Announcement of the Beatification
After Pope Francis’s approval of the required miracle and the formal decree of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (July 5, 2013), the Holy See confirmed in a letter dated January 21, 2014 that the Holy Father (at the request of the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría) has established that Alvaro del Portillo will be beatified in Madrid, his hometown, on September 27, 2014.
An International Encounter in Madrid
The beatification ceremony in Madrid will be presided over by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, and faithful from all over the world are expected to participate. The next day, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving.
“I ask that, in this time of special joy,” said Bishop Javier Echevarría, “you unite yourselves to my gratitude to the Pope, for his decision that the beatification will go forward of this bishop who loved and served the Holy Church so much. From now on let us entrust to the soon-to-be-blessed Alvaro the intentions of the Holy Father: the renewed apostolic spirit and service to God of all Christians, the concern and care for the most needy, the upcoming Synod on the family, the holiness of priests.”
Don Alvaro and Madrid
The biography of Bishop del Portillo—whom many people call “Don Alvaro”—is closely linked to the city of Rome (where he lived most of his life) and Madrid, where he was born on March 11, 1914, and where he spent his childhood and youth with his parents and seven siblings. It was also in the capital of Spain that he met St. Josemaría Escrivá and decided to join Opus Dei in 1935.
While he was a 19-year-old engineering student in Madrid, the young Alvaro del Portillo took part in the activities of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, teaching catechism to children in Vallecas and other poor neighborhoods and distributing donations and food to needy families. Later, encouraged by St. Josemaría, he continued to carry out similar activities with the young people who participated in the initial work of Opus Dei organized around the DYA Academy.
After finishing his civil and ecclesiastical studies, he was ordained in Madrid by the bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, on June 25, 1944, and he carried out his priestly ministry there until he moved to Rome in 1946.
Setting of the Beatification
As is well known, the papal decree of Benedict XVI on the rites of beatification and canonization—promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on September 29, 2005—states that beatifications will be celebrated by a representative of the Holy Father, usually the prefect of the aforementioned Congregation, in the place that is considered most suitable. The same decree provides that only canonizations will be presided over by the Pope.
For this reason, when the upcoming beatification was announced, several options were explored, with preference being given to central locations in Rome other than St. Peter’s Square, which is reserved to the Holy Father. Due to the large number of expected participants, however, these proposals proved difficult to implement, and the Congregation considered particularly opportune a second possibility that arose: celebrating the ceremony in Madrid, the birthplace of Alvaro del Portillo, in the year that marks the centenary of his birth, which will also allow a larger number of his countrymen, for whom a trip to Rome would be difficult because of the current economic crisis, to attend the ceremony.
Plans are already being made to take care of the participants from around the world, including visits to the Cathedral de la Almudena and places related to the life of Alvaro del Portillo and the beginnings of Opus Dei, which was founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá —in Madrid—on October 2, 1928.
Romana, No. 58, January-June 2014, p. 86-87.