The Vicariate of Rome concludes the fact-finding phase of the Cause of Canonization of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo (June 26, 2008)
The ceremony took place in Rome’s Lateran Palace on June 26, the liturgical memorial of St. Josemaría Escrivá, whose first successor as head of Opus Dei was Bishop Álvaro del Portillo
Bishop Javier Echevarría, the current Prelate, was present at the ceremony, along with many faithful of the Prelature and friends of Bishop del Portillo, who lived in Rome for almost fifty years, from 1946 until his death in 1994.
Cardinal Ruini explained that “Bishop Echevarría, although he had been recognized by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints as the competent Bishop to investigate his predecessor’s cause, out of a refined and rigorous sense of justice, desired that I appoint a Tribunal of the Vicariate to receive his deposition and that of some of the other witnesses.”
“I was happy to accede to his request” he continued, “in virtue of which I am present here today to formally close the investigative process and transmit the documents to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, since, as is well known, the diocesan tribunals are only fact-gathering bodies, and the only judicial body is the Congregation.”
Bishop Álvaro del Portillo’s process of canonization was opened four years ago, on March 5, 2004, and has been carried out in its first phase in two tribunals, one organized by the Vicariate of Rome and the other by the Prelature of Opus Dei. Some witnesses have also given testimony to tribunals in their own dioceses, in accord with established judicial procedures.
Cardinal Ruini said that Bishop Álvaro del Portillo was “an example of fidelity in following the spirit of sanctification in work and ordinary life,” and recalled the principal events of his life: “On July 7, 1935, while still an engineering student, he asked for admission to Opus Dei. During the tragic events of the Spanish Civil War, he was the person who provided the most assistance to the Founder. On June 25, 1944, he was ordained a priest, one of the first three priests of Opus Dei. . . .”
“In 1946 he moved to Rome, where he carried out various tasks in service of the Holy See,” Cardinal Ruini continued. “He was a consultor to various dicasteries, as well as secretary of the Second Vatican Council Commission that drafted the decree Presbyterorum Ordinis. In 1975, after St. Josemaría’s death, he was called to succeed him as head of Opus Dei.”
Don Álvaro died in Rome on March 23, 1994, just after returning from a trip to the Holy Land. John Paul II, who had ordained him as a bishop in 1991, went that afternoon to the chapel of repose in the Prelatic Church of Opus Dei, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace. His body now lies in repose in the crypt of that same church in Rome.
Cardinal Ruini’s remarks included some personal recollections: “I will never forget the affection Don Álvaro showed when he came to visit me at the Vicariate. He always gave witness to his dedication to Christ.”
For his part, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Don Álvaro’s successor as Prelate of Opus Dei, said that this “is only a first step, but a step that fills us with joy, because we see in our beloved Don Álvaro an integral man, an authentic Christian, a good shepherd, a most faithful son of St. Josemaría.”
The next stage of the process, once the tribunal of the Prelature concludes its sessions, will be the drawing up of the positio, which is a biography of the Servant of God that shows how he lived the Christian virtues in an heroic manner.
The positio is then sent by the postulator of the cause, in this case Msgr. Flavio Capucci, to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to be studied and decided upon.