The news of the beatification of Don Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer in the directorship of the prelature of Opus Dei, has elicited visible joy among the prelature’s members. Many of them knew him personally, as he died in 1994. At the same time, some were taken by surprise, because they thought the beatification would be in Rome. Instead it will be mainly in Madrid. ZENIT interviewed the current prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, who explained the background of the decision.
ZENIT: Bishop Echevarria, how does a prelate of Opus Dei live the news of theforthcoming beatification of Monsignor Alvaro del Portillo?
Bishop Echevarría: As you can understand, with profound joy and giving thanks to God and to Pope Francis, from whom came the decision to proceed with the beatification of this bishop, who so loved and served the Holy Church. Those who knew him, or have seen the films that exist on his catecheses, usually say that Alvaro infused peace and drew people to God. At this moment, I ask him to obtain for us from God that peace of heart which was so much his, and that the celebration is a motive for many people to come closer to the Lord.
ZENIT: Initially it was said that the beatification would be in Rome. Why was Madrid chosen finally?
Bishop Echevarría: A few months ago, when the news was made known of the future beatification, several options were studied, giving preference to central places of Rome away from Saint Peter’s Square that, by the decision of the previous Pontiff — is reserved for canonizations presided over by the Holy Father. However, as the number of participants foreseen increased, it was thought that it would be difficult to organize that ceremony in the Eternal City, as we would all have wished, despite the generous willingness of the authorities of the Vicariate of Rome and of the municipal government.
ZENIT: Where did this idea come from?
Bishop Echevarría: The Congregation for Saints’ Causes thought another possibility suitable, which I suggested as prelate of Opus Dei: to hold it in Madrid, birthplace of the new Blessed; also because the year of beatification will coincide with the centenary of his birth. The news is made public today because the Holy See has just stated that the Holy Father accepted that suggestion and established that the beatification be in Madrid on September 27. This option will also facilitate the participation of numerous persons of Madrid, who wished to attend the beatification but who — in the context of the present economic crisis — would have had difficulties in making the trip to Italy.
Madrid is the city in which Don Alvaro met Saint Josemaria, became a part of Opus Dei and received his priestly ordination. For very many people of various countries, it will be an opportunity to visit the places related to the birth of the Opus Dei, founded on October 2, 1928, by Saint Josemaria in Madrid. Moreover, the numerous faithful and friends of the prelature who live in Madrid will be able to collaborate gladly in welcoming participants from other places. Although this news has been published in some of the media, I must specify that only now have we known of the approval received from the Holy See.
ZENIT: And for persons who live in Rome or in Italy?
Bishop Echevarría: To say it some way, Rome is the city of Don Alvaro, where he lived the greater part of his life (from 1946 to 1994) and where he worked as pastor of the Opus Dei Prelature.
In fact, being studied at present with the competent authorities is that, during the days following the beatification, Don Alvaro’s body – which rests in the crypt of the prelature church of Saint Mary of Peace in Rome – be taken temporarily to the Basilica of Saint Eugene, so that those who so desire — it is foreseen that it will be a consistent number — are able to pray before the mortal remains of the new Blessed. Also being organized is that, on the Wednesday after the beatification, many faithful will have the occasion to take part in Pope Francis’ Wednesday audience, to manifest in this way their union with the Roman Pontiff and their filial gratitude for the beatification.
ZENIT: What about the collection that has been announced in favor of several social initiatives in Africa?
Bishop Echevarría: At the very moment of receiving the news of the future beatification, the desire came to mind that it be also an occasion to help needy people. Specifically, to ask each participant for a small sacrifice, to offer a donation in favor of four social services projects in the African continent, which arose from the inspiration and direct impulse of Monsignor del Portillo. Harambee — an NGO born precisely on the occasion of the canonization of Saint Josemaria — was asked to coordinate this effort. I am sure that, from Heaven, Don Alvaro will look with joy at this “gift,” which seeks to activate or consolidate African institutions of human formation and the eradication of poverty.[Translation by ZENIT]