelate of Opus Dei.

Archbishop Romolo Carboni, Apostolic Nuncio to Italy, was the delegate of Pope John Paul II on this occasion. After reading the Bull Ut sit and the decree implementing it, the Nuncio handed these documents over to Monsignor del Portillo. Don Alvaro based his homily on the words from which the Bull derives its name, the prayer used by St Josemaría in petition to our Lord. He urged the faithful of the Prelature to make a fervent renewal of their love for, and loyalty to, the Church and the Roman Pontiff.

A Study Conference in Rome

On March 10, 2008, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome held a symposium to mark the 25th anniversary of the erection of Opus Dei as a personal prelature. The symposium took place in the John Paul II Auditorium in the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Papal Vicar for the Diocese of Rome from 1991 to 2008, opened the event by “thanking Opus Dei for the service it gives to the dioceses of the whole world and in particular to Rome itself,” not only through the work of the priests of the Prelature in parishes or in other diocesan services, but above all in the joint effort of priests and laity in fostering holiness and apostolate. This, he said, “is the most specific and direct pastoral service that Opus Dei offers to the dioceses.”

Throughout his presentation, Cardinal Ruini emphasized the importance of the spiritual support and Christian formation that the Prelature provides. “The objective is to highlight what lay men and women can achieve by striving for holiness and doing apostolate through their own work and in their personal circumstances.”

Cardinal Julian Herránz, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, discussed the preparatory work of the Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit, by which John Paul II established the Prelature of Opus Dei. He remarked that the process of elaboration of the pontifical Bull demonstrated “the depth and the collegiality of spirit with which John Paul II followed up and directed the work of the Congregation for Bishops.” The number of bishops consulted amounted to 2,084 from 34 nations.

Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, reminded the assembly that the essential activity of the Prelature “is the formation of its faithful and those who wish to be involved in its apostolic activities.” They are thus enabled to act in a Christian way and with personal freedom “in their professional, family, and social life,” while remaining equal with their fellow-citizens. Bishop Echevarría expressed gratitude “to the Servant of God John Paul II, who established the Prelature, to Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, who guided the Work and worked tirelessly to ensure that the desire of the Founder would become a reality, as well as to all who had contributed down the years with their prayer, sacrifice and work.”

Professor Giuseppe Dalla Torre, Rector of the Libera Università Maria Santissima Assunta (LUMSA), analyzed the civil recognition of the Prelature of Opus Dei in various countries.

Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of Opus Dei, spoke about the apostolate ad fidem and ecumenism. He emphasized the fact that the underlying reason for dialogue with non-Christians “is not a desire to assert dominion or to impose one’s own convictions, but rather Christian charity, sincere love for all souls, to whom one wishes to transmit the incalculable good of faith in Christ or the fullness of this faith.”

Professor Paul O’Callaghan, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, stressed that the mission of the Prelature is that of the Church. “The faithful of the Prelature don’t change anything; they simply live normally. The Work does not have a particular teaching or a theology of its own. All that it desires to be is a small portion of the Church.”

The coordinator of the symposium, Professor Eduardo Baura, stated: “In spite of some initial uncertainty, particularly in relation to pastoral coordination, the decision to implement the personal prelature has turned out to be eminently beneficial for the dioceses.” He pointed out that this juridical development can be very helpful in addressing some contemporary pastoral needs arising from the increasing movement of peoples and from multiculturalism.”

A book has recently been published containing the presentations given at this conference, which in addition to those mentioned includes some papers by professors of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. [The English version, published by Wilson and Lafleur of Montreal, is cited on page 170 of this issue of Romana.]

Personal Prelatures in the Law of the Church

Personal prelatures are one of the organizational tools the Church has at her disposal to provide for pastoral needs (Annuario Pontificio 2008, p.1872).

In the law of the Catholic Church, the juridical form denominated as ‘personal prelature’ was envisaged in the Second Vatican Council (Ad Gentes and Presbyterorum Ordinis). Article 10 of Presbyterorum Ordinis (December 7, 1965), established that “in order to carry out particular pastoral tasks for different social groups in certain regions or nations, or even all over the world,” in the future, “particular dioceses or personal prelatures” could be set up.

The Code of Canon Law deals with personal prelatures in canons 294-297 and also in 265-266. Canon 295 establishes that each personal prelature “is regulated by the statutes given to it by the Apostolic See.” It also indicates that the government of a prelature is entrusted to a Prelate, as its own bishop. The faithful of the personal prelatures continue to belong to the diocese where they happen to live.

With the Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit (November 28, 1982), John Paul II ratified the Statutes of Opus Dei, which form the particular pontifical law for this prelature. The Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (June 28, 1988) established in article 80 that the Congregation for Bishops would be the competent authority for dealing with personal prelatures. There are also numerous concordats that clarify the juridical nature of personal prelatures in relation to civil law in the different ecclesiastical circumscriptions (cf. the recent publication El Opus Dei ante el Derecho estatal [Opus Dei and State Law], Jose María Vázquez García-Peñuela, Editorial Comares, Granada 2007).

Archbishop Francesco Monterisi: “The Personal Prelature: a framework which enriches the communion of the Church”

Extracts from an interview published on December 11, 2007 on www.opusdei.org. Archbishop Monterisi is Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican dicastery on which personal prelatures depend.

“The apostolic fruit of Opus Dei benefits the dioceses in which the faithful of the Prelature reside. It has often happened, for example, that the personal apostolate of one of the faithful of Opus Dei has given rise to the conversion of a friend, a colleague or a relative. The commitment of the laity of Opus Dei, their work in apostolic and social activities, their initiatives, are a stimulus for other faithful: this means spiritual growth in the diocese.”

“The figure of the Prelature is not a “formula for independence,: as is sometimes said, but precisely the opposite. It is a concrete response of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to a specific pastoral need. When John Paul II established the Prelature, neither the faithful nor the formational activities of Opus Dei became “independent” of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. On the contrary, the hierarchy has taken over the care of this reality by means of a Prelate appointed by the Pope. The Prelate has the duty of guiding the Prelature in communion with all of the bishops. At the same time, he is obliged to maintain Opus Dei and all of its activities in communion with the Holy Father cum et sub Petro (with and under Peter).

“These years of experiencing the presence of the Prelature of Opus Dei in so many dioceses around the world confirms the reality of an intense apostolic work in communion with the diocesan bishops. This communion is worked out in very different ways and forms, but the wish of the Prelature of Opus Dei, that of being in harmony with all the bishops of the dioceses in which it is active, is always the same. In this sense, one can say, by way of conclusion, that the personal prelature contributes to enriching communion in the Church.”

Romana, n. 46, January-June 2008, p. 124-127.

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