The Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Echevarría, spent August 16-21 in Cologne for the occasion of the 20th World Youth Day. Convoked by Pope John Paul II, the gathering was presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, who was making his first trip outside of Italy.
The presence in Cologne of nine hundred bishops from all over the world was a manifestation of the unity of the People of God with their supreme Shepherd. It also made clear that the evangelization of young people is a common effort of the whole Church. The Prelate of Opus Dei, like many other bishops, took part in the principal ceremonies of the Congress: the opening Mass at Müngersdorf Stadium, presided over by Cardinal Joachim Meisner; the reception of the Pope on Thursday, August 18, at the Cathedral; the meeting with seminarians from all over the world in the parish of St. Pantaleon; the Saturday nocturnal vigil of prayer at Marienfeld; and again at Marienfeld, the Mass on Sunday, August 21, with more than a million young people taking part.
The Prelate also directed two catechetical meetings, on Wednesday the 17th and on Thursday the 18th, each with some five hundred Spanish-speaking young people: one in Bergisch Gladbach and the other in Dusseldorf. Both sessions had as their central theme the meeting with Christ and vocation. Bishop Echevarría pointed to the primary goal of everyone’s life: “seeking God and loving him, first here on earth and afterwards in a perfect way in heaven.” He developed this idea with the example of the Magi, venerated in the Cathedral of Cologne, and with the motto of the Congress, “We have come to worship him.” He also spoke about the sacraments and, above all, about drawing close to Jesus in the Eucharist.
On Wednesday, when he returned from Bergish Gladbach, he had two other meetings in Cologne with young people from all over the world—some six thousand in total—in the EXPO XXI Hall. These were for young men and women who take part in the Prelature’s apostolic activities. Among other things, the Prelate encouraged them to give the Holy Father a lot of support by their prayer, to give heed to his teachings and to make them known, to see our Lord in the Eucharist as their best friend, and to foster in their hearts an attitude of availability in order to be in a position to truly serve all men and women.
On Friday afternoon the Prelate took part, as we have already noted, in a meeting of the Holy Father with some 4,000 seminarians in the parish of St. Pantaleon in the center of Cologne. The parish is entrusted to priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei. Accompanied by the pastor, Peter von Steinitz, the Prelate had a opportunity to show the Pope the chapel of St. Josemaría, recently installed in a lateral nave. During the entire week before World Youth Day, this parish church was the spiritual center for the seminarians, where they could adore the Blessed Sacrament day and night, participate in Holy Mass and receive the Sacrament of Penance. To highlight the spiritual significance of this occasion, two relics of the Holy Curé of Ars were brought from France: his heart and the monstrance that he used in his parish.
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From August 23 to 31, the Prelate of Opus Dei was in Poland. On August 27 he participated in the solemn installation of the new Archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, with whom he has been friends for many years. During his stay in the land of the Vistula, he also greeted the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, and the bishops of the cities where Centers of the Prelature are located.
He held catechetical get-togethers in public auditoriums in Szczecin, Krakow and Warsaw. In the last mentioned city, more than three thousand people came to the Kongresowa Hall on Sunday August 28 to hear his words. In addition to the general gatherings, he had other smaller ones for young people, for groups involved in promoting apostolic initiatives, and for priests.
In the various meetings, he spoke of the Holy Father John Paul II and his rich spiritual legacy with a great sense of gratitude, and encouraged those present to pray for and be deeply united with Pope Benedict XVI. He reminded those present of central teachings of the magisterium of the Church on marriage and the family, telling parents that their children are, as St. Josemaría used to say, “their best business.” He encouraged everyone to study and spread widely the teachings of the recently published Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He exhorted them to carry out an incisive apostolate in all environments, also in those that present more difficulties or are further from the faith. In short, he asked everyone to renew their zeal to extend the work of the Church in Poland and from Poland. He also said it gave him great joy to meet people from various Eastern European countries who, after getting to know the Prelature in Poland, have discovered their vocation to Opus Dei.
In Warsaw he visited two high schools created by parents who have benefited from the spiritual formation of the Prelature. He blessed a tabernacle in the Zagle boys’ school and an image of our Lady in Strumienie, the girls’ school. He encouraged the promoters and the teaching personnel of both educational centers to continue in their efforts and to put into operation similar initiatives in other cities.
During these days he visited all the Centers of the Prelature in Poland and received many families. He also dedicated the oratory of the Dworek Conference Center, situated near Minsk Mazowiecki, a city about 25 miles east of Warsaw.
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On September 6, the Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in Helsinki. That same day he received some members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross who work in St. Petersburg.
