Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz Convokes the Elective General Council
On December 20, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Auxiliary Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei, convoked the General Elective Congress to choose the next Prelate, to be held in Rome starting on January 23. 2017.
“We are trying to foster during this time a spirit of prayer,” said Msgr. Ocáriz, “going especially to the intercession of the Holy Spirit.” And he added: “We are living these days closely united to the Holy Father Francis and the whole Church, of which Opus Dei is a small part. Naturally, we also have a strong sense of gratitude for the pastoral guidance and good example Bishop Echevarría left us.”
Only a priest can be elected as the Prelate. He must be at least forty years old and a member of the Congress of electors, and incorporated in the Prelature for at least ten years and a priest for five years. When the Congress was convoked, the number of priests who fulfilled these requirements was 94, coming from 45 countries.
Among them were found many regional vicars (representing the Prelate in each country or circumscription) as well as other priests who work or have worked in tasks of pastoral government in Rome or in the 49 circumscriptions that currently make up the Prelature.
The statutes of the Prelature describe the various human, spiritual and juridical qualities the Prelate must possess to ensure that this responsibility is carried out suitably. In summary, he has to stand out for the way he lives the virtues of charity and prudence, for his life of piety, love for the Church and her Magisterium, and fidelity to the spirit of Opus Dei. He also needs to possess a deep culture, both in ecclesiastical and civil studies, and the requisite gifts for pastoral government.
In the electoral process women as well as men take part, culminating with the confirmation of the election by the Pope.
The elective process began on January 21, with a plenary meeting of the women’s Council of the Prelature, called the Central Advisory. 194 faithful of Opus Dei took part in the election, priests and lay people, all at least 32 years of age and members of the Prelature for at least nine years. They have been appointed from among the faithful in the various countries in which Opus Dei carries out its pastoral work.
In the Advisory, each member submits a list with the name or names of the priests seen as best suited for the position of Prelate. The members of the Congress, keeping these suggestions in mind, then proceed to the voting process. Once the election has been concluded and the person chosen has accepted, he—in person or through someone else—asks the Holy Father for confirmation, as the Pope is the one who appoints the Prelate of Opus Dei.
Once the Prelate is elected, the members of the congress gather for several days for the naming of those who will make up the central councils that assist the Prelate in governing the Prelature.
Finally, the members of the congress examine the state of the Prelature and its apostolic activities throughout the world. The proposals are studied in plenary sessions that set guidelines for the government of the Prelature during the next eight years until the following ordinary General Congress.
Romana, n. 63, July-December 2016, p. 254-255.