Seventh Ordinary General Congress of Opus Dei
Since eight years had passed since the last General Congress of the Prelature (the elective congress following the death of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo), the Seventh Ordinary General Congress of Opus Dei was convoked by the Prelate for October 2002. It was held in Rome between October 11 and 22, directly following the canonization of Saint Josemaría. Participating were 250 men and women from almost all the countries in which the Prelature carries out its apostolic work.
As established by the Prelature’s Statutes (cf. no. 133), a General Congress is to take place every eight years for the purpose of studying the situation of the Prelature and issuing whatever directives seem necessary. The Congress also renews appointments for members of the General Council and the Central Advisory of the Prelature. The nomination of representatives to the Congress takes place with the consultative vote of the Regional Commission or Regional Advisories and the other Regional representatives and with the deliberative vote of the General Council and the Central Advisory. To be a representative in the Congress one must be at least thirty-two years old and have been definitively incorporated in the Prelature for at least nine years. Appointment is for life (cf. Statutes, nos. 130 and 133).
The General Congress began on the evening of October 11. On the morning of the 12th, a Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated by the Prelate in the Church of Our Lady of Peace. For the women delegates, who began their work a few days after the men, another Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated in the Prelatic Church on the 18th.
The required working committees were set up in accord with the different topics to be studied. Suggestions put forward in the committee sessions were later discussed in the plenary sessions and the conclusions of the Congress were approved.
The balance of the eight years since the previous Congress presented, above all, reasons for gratitude to God: the Jubilee of the year 2000; Pope John Paul II’s program for the Church set forth in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, with its emphasis on communion; the striking growth of appreciation for the Holy Father in public opinion during these years. For the Prelature, and for the entire Church, another reason for gratitude to God and to the Pope was the canonization of Saint Josemaría Escrivá. In these years Opus Dei has taken root in seven new countries: Estonia, Slovakia, Lebanon, Panama, Uganda, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. In Kazakhstan, besides the priests and laity of the Prelature who have gone there, members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross from the diocesan clergy have begun working in a corner of the country far from the capital.
The death of several of the first faithful of the Prelature, who knew Saint Josemaría in the early thirties, has represented the end of an epoch, so to speak. The example of their life remains as a glowing ember for those still struggling here on earth, along with the example of many others who in these years have also entrusted their soul to God in a holy way. In this regard, another reason for joy since the last Congress has been the opening of the causes of beatification of a number of faithful in the Prelature.
The development of the Prelature’s work also clearly shows us the need to put ever greater care into the formation of all who take part in the apostolates of Opus Dei, and first of all the faithful of the Prelature themselves. “The Congress has strongly stressed that even greater effort should be put into the five aspects of our formation: the human, spiritual, doctrinal-religious, apostolic, and professional aspects,” the Prelate noted in a letter sent to all of the faithful of the Prelature transmitting to them the conclusions of the Congress (Letter, November 28, 2002, no. 4).
The General Congress also insisted on the importance of apostolate, and in particular on the Christianization of the social environment in which the faithful of the Prelature, ordinary citizens like everyone else, live and work: family and customs, dignity of the woman, communication, peace, solidarity. These are values that the world today stands in great need of, and that the pastoral work of the Prelature and the whole Church must strive to bring about.
In this Seventh General Congress of Opus Dei, as envisioned in the Prelature’s Statutes (no. 140), the Prelate proceeded to renew the positions on the General Council and the Central Advisory, the two organs that assist the Prelate in his task of government. The corresponding section of this edition of Romana lists the appointments made.
Romana, No. 35, July-December 2002, pag. 276-277.