Budapest, Hungary, from February 26 to 28
The apostolic activity of Opus Dei in Hungary began in a stable way in 1990. Since then, the Prelate has visited the faithful and friends of Opus Dei in Budapest on three occasions: in 1995, in 2005, and now in 2009.
On this occasion he was able to have various meetings with men and women, laity and priests. He also met with students who have been spending their university years in the Orbánhegy and Fenyvesliget student residences. “Many people here in Hungary are waiting for you to lead them to Christ. That is real friendship,” the Prelate told the students at Orbánhegy.
To a group of Hungarian diocesan priests he advised: “Be very faithful to the bishop, be good friends with your brothers in the priesthood—especially with those who are alone or sick—pray a lot for the others and especially for the Pope.”
Bishop Echevarría also went to pray at the church of St. Anne (Belvárosi Szent Anna Templom), which is entrusted to priests of the Prelature.
Bilbao and Pamplona, Spain, from March 20 to 26
On Friday, the 20th, the Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in Bilbao. After visiting Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, the diocesan bishop, he placed his intentions at the feet of Our Lady of Begoña.
On Saturday, the 21st, he took part in the Fourth Conference on “Catholics and Public Life,” organized by the Catholic Association for the Propagation of the Faith, in the Palacio Euskalduna. In his lecture he stressed the need for Christians to confront the great problems of the contemporary world.
He also had several get-togethers with faithful of Opus Dei, Cooperators and friends, both in Bilbao and in Pamplona. He encouraged them to feel the weight of the problems of society, with a life of prayer and service, in full faithfulness to and union with the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
Japan, from April 14 to 17
The Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in Japan on April 14. On Wednesday, April 15, he met with Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka. During those days he also had various gatherings with groups of laity and priests. One of them was with students at Seido Cultural Center, in Ashiya, where he spoke about the faith to a public made up in large part of non-baptized persons. In Nagasaki, he went to Oura, the Church where Our Lady de inventione Christianorum [of the finding of the Christians] is venerated. He also took advantage of this trip to visit Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, and to greet many people at the Mikawadai School.
Taiwan, from April 21 to 24
Bishop Echevarría also spent some days in Taipei (Taiwan), where he went to the Church of the Resurrection to pray before the pilgrim Virgin of Wanjin. Although this statue is usually found in the southern part of the island, it was brought temporarily to the capital to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Catholicism in Taiwan.
The Prelate summed up his memories of his trip to the Far East in his letter of May 1, 2009: “A few days ago I returned from a trip to Japan and Taiwan, where I was able to see once again how the spirit of Opus Dei is taking root in people of all races and cultures. In both countries, besides knowing myself accompanied by all of you, and praying with all of you, I had two very special reasons for joy, among many others. In Nagasaki, I had a chance to visit Oura, the shrine where the martyrs of that country are venerated and the loving memory of those who conserved the faith despite harsh persecution is kept alive. And then in Taipei, I was present for the Exposition and Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament in a church filled with faithful. . . . In both places, there forcefully came to mind the thought that we have to bring Jesus, with Mary, to the furthest corner of the globe. Join me in giving thanks to the Most Blessed Trinity, source of all good, and to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, through whose mediation we receive every grace.”
On the 23rd he visited Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei.
Trips to L’Aquila
During the night of April 5 an earthquake took place in the Abruzzo area of central Italy. “As soon as I received news this morning,” said the Prelate in a message of condolence to those affected, “of the powerful earthquake that shook the Abruzzo region, I raised my heart to God, through the intercession of St. Josemaría, in petition for the souls of the dead and for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
The catastrophe left 287 people dead, and tens of thousands homeless. A large number of temporary tents were set up in the area (the so-called “tentopolis”) to provide a provisional solution for the homeless.
Among the many buildings affected was the Tor D’Aveia International Center, the summer seat of the Roman College of the Holy Cross, located in San Felice D’Ocre. Together with his prayers for the suffering of so many persons, Bishop Echevarría made a number of trips to show his solidarity and to accompany and encourage those affected.
“I am convinced that St. Josemaría,” he said, “who passed through that beloved region so many times and who prayed so much for the men and women of Abruzzo, will intercede for them in a special way during these moments and gain from God the grace that the material and moral damage be as small as possible.”