Pastoral trips: Switzerland, Chieti, Russia and Genoa
The Prelate of Opus Dei was in Switzerland from February 3 to 5, 2006.
On Friday, the 3rd, shortly after arriving in Zurich, he had a meeting with the Regional directors of the Prelature.
On Saturday, the 4th, at ten in the morning he received a large group of women from all over Switzerland, and at eleven a group of men. The second meeting also included, besides faithful of the Prelature, priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. The Prelate encouraged everyone to be generous in living certain aspects of Christian life that he felt it opportune to emphasize.
In the afternoon, more than five hundred people attended a meeting with Bishop Echevarría in the Orion Swissôtel. He began by saying, “I have many reasons to thank our Lord for the few hours I am going to spend in Switzerland.” He recalled that it was in Switzerland, specifically in Einsiedeln, where the second General Congress of Opus Dei was held in 1956. There, among other things, it was decided to transfer the General Council to the Eternal City: “At that time,” Bishop Echevarría recalled, “there were some three or four thousand people in Opus Dei, no more. When St. Josemaría went to heaven in 1975, there were sixty thousand people in Opus Dei. And I was thinking yesterday that Switzerland has a large part of the ‘fault’ for this expansion. Because it was here that he prayed a great deal and had the opportunity to make so many apostolic plans. And I’m sure it will please you to know that now there are people in the Prelature of Opus Dei from all the continents, of every language and race.”
Responding to questions, he recalled how important it is that husband and wife be closely united. They need to know how to understand one another, to excuse and forgive when necessary. Many parents mentioned their concerns about the challenge of raising their children, and Bishop Echevarría passed on some experiences about the importance of parents being friends with their children and making demands on them. He also encouraged the parents, with specific details, to be vigilant regarding how their children use their leisure time, and especially their use of video games, whose content, unfortunately, is not always formative.
On Sunday, February 5, he traveled to Lugano. There he celebrated Holy Mass and blessed the oratory in the Montebrè Cultural Center. About eighty people took part in the ceremony. After Mass, Bishop Echevarría greeted everyone present, one by one. In the afternoon, after a get-together in the Alzavola Youth Club with women of the Prelature, he began his return trip to Rome.
On February 12, the Prelate of Opus Dei took part in a ceremony in Chieti to commemorate the first anniversary of the dedication of a plaza to St. Josemaría. The plaza is in the upper part of the city, close to the cathedral. The escalator that connects the interurban bus station with the historic center of city ends right in this plaza.
As soon as he arrived in Chieti, at ten in the morning, the Prelate visited Archbishop Bruno Forte. The two then made their way to St. Josemaría Plaza and, from there, went to the conference hall where the public ceremony was to take place. The hall was filled with representatives from civil and military institutions and people from all over the Abruzzo region.
Archbishop Forte’s opening address emphasized the catholic and therefore universal message of St. Josemaría. He said that fidelity to God and fidelity to mankind had to go hand in hand in a single Christian faithfulness. Only thus, said Archbishop Fore, is it possible to construct a more authentic and just society. At the end of his address, the Archbishop recalled the spiritual bonds that linked St. Josemaría with the Abruzzo region, and in particular he spoke about Fr. Renato Mariani, one of the first Italian members of Opus Dei.
At the end, Bishop Echevarría said a few words. Work, ethics and the importance of the family were some of the topics touched upon by the Prelate of Opus Dei in his explanation of St. Josemaría’s message. In regard to work, he pointed out the double meaning, subjective and objective, of the universality of the call to holiness preached by the Founder of Opus Dei. “If all are called to the fullness of love, we can’t consider only certain human activities as privileged channels, special paths to holiness.”
Finally, the Prelate presided over a Eucharistic concelebration in St. Justin’s Cathedral. His homily stressed the importance of the sacrament of Penance.
Upon leaving the church, he stopped to greet those present, among whom were many faithful of Opus Dei from the Abruzzo region with their families.
The Prelate of Opus Dei made his first pastoral trip to Russia from the 18th to the 23rd of April, 2006.
He landed in Moscow on April 18 in mid-afternoon. In the Russian capital he visited Archbishop Thaddeus Kondrusievich and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. He also had a get-together with some seventy people, including faithful of Opus Dei, Cooperators and friends. The Prelate celebrated Holy Mass in the Church of St. Louis, and also prayed in the Catholic Cathedral of Moscow and in a number of Orthodox Churches. On April 20 in the afternoon, he left for St. Petersburg.
In this Baltic city, the Prelate celebrated Holy Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes and visited the pastor of the Orthodox Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. From St. Petersburg he went to Pushkin, where two priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross are entrusted with a Catholic parish. In Pushkin he had a catechetical get-together with some 25 people and celebrated Sunday Mass for the parish faithful.
He returned to Rome on Sunday, April 23, in the afternoon.
June 23 was the date of the sixtieth anniversary of the first Mass of St. Josemaría in Italy. Although the exact location is uncertain, the Mass was most likely celebrated in the Church of San Sisto e Maria Bambina, in Genoa.
Shortly before midnight, on June 22, 1946, St. Josemaría had disembarked in Genoa after traveling by ship from Barcelona. Before setting out, he placed his trip to Italy in the hands of the Patroness of Barcelona, Our Lady of Ransom. Don Álvaro del Portillo was waiting for him in Genoa, and was to accompany him the following day to Rome, the see of the Vicar of Christ. St. Josemaría saw the need to ask for pontifical approval for Opus Dei, which during those years was beginning its apostolic expansion outside Spain. In the morning, before leaving for Rome, they celebrated Holy Mass, and St. Josemaría entrusted to our Lord all the intentions he was bringing to the Eternal City. The Prelate of Opus Dei wanted to unite himself to these intentions on his two-day visit to Genoa.
Upon arriving, on the afternoon of June 21, he went to the Delle Peschiere Residence. On the following day, in the morning, he celebrated Holy Mass in the Capodifaro Residence, and afterwards he had get-togethers in the Prelature’s two Centers in Genoa with the people living there and those who take part in their apostolic activities. The questions raised in both gatherings led him to speak about St. Josemaría’s 1946 trip, from which so much good for the Church and for Opus Dei has stemmed. He also recalled St. Josemaría’s first night in Rome, spent in prayer for the Holy Father on the terrace of the apartment on the Plaza of Città Leonina. He encouraged everyone to imitate the Founder of Opus Dei’s heroic generosity and to launch out in an intense apostolate in all their surroundings.
In the afternoon, the Prelate went to the Church of San Sisto e Maria Bambina, where he was met by the pastor. There he spent some minutes recollected in prayer. Afterwards he went to visit the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to whom he wished a fruitful work in his future position as Secretary of State for the Holy See, which the Pope had appointed him that very day. The Cardinal, who on the following day was to celebrate the liturgical feast of St. Josemaría, thanked the Prelate for the work of the faithful of Opus Dei in Genoa.
After his visit, Bishop Echevarría returned to Rome.