On the afternoon of the 7th he met with more than 150 people at the Hotel Linna Palace. In a family conversation that lasted almost an hour the Prelate emphasized the beauty of Catholic moral teaching and the importance of the work of Christian and human formation that parents carry out in their homes. On the morning of the 8th he visited the Bishop of Helsinki, Jozef Wróbel. In the afternoon he left for Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
On September 9th, he talked with faithful of the Prelature, Cooperators and other persons who take part in Opus Dei’s apostolates in Estonia. In the afternoon he had a meeting in the Rocca al Mare school with almost 200 people. The meeting was simultaneously translated into Estonian, Russian and English. In this family gathering the Prelate spoke about topics related to the Christian faith that were of interest to those attending.
On the morning of September 10th in the Church of St. Olaf, Archbishop Peter Zurbriggen, Apostolic Nuncio for the Baltic States, who presided at the ceremony, together with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow and the Prelate of Opus Dei, conferred episcopal consecration on the new Apostolic Administrator of Estonia, Philippe Jourdan, a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature. He is the first resident Catholic bishop in this Baltic Republic since the Second World War. Also assisting at the ceremony were a large number of bishops from Latvia, Lithuania and the United States.
That same evening, Bishop Echevarría took part in the installation in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, which everyone present found quite moving. On September 11, the Prelate flew back to Helsinki, and from there he returned to Rome at 12 noon.
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From November 11 to 13, Bishop Echevarría was in Murcia, Spain, for the First International University Eucharistic Congress. The event, organized by the Catholic University of St. Anthony, brought together many ecclesiastical leaders.
In his lecture entitled, “The Eucharist and Penance,” given on Friday the 11th at the university, the Prelate of Opus Dei focused on the specific redemptive efficacy of the Eucharist and of Penance, and of the bonds that unite these two sacraments.
After the academic ceremony he went to pray at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fuensanta, Patroness of Murcia.
On Saturday morning he had several meetings with faithful of the Prelature. In the afternoon he celebrated the Eucharist at the Cathedral of Murcia. About a thousand people attended. In his homily he stressed the importance of Eucharistic adoration as the center of one’s Christian life. Citing Pope Benedict XVI, he encouraged the faithful to go more deeply into the meaning of Sunday for a Christian. “We should rediscover with pride,” he said, “the privilege of participating in the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of the renewed world.” At the end of the ceremony he dedicated some affectionate words to the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, Archbishop Manuel Ureña.
In addition to receiving various families, on Sunday the 13th he held a get-together with more than eight thousand people, faithful of the Prelature, cooperators and friends at the Monteagudo High School. He spoke, among other topics, about love for the Roman Pontiff, the parents’ response to the vocation of their children, and the importance of catechesis.
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The Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in Dublin on the afternoon of Friday, December 16. From the airport he went to the seat of the Regional Commission, where he had a get-together with his sons who lived there.
On the morning of the 17th, accompanied by Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of the Prelature, and Msgr. Robert Bucciarelli, Vicar of Opus Dei in Ireland, he went to visit the Nuncio. On the return trip, they stopped for a few minutes at the Nullamore university residence to greet the faithful of the Prelature living there.
Later he celebrated Mass at the Church of St. Teresa on Mount Merrion, one of the biggest churches in Dublin, with a large number of families in attendance. In his homily, preached in English, he spoke about Jesus’ genealogy, showing how our Lord seeks out an encounter with each one of us. “Pope John Paul II,” he said, “liked to say that Jesus, in becoming man, seeks out an encounter with each of us. No one is refused this happiness. Jesus does not reject anyone. He has time for everyone: the strong and the weak, saints and sinners, Jews and gentiles. As St. Josemaría used to say, our life and our work, our family and friends, our joys and sorrows, have been transformed by our meeting with Jesus.” At the end of the ceremony he had a chance to greet families and bless a number of babies.
He had lunch at Cleraun, a nearby student residence, and had a family get-together with the residents and attended the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and singing of the Salve. From there he went to O’Reilly Hall at University College Dublin, in the middle of the modern campus, where a catechetical get-together was to take place.
The auditorium was filled to capacity. The Prelate reminded everyone of their responsibility to foster their relationship with God: “This land has been especially blessed by God. Don’t turn your back on him. Don’t leave him alone. Count on him more. Go to his protection. Go to tell him your joys and sorrows, everything that happens to you.” He also spoke about personal apostolate: “May the joy of the Nativity, such a marvelous feast day, also be reflected in your question: who can I speak to this Christmas to bring them closer to Christ, to bring them to Bethlehem? Your friends, your relatives, the people you meet, have a right to receive help from you.”
A young girl presented him with a parchment making him an honorary member of the Glenbeag Club, which she attends. The gesture pleased the Prelate, who took advantage of it to speak about the importance of the apostolic work being carried out throughout the world, through the inspiration of St. Josemaría, by means of clubs and schools started by fathers and mothers of families.
On Sunday, Bishop Echevarría once again met with several groups of faithful of the Prelature. In the morning he also went to a hospital to visit a priest who had had an operation a few days earlier and was still convalescing.
On Monday he had meetings with the two regional organs of government of the Prelature, for the men and the women respectively. Early in the afternoon he returned by plane to Rome.