Pastoral Trips: Canary Islands, Bratislava, Bari
From February 5 to 9, Bishop Echevarría visited the Canary Islands. It was his first pastoral visit to these islands as Prelate. He arrived in Tenerife shortly after noon on the fifth.
His first act on arriving was to visit Our Lady of the Presentation. Bishop Echevarría met with the rector of the Basilica, and when he was invited to sign the guest book he expressed his “gratitude to our Mother of the Presentation” and asked her to intercede to help us “to do an unceasing apostolate, and to be very Marian and go to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with great confidence.”
On the sixth, the Prelate of Opus Dei had a get-together with faithful of the Prelature, cooperators, and friends. Some twelve hundred people took part. The Prelate encouraged them to make frequent use of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Referring to Brother Pedro, the first Canarian saint, he asked them to be “committed Christians, teachers of service to those around them, who do not turn their back on social problems.”
The second half of his pastoral trip, the seventh , eighth, and ninth, was spent on the island of Gran Canaria. In a family-like atmosphere at Guaydil School in Tafira Baja, a gathering was held of about two thousand people from many parts of the island, and from Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Questions and answers on Christian life followed one another for almost an hour. Bishop Echevarría answered, among others, the question of Nacaray, a girl of eleven, born in Schaman and sick with epiphysiolysis, and that of Rosa, of Russian origin, who had recently converted to Catholicism. The Prelate spoke about the responsibility to exercise one’s duties and rights, the need to be good citizens and good Christians, fostering a social climate of understanding. He also asked those present to be consistent in living their faith in their personal conduct and to show an active concern for the education of youth.
In addition to meeting with the local bishops and with those taking part in the formative activities of Opus Dei, Bishop Echevarría visited various apostolic works started by the Prelature in the islands. He also received the visits of many families of faithful of the Work, Cooperators and friends.
On March 26, at noon, the Prelate of Opus Dei left for Bratislava from Vienna, where he had taken part in the funeral of Cardinal Koenig. At 4:30 in the afternoon, he had a get-together with faithful of the Prelature from Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Bishop Echevarría began the meeting with words of affection and gratitude: “My children, it gives me great happiness to be here with you, and at the same time I am very moved. As you can well imagine, I am always thinking of our Father, and also of Don Alvaro, and I know that from the time that he made his first trip to Austria, Saint Josemaria was already praying for these countries. His petition intensified when he placed the lands of Eastern Europe under the advocation Sancta Maria Stella Orientis.” After the get-together, he returned to Vienna.
Fifty years after the fact, Bishop Echevarría retraced the footsteps of Saint Josemaría, who on July 7, 1954 went to Bari to pray at the tomb of Saint Nicholas, and to entrust to his intercession the solution of the serious financial difficulties Opus Dei was undergoing at that time.
On May 13, the Prelate arrived at Bari and prayed before the remains of the saint for the needs of the Church throughout the world. In the crypt he also greeted the Rector of the Basilica.
In the evening he had a get-together in the Levante University Residence with over a hundred students, devoting forty minutes to answering their questions.
On the morning of the fourteenth he visited Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. Later he had an informal get-together with the students, teachers and administrative personal of Miralta, a school for girls, during which he was asked a number of questions on educational and apostolic themes. After receiving a group of members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, the Prelate of Opus Dei met with almost a thousand people in the gymnasium of Miralta School. It was a family-like conversation during which the Prelate stressed the importance of a life of prayer and of personal dialogue with God.
The Prelate had a number of meetings with smaller groups that same day. He returned to Rome on the morning of the fifteenth.
Romana, No. 38, January-June 2004, p. 37-39.