A woman holds an image of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo during his beatification ceremony in Madrid Sept. 27. Tens of thousands of people from around the world attended the beatification Mass for the former Opus Dei leader, who died in 1994. CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

Opus Dei leader, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, beatified in Madrid

By 
  • September 29, 2014

MADRID - A Spanish bishop who worked as an engineer before becoming first prelate of the Opus Dei movement has been beatified in his native Madrid.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Bishop Alvaro del Portillo was known for his "prudence and rectitude in evaluating events and people, his justice in respecting the good name and freedom of others, his fortitude in facing up to physical or moral difficulties, and the temperance shown in his sobriety and interior and exterior mortification."

"He was not a talkative person -- his engineer's training gave him habits of intellectual rigor, conciseness and precision, enabling him to go straight to the essence of problems and solve them," Cardinal Amato said at the Sept. 27 beatification Mass, held outdoors.

Blessed Alvaro, who died in 1994, succeeded St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as head of the personal prelature of Opus Dei. Beatification is a step toward sainthood.

Cardinal Amato told about 150,000 people from 80 countries that Blessed Alvaro had "a notable serenity and considerateness, a habit of smiling, understanding, speaking well about others and reflecting deeply before judging."

"His humility was not harsh, showy or ill-tempered, but affectionate and cheerful -- his joy was based on his conviction that he himself was worth very little," Cardinal Amato said, adding that such holiness is needed "to counteract the pollution of immorality and corruption."

Born March 11, 1914, Blessed Alvaro studied and taught at Madrid University's school of engineering, later working briefly for the Spanish government's Bureau of Highways and Bridges.

He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and became one of its first three priests in June 1944. He had a doctorate in engineering but earned a second doctorate in philosophy and history, and a third in canon law from Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

As secretary-general of Opus Dei, he served as an expert, or peritus, at the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and consultant for several post-conciliar commissions, before succeeding the late St. Josemaria as Opus Dei president.

Blessed Alvaro was appointed first prelate of the movement in 1982 and was consecrated a bishop in 1991 by St. John Paul II.

Blessed Alvaro's canonization cause was launched in December 2002. In July 2013, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing his intercession in the cure of a Chilean newborn, Jose Ignacio Ureta Wilson, who inexplicably revived after a cardiac arrest lasting more than 30 minutes.

In a Sept. 27 letter, Pope Francis said Blessed Alvaro had been a "faithful collaborator" of St. Josemaria, adding that his first meeting with the Opus Dei founder had "definitively marked the course of his life."

He said the bishop's life and work were a reminder that "our poverty as human beings is not the result of despair, but of confident abandonment in God."

"He is telling us to trust in the Lord -- that he is our brother, our friend, who never lets us down and is always at our side," Pope Francis said. "He is encouraging us not to be afraid to go against the current and suffer for announcing the Gospel. He is also teaching us that in the simplicity and ordinariness of our daily lives we can find a sure path to holiness."


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