On February 4 the Prelate began a pastoral trip to Spain that lasted till the 6th of that month. His first stop was Valencia, where he gave a conference on the priestly role of the Founder of Opus Dei. The session opened a series of meetings organized in connection with the Year for Priests by the School of Theology and the Almudi priests’ library (see “Priestly Identity, Priestly Piety,” the complete text of the Prelate’s address in Valencia, on page 96).
The series of lectures was aimed at looking at the lives of four priests with connections to the city. In addition to St. Josemaría, the priest discussed were the Servants of God, José Maria Garcia-Lahiguera (who had been archbishop of Valencia), and Frs. Eladio España and José Bau.
Archbishop Carlos Osoro of Valencia was the principal celebrant of the Mass in honor of St. Josemaría in the cathedral of the city. Joining him as concelebrants were Bishop Javier Echevarría, the two Auxiliary Bishops of Valencia, Esteban Escudero and Enrique Benavent, as well as the Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Msgr. Vicente Fontestad, and the Dean of La Seo, Emilio Aliaga.
On February 6 the Prelate arrived in Mallorca and asked the 1500 people that he met with to learn to “forgive and love” anyone who may have offended them, even in such dramatic situations as a terrorist attack.
This gathering, held at the “Llaüt” school, in BIT Park, was Bishop Echevarría’s first visit to the island, offering him the opportunity to meet with faithful of the Prelature there and their families, as well as cooperators and friends. He also took advantage of the occasion to greet the Bishop of Mallorca, Most Reverend Jésus Murgui.
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Ars (France), from March 5 to 7
St. Jean Marie Vianney, the holy Curé of Ars, was the pastor of this small French village between 1818 and 1859. Following the footsteps of the patron of the Year for Priests convoked by Benedict XVI, the Prelate of Opus Dei made a pilgrimage to Ars from March 5 to 7.
As soon as he arrived in Ars, on Friday the 5th early in the evening, Bishop Echevarría prayed before the tomb of the Holy Curé, accompanied by Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of Opus Dei, and Msgr. Antoine de Rochebrune, Vicar of Opus Dei in France. The Prelate lit three votive candles in the chapel, entrusting to the saint the intentions of the Church and the people of Opus Dei. Then he traveled to Lyons where he visited Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at the Cathedral of Saint Jean.
On Saturday, before returning to Ars, the Prelate met with faithful of the Work and friends from Lyons, Grenoble, and Clermont-Ferrand. At this gathering, he invited those present to imitate the love for the Eucharist and Confession that the Curé of Ars had, a love that St. Josemaría also shared in. At the same time, he encouraged them to be witnesses to Christ in their surroundings, taking advantage of every opportunity in their professional and family life to help the Church in its evangelizing mission.
Back in Ars, he prayed for a long time before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Chapel of Divine Providence. Finally he visited the house in which the Holy Curé of Ars lived.
Palermo, Italy, from March 26 to 28
On Friday, April 26, the Prelate visited the Segesta University Residence in Palermo, to meet with students there. Afterwards he met with several families. On Saturday, after celebrating the Eucharist, the Prelate held a meeting with some twenty priests. Later he had a get-together with about 400 persons connected with the Altavilla School in Palermo, where he recalled the importance of true friendship for every Christian, in order to carry out a fruitful apostolate.
On the 28th, Palm Sunday, before returning to Rome, the Prelate celebrated Mass in the oratory of the Mediterranean University Residence. During his homily he recalled a significant anniversary, especially during the Year for Priests: the priestly ordination of the Founder of Opus Dei, which took place on March 25 in Saragossa, 85 years ago. These were the first steps in a priesthood that has brought to the Church, through God’s grace, so much fruit of holiness.
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Turin, Italy, May 20
Bishop Echevarría visited Turin to pray before the Holy Shroud, during a special exhibition held from April 10 to May 23. He was accompanied by Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of Opus Dei, and Father Matteo Fabbri, Vicar of Opus Dei in Italy.
Before viewing the Shroud, the Prelate saw a short explanatory film projected for the pilgrims. Later, he was able to meditate before the Holy Shroud in a secluded place. At the end, Bishop Echevarría wrote a few words in the visitors’ book: “With gratitude, I pray for all the people of this beloved city and unite myself to the intentions of the Pastor of this diocese and to the intentions of all the authorities.”
In the evening, Bishop Echevarría had an opportunity to chat with various groups of faithful of Opus Dei and friends who attend the means of Christian formation in Turin and other cities in the Piedmont region. Recalling the text that was read to the pilgrims waiting in line to pray before the Holy Shroud, the Prelate said that our Lord had suffered a great deal for love of all men and women, and that now each Christian had the duty of reminding others of this reality. “Nevertheless, we also have the possibility of frustrating God’s omnipotence, when we fail to treat well that Lord who constantly wants to serve us, who extends his hand to help you, who says to you: ‘Take courage, be faithful!’”