During the second half of 2014, the Prelate of Opus Dei made pastoral trips to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela and Russia.
Guatemala, from July 18 to 22
Bishop Echevarría arrived in Guatemala City on Friday, July 18. On the following day he visited the new buildings for the Kinal Technical Training Center, which offers training to over 2,000 students from low income families each year.
On Sunday the 20th he had a get-together with about ten thousand people—faithful of the Prelature, friends, and families—in the Cementos Progreso Stadium. On Monday the 21st he blessed the buildings for the new campus of Istmo University. Alluding to the University’s motto, Learning in order to serve, he recalled St. Josemaría’s great zeal to serve everyone: “There are no class differences of any kind in Christian life; we are all equally daughters and sons of God, who speak the same language. Although in daily life we may encounter many different languages, nevertheless the only true language is the communication of love proper to the daughters and sons of God.” The blessing of the new buildings was followed by a meeting with the directors, professors, students and personnel at the university, with some 3,000 people taking part.
On July 22, Bishop Echevarría was received by Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian of Guatemala City, and went to the metropolitan cathedral to pray for the country and for the needs of the Church. During his trip, the Prelate also met with Bishop Hector Hugo Palma of Escuintla, and Bishop Gonzalo de Villa of Sololá-Chimaltenango. He also had a chance to meet with 150 diocesan priests and seminarians, whom he encouraged to be true shepherds of souls and to strive to bring the light of Christ present in their hearts to those around them.
Honduras, from July 23 to 24
On Wednesday, July 23, the Prelate of Opus Day traveled to the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where the apostolic work of Opus Dei began in a stable way in 2007. Some 900 people took part in the catechetical get-together with Bishop Echevarría, who was received by the mayor of the city, Armando Calidonio.
On July 24, in Tegucigalpa, he visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras, where he placed in our Lady’s hands his gratitude for the trip and his prayer for the country. Following this, he met with some 4,000 people in the Antares Student Center and had a cordial and fraternal meeting with Cardinal Archbishop Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.
El Salvador, from July 25 to 27
The Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in San Salvador on July 25, and that same day went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray for all Salvadorans. On the 26th, in the International Fair and Convention Center, he met with faithful of the Prelature and friends in a gathering of about 8,000 people. He stressed the importance of fraternal charity: “Love one another a lot; you have to avoid divisions, separations; you have to avoid failing to treat each other as what we are: brothers and sisters in Christ.”
On Sunday the 27th, in the working class district of Syapango, he visited the Siramá Center of Professional Training for Women, which since 1970 has been assisting the advancement of Salvadoran women. He also visited Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas and went to the metropolitan cathedral, where he prayed intently before the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, asking especially for peace in the country. The pastoral trip concluded on Monday, July 28.
Nicaragua, from July 28 to 30
During his stay in Nicaragua, the Prelate met with faithful of the Prelature, cooperators, friends, and other people interested in learning about the message of Opus Dei. On the 28th he was with university students and Spanish and Italian volunteers, who during those days were carrying out various social projects in the country. On the 29th he spoke with a large group of people in a convention center in Managua. He reminded those present of St. Josemaría’s prayer for the countries of Central America, as well as his appreciation for popular devotions rooted in the region. Afterwards he received a group of priests and seminarians. On the same day he had the chance to greet Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, and the Archbishop Emeritus, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.
On the 30th, Bishop Echevarría visited the Vega Baja Social Center, located some 20 miles from Managua. Vega Baja is an initiative aimed at the human and spiritual formation of women in the district of Diriamba. It imparts training in cooking and hotel operations thanks to donations gathered throughout the country and international aid.
The apostolic work of Opus Dei in Nicaragua began in 1992, shortly after the beatification of St. Josemaría. Bishop Echevarría made his first trip to this country in the year 2000.
Costa Rica, from July 30 to August 3
On July 30, an enthusiastic group of families welcomed the Prelate of Opus Dei to the Miravalles University Center, the student residence where he was to stay during his days in Costa Rica. On the following day, he went with Most Rev. José Francisco Ulloa, the bishop of Cartago, to pray at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels (known popularly as La Negrita, the Black Madonna), whose feast was to be celebrated two days later. During the visit, the Prelate also greeted Bishop Oscar Fernandez, of Puntarenas. Back in San José, he stopped to pray a response for the dead at a cemetery where various faithful of Opus Dei are buried. After this he visited the Yorkin and Iribo schools and the Los Olmos pre-school, initiatives started by concerned parents, many of whom are faithful of the Prelature.
