Rome, August 7, 2008
At the closing of the sessions of the Tribunal of the Prelature on the Cause of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
After the death of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, the existence of a clear and consistent reputation for holiness was immediately evident. From all parts of the world we received hundreds of personally signed accounts of spiritual and material favors received through his intercession. Many people from all over the world, including persons who do not belong to the Prelature, are thus convinced that Don Álvaro is in heaven, and point to his merits in their appeal to heaven to be heard in their personal needs.
The demonstration of a reputation for holiness: this is the first requirement for opening a Cause of Canonization. With full deliberation I decided, therefore, that his Cause should be opened. Once assured of this foundation, the Church has to decide if this reputation for sanctity is based on the reality (shown through legally certain evidence) of a life marked by the heroic exercise of the Christian virtues. In this case, the Church puts into operation the process needed to carry out a juridical, historical-critical, and theological investigation.
As you know, I asked our very dear Cardinal Ruini that he appoint a Tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome to hear my deposition and that of other witnesses, who lived particularly close to the Servant of God. The Tribunal of the Prelature was to carry out its own investigation in a parallel way, calling other witnesses to provide their testimony. The Tribunal of the Vicariate began its work on March 5, 2004, and that of the Prelature on March 20 of the same year.
In addition, in order to hear witnesses living far from Rome, the Tribunal of the Prelature asked other diocesan Tribunals to carry out their respective “investigative” proceedings. This was done during these years by the Tribunals of the dioceses of Madrid, Fatima-Leiria, Montreal, Pamplona, Quito, Sidney, Warsaw, and Washington, which are added today to the Tribunals of the present process.
After four years of work, the Tribunal of the Vicariate ended its sessions on the past June 26. Today, on August 7, 2008, we are definitively closing the sessions of the entire investigation on the life and virtues of the Servant of God Álvaro del Portillo.
The acts will be sent at once to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. There, after study of their conformity with law, a copy will be given to the Postulator, so that he can begin drawing up the Positio super vita et virtutibus, which at the proper time will be examined by the Theological Consultors of the Dicastry we have mentioned. Later, a judgment will be made by the Cardinals and Bishops who are members of the Congregation. Afterwards, if the result of the examination of the documents is positive, they will proceed to the proclamation of the heroic virtues of Bishop del Portillo.
If this occurs, and if there is also a favorable conclusion to the canonical investigation of a possibly miraculous event, chosen among those attributed to his intercession, his beatification will take place, with the previous approval of the Roman Pontiff.
I ask your prayers for the successful conclusion of this path.
I would like now to say something more. I feel myself urged by an imperative commitment, which I now assume coram Deo. I cannot forget Don Álvaro’s generous efforts throughout the various phases of St. Josemaría’s Cause of Canonization. In particular, he wanted the Positio to reflect not only our Founder’s heroic life, but also the depth, the internal harmony, the riches, and the newness of the spirit of Opus Dei. Thus he wanted to present to the Church a true and thorough portrait of this holy priest. Bishop del Portillo was moved by his filial love for St. Josemaría to pour his best efforts into this work.
I would like our affection for Don Álvaro to be no less. But, in addition to this affection, there is also another reason why we feel the duty that his Cause of Canonization proceed in a very rigorous way: the consideration of the role that he played in the history of Opus Dei. As St. Josemaría’s first successor, Don Alvaro provides all those who follow him down through the centuries with an incomparable example of faithfulness. He guarded in all its integrity, without alteration, the spirit that God entrusted to St. Josemaría.
This is precisely his essential characteristic: Don Álvaro was above all a faithful man. A faithful man, that is to say, a man of faith: faith in God, faith in the Church, faith in the supernatural origin of Opus Dei, and therefore in the divine character of the undertaking God had asked him to take part in. From here stemmed his unshakable loyalty to the Founder, of whom he was for forty years the closest collaborator, and later, his first successor in the governing of Opus Dei.
You can therefore understand my joy at presiding here at the closing session of the canonical investigation of the life and virtues of our beloved Don Álvaro. I feel an immense debt to him, because by his conduct he taught all the faithful of the Prelature—priests and laity, women and men—that their path of fidelity to God and to the Church passes through faithfulness to the spirit of Opus Dei, which St. Josemaría transmitted to his children.
I would like to pause briefly to speak about today’s date. Today is the anniversary of a very significant event in the history of the Work. On August 7, 1931, while celebrating Holy Mass, at the moment of elevating the Sacred Host, St. Josemaría felt deep in his soul, “with an extraordinary force and clarity,” as he himself recalled, God’s voice speaking to him through a verse from Scripture: “Et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum” (Jn 12:32). And he understood with new depth the essential content of the vocation to Opus Dei—the sanctification of work—and the impact of the pastoral reality that stemmed from it. Let us follow his account: “And I understood that it will be men and women of God who will lift the cross, with the teachings of Christ, to the summit of all human activities . . . And I saw our Lord triumph, drawing all things to himself” (Apuntes Intimos, August 7, 1931, no. 217).
Don Álvaro perfectly incarnated this spirit: first as a student, later as an engineer, and finally as a priest—for many years—and as Prelate, always offering his work to our Lord. When he was consecrated bishop, he chose for his coat of arms the motto: Regnare Christum volumus! We want Christ to reign! It is a summary of his path: he worked a lot and very well, always for the glory of God. It is thus that the faithful of the Prelature, with the human and supernatural quality of their activities in the world, contribute to the Church’s mission: sanctifying the world through their professional work, raising it up to God, saving souls.
In this task the saints are our guide. As St. Josemaría was, and continues to be, so also was, and continues to be, Don Álvaro, his most faithful son. Without trying to anticipate the Church’s judgment, we have and foster the conviction that he is in heaven, and we entrust ourselves with all our heart to his intercession.
The Church is built up in the Eucharist and thanks to the Eucharist. Opus Dei, “a tiny part of the Church,” as St. Josemaría used to say, is included in this dynamic of grace. We have mentioned the sanctification of work, but it is God’s grace, in first place, and therefore in a special way the Eucharist, that furthers its growth. Here also Don Álvaro, following our Founder’s example, taught us to live as persons in love, making the Eucharist “the center and root of our interior life.”
May Don Álvaro, with his unforgettable smile, his unshakable interior peace, his firmness in doing the good, and his deep humility, help us to make Christ’s life shine forth in the world through an unwavering apostolate that brings souls the joy of finding Christ. Remember his teaching and example: make the truth lovable, he always recommended to us.
Mary, present when Christ was raised up on the Cross, will be at our side, if we truly commit ourselves—with our limitations—to serve Christ according to the spirit left to us by our Founder, and so faithfully incarnated by Don Álvaro.
Romana, No. 47, July-December 2008, p. 285-288.