Final Words of the Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Madrid, September 27, 2014
As we come to the end of this solemn beatification ceremony, I give thanks to God for so many wonderful things he has done in the life of Blessed Álvaro del Portillo and through his faithfulness, for so many men and women throughout the world.
I wish also to express my gratitude to our Holy Father Francis who wanted that this beatification take place in our beloved Archdiocese of Madrid. I would dare to say that Blessed del Portillo, who was born in this city, can be considered ours in a special way, and as such that he blesses us in a special way from heaven. And since he had such deep roots here, he could and knew how to be a citizen of the world, of the five continents to which he had travelled and which are marvelously represented in this prayer assembly.
The new blessed received Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion in this city. Thanks also to the education he received from his family and in school, from an early age his love for Jesus Christ grew ever stronger. He studied civil engineering in Madrid, carrying out at the same time a work of evangelization of the very poor in the slums of Spain’s capital city during a period of urban expansion and a rapidly growing population. These events, which took place during the first half of the twentieth century, gave rise to some serious social, human, religious problems in a particularly dramatic period of Spanish and European history.
It was also here in Madrid, while still a young man, that after getting to know Saint Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, Blessed Álvaro answered with promptitude God’s call to follow him on a path to seek holiness in the midst of the world through the sanctification of his professional work and carrying out apostolate.
In Madrid, and in the tumultuous years of the Spanish Civil War, he had a chance to bear loving and faithful witness to Christ both in a difficult and risky work of catechesis as well as the months he spent in prison. In 1944 Blessed Álvaro del Portillo received priestly ordination from the hands of my predecessor, Bishop Leopoldo Eijo y Garay.
The particular Church of Madrid is sensitive to the needs of the universal Church. Although Blessed Álvaro left for Rome in 1946, this does not stop us from considering him a citizen of Madrid. As a diocesan Church, we are very proud of the faithful help he lent to Saint Josemaría in spreading the message of Opus Dei throughout the world and for the contributions he made to the Second Vatican Council. We are also proud of the exemplary talent he displayed in succeeding the founder with humility and fidelity and for the episcopal ministry he carried out in union with the Successor of Peter and with the college of bishops.
This ceremony that has brought together people from all over the world reminds me of another festive and universal celebration, the World Youth Day in Madrid, which was an outpouring of grace for everyone and particularly for our city. During those days in 2012 presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, many of you here would have been present, accompanied as well by the same choir that is singing here today.
The footprints of the new blessed are very much felt here in Madrid, not only for historical reasons but also because of the influence which his life and writings have had on the hearts of so many faithful of this Archdiocese. His footprints are also felt through the spiritual and social good done by the very many initiatives that owe their inspiration to him. May the intercession of Blessed Álvaro del Portillo continue to protect them!
I would like to recall that in my personal dealings with Blessed Álvaro, for example during the Synod of Bishops in 1990, I was able to notice how he stood out for his goodness, his serenity and his good humor. “In the Communion of the Church”: Yes, Blessed Álvaro reminded me of my episcopal motto, “In Ecclesiae Communione.” He loved the Church, which is why he was a man of communion, of union, and of love.
I ask Our Lady of Almudena that we too, as faithful announcers of the Gospel, may know how to respond faithfully to our Lord’s call to serve the men and women of our time.
Romana, No. 59, July-December 2014, p. 240-242.