From February 4 to 8, the Prelate of Opus Dei was in the Czech Republic and also in Hungary. On Friday the fourth he arrived in Prague from Rome, and went directly to see the Nuncio. On the following day a gathering of some six hundred people was held at the Prague Convention Center. He encouraged those present to be very united to the Holy Father John Paul II, who was hospitalized at that time. On that same day he left by plane for Hungary.
In Budapest he stayed at the Orbánhegy Residence, as he had done on an earlier trip almost ten years ago. On the sixth he had lunch with the Archbishop, Cardinal Péter Erdõ, and greeted the Nuncio. In mid-afternoon, in a meeting room of the Hotel Flamenco, he had a catechetical get-together with faithful of the Work, Cooperators and friends attended by some five hundred people. He told them that St. Josemaría had prayed a lot for Hungry and reminded them of their responsibility to be apostles and to re-Christianize society. “My children, speak fearlessly! You will bring about many conversions! You will bring many people to turn their lives around! Let no one be able to say: I had at my side a person who knew the goodness, the mercy of God, and he didn’t tell me anything. Speak! Speak!...Everyone from the place where he is, as ordinary citizens.” He also insisted on the importance of devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
On the following day, February 7, the Prelate of Opus Dei took part in a conference on canon law. He had been invited by Cardinal Péter Erdõ to give a talk on “the exercise of governing power in personal prelatures.” The conference took place in the Catholic university of Budapest. In the afternoon, after the official conference lunch, Bishop Echevarría went to pray at the Marian shrine of Máriaremete.
At midday on the eighth he left by plane for Prague. From there, after a brief stop, he returned to Rome.
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The Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in Helsinki on February 25 to take part in ceremonies commemorating two important events for the Catholic Church in Finland: the 850th anniversary of the arrival of St. Henry, who evangelized the country, and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the diocese of Helsinki. On Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th he took part in various ceremonies and, with other Church leaders, concelebrated two solemn Masses.
During these days, he also spent time with the faithful of the Prelature from Estonia and Finland and with members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross who exercise their priestly ministry in Pushkin. He also had an opportunity to greet many other persons who take part in the Prelature’s apostolates.
On the 28th he traveled to Riga. There he celebrated Holy Mass and spent a few hours with the faithful of Opus Dei in Latvia and some of their friends. He reminded them of the responsibility all Christians have to bear witness to Christ through a daring and incisive apostolate.
On Tuesday, the first of March, in the morning he visited Bishop Josef Wrobel of Helsinki in that city. In the afternoon he began his return trip.
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From March 2 to 5 the Prelate was in Valladolid and Burgos. The object of his trip was to encourage the apostolic work of the Prelature’s faithful in Castille and Leon and to take part in a theology conference, invited by Archbishop Francisco Gil Hellín of Burgos.
In Valladolid, Bishop Echevarría visited Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez and prayed before the patroness of the city, our Lady of St. Lawrence. At the urging of the pastor, he wrote a few words in the parish visitor’s book: “With great joy I have come to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, led by the hand of our Lady of St. Lawrence. I have asked her to make me a contemplative and to help me lead others to this great good. I have also asked that people in this parish may grow in their prayer life and that many priestly vocations may result. Laus Dei Virginique Matri.”
On March 3 he visited the Alcazarén women’s educational center, started by faithful and Cooperators of Opus Dei, and had a spirited get-together with the directors, teachers, parents, administrative personnel and some alumnae.
On the fourth he was in Burgos, for the 29th International Symposium on the Theology of the Priesthood, in which he was to participate. The symposium was centered on seven twentieth-century Spanish priests, including St. Josemaría Escrivá. In his talk, which was attended by the Archbishop of Burgos, Bishop Echevarría spoke about the figure of the Founder of Opus Dei and his message, as reflected in the addresses and homilies of John Paul II and other documents of the Holy See. The conference had as its title: “The saint of ordinary life: St. Josemaría Escrivá in the Church’s magisterium.”
In the course of his talk he had mentioned that St. Josemaría had lived for fourteen months in Burgos, where he finished writing The Way and collected abundant material for his doctoral thesis entitled La Abadesa de las Huelga. Afterwards, the Prelate of Opus Dei answered questions from the audience
Later Bishop Echevarría had a meeting with the mayor at the City Hall. The mayor informed him that the Assembly had decided to dedicate one of the city squares to St. Josemaría.
On the fifth, the Prelate returned to Valladolid where he met with more than seven thousand people in the Pisuerga Arena. All were seeking advice for their Christian life appropriate to their personal circumstances. For example, in answer to the question of a bus driver, the Prelate said: “you have to transmit joy and peace. Offer your work to God, even when you are tired, and pray for all the people who get on your bus.” As he did on numerous occasions during those days, the Prelate also asked those present in the Arena to pray for the health of John Paul II: “He has given his life for the world and for the Church. He is detached from his life, but he needs your prayer. He loves all of us madly,” he said.
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Invited by Cardinal Bernard Panafieu, the Prelate of Opus Dei took part in the installation of a statue of St. Josemaría in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Marseille, on June 18.
A few days earlier, on June 15, he had arrived in Paris. There he visited the new Archbishop, André Vingt-Trois, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli. Also during those days he went to pray before an image of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Rue du Bac. He also visited the Dosnon hospitality school, attached to the Couvrelles Conference Center.
On the 18th, upon arriving in Marseille, he went first to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, patroness of the city. Afterwards, at four in the afternoon, he had a catechetical encounter with some eight hundred people in a conference room on the ship Napoleon Bonaparte, moored in the port of la Joliette. For an hour he answered questions on seeking an integral Christian life in one’s profession and family, on married love, on Eucharistic devotion, on imparting a Christian formation to one’s children, and on apostolate in difficult environments. More than once he asked those present to pray for the new Pope, Benedict XVI.
That same evening, at seven, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a Eucharistic concelebration took place presided over by the Archbishop. In the course of the ceremony, Bishop Javier Echevarría blessed the new statue of St. Josemaría that had been installed in a side chapel dedicated to our Lady.
On Sunday, June 19, the Prelate was also in Aix-en-Provence. In the evening he visited Cardinal Panafieu in the Archbishop’s residence.
On the morning of the 20th, after giving the meditation and celebrating Holy Mass in Castelvieil Center in Marseille, he returned to Rome.