In the evening he was received by Archbishop José Rafael Quiros of San Jose, who was accompanied by several priests of the Archdiocese. He also had a get-together with priests and various gatherings with faithful of the Prelature and with young people. “Since our Lord wants to rely on us to re-Christianize society, our drawing back through fear or comfort-seeking would be to reply: ‘don’t count on me,’” the Prelate said during one of those gatherings. And he added: “St. Josemaría, with a strong expression to spur us to use our talents, said that Hell is full of sins of omission. Moreover, as you know, he wanted all Catholics to know their civic duties and rights, and that people should be taught this part of the social doctrine of the Church in the catechism from childhood.”
On August 1, he visited the Suri Educational Project in Pavas, a school for the human, cultural, professional and social advancement of women. Afterwards, in the Pedregal Events Center, in San Antonio of Bethlehem, several thousand people attended a gathering for families. Bishop Echevarría told them that Opus Dei “was born among the poor and the sick, and has reached all corners of the world... Many people in Opus Dei don’t have many resources, and even then they give everything, which is their own life.”
Panama, from August 3 to 6
On the first trip that he made to Panama, in the year 2000, the Prelate blessed the land foreseen for the Cerro Azul Retreat and Conference Center and the Tagua Training Center. Thanks be to God, both of these initiatives are now a reality. In the Tagua Training Center, Bishop Echevarría was able to see the work being done by instructors and students, and he encouraged them to continue assisting the country in advancing the dignity of women, families and society as a whole. In Cerro Azul he dedicated the altar in the oratory.
He also met with the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Andrés Carrascosa, at the seat of the nunciature, and was received by Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama, who is also president of the Panamanian Bishops’ Conference. Together they went to the cathedral to pray before the image of Our Lady of La Antigua.
Bishop Echevarría also held a get-together with about 2,000 people in the Atlapa Convention Center. He told the people there: “I had an opportunity to see a map of your country, with a sign saying: ‘Panama, we unite the world.’ It helped me a lot to consider the mission that we Christians have of being women and men who bring unity. So may you love each other a lot here in Panama, may you respect one another, and may you be concerned about helping everyone. Don’t limit yourselves to those in your immediate circle; welcome everyone who wants to share in the friendship you offer them... Then, how much misfortune, how many differences, how much discrimination will disappear.”
On August 5, the Prelate received several Panamanian families and greeted the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela.
Venezuela, from August 6 to 8
The Prelate arrived in Caracas on Saturday, August 6. That same day he accepted an invitation to greet Cardinal Archbishop Jorge Urosa Savino. On the 7th, the anniversary of his priestly ordination, Bishop Echevarría blessed a statue of the founder of Opus Dei that he gave as a gift to the Parish of the Holy Family of Nazareth and St. Josemaría Escrivá.
During his apostolic visit, he also had the opportunity to meet with faithful of the Prelature and friends, who wanted to express their gratitude for his trip. Bishop Echevarría encouraged them to be people who know how to forgive, bearers of hope, because “by God’s arm, by God’s hand, even what is impossible can be overcome.” He also spoke about the family and about the importance of raising one’s children well, while asking for prayers for the Synod of bishops that will be held in October. He took advantage of his stay in the country to encourage everyone to bring many people close to God and to the Church.
Russia, from November 3 to 6
Bishop Echevarría arrived in Moscow on Monday, November 3. On the 4th he had a get-together with a group of about 200 people in the theater of the House of Culture. In that encounter, as in others that he held with families and university students, he encouraged everyone to pray for the Pope, for the Church, and for all their country’s citizens: “Let us fill the streets of Moscow and the other cities with petitions for one another, so that the others become part of our own lives,” he urged.
In the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, he concelebrated with Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow, a Mass of Thanksgiving for the beatification of Álvaro del Portillo, the first successor of St. Josemaría at the head of Opus Dei.
During his visit he also visited the church where the icon of Our Lady of Kazan is venerated in Red Square. There, together with some faithful of the Work, he prayed for Russia and for the needs of the Church.
On Wednesday November 5, Bishop Echevarría spoke with the apostolic nuncio in Russia, Archbishop Ivan Yurkavich. The pastoral trip ended on November 6.
Romana, n. 59, July-December 2014, p. 284-288.