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Presentation of the Italian edition of a biography of Álvaro del Portillo

Álvaro del Portillo: Il primo successore di san Josémaría allá guida dell'Opus Dei is the Italian edition of a biography of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo by Fr. Javier Medina. The author, the postulator for his cause, was a direct witness of the last 24 years of Bishop del Portillo’s life. The book was presented in Rome on September 18, with the presence of Bishop Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, who addressed the opening words of greeting. Also taking part were Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest emeritus of the Basilica of St. Paul; the Carmelite priest Antonio Maria Sicari, theologian, writer and essayist; Senator Emma Fatorini; and Maria Vittoria Marini-Clarelli, director of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome. The speakers were introduced by Cesar Cavalleri, director of Ares, the book’s publisher.

In his opening words, Bishop Echevarría said that “a beatification cannot be reduced to the celebration of a person; above all it is an opportunity to praise God, to give him glory and to thank him for his gifts, specifically for his blesseds and saints. The venerable Álvaro del Portillo was a man, a priest, a bishop filled with joy, to whom our Lord granted many human talents. His beatification places before our eyes (and here is the key to this act of the Church) the reality that holiness is accessible to all the baptized, if they respond generously to God’s grace.”

Cardinal Monterisi pointed out that Bishop del Portillo “did a lot of work for the Second Vatican Council, before, during, and after its celebration, spending days and nights studying, reading, and drawing up texts and opinions. His work in the preparation of the decree Presbyterorum Ordinis,” he said, “was truly admirable.” He also emphasized how Don Álvaro “inspired dozens and dozens of social and educational initiatives throughout the world: rural and urban schools, centers of formation and hospitals. When he arrived in a country of Africa or Latin America he tried to understand what the most urgent needs of the people were. And then, with his serene yet determined spirit, he would encourage faithful of Opus Dei to begin an initiative that would respond to that need.

In his talk, the Carmelite Antonio Maria Sicari, described the deep mutual affection and loyalty that united the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá, and the future Blessed Álvaro, a relationship that can best be summed up by the word “fidelity.”

Senator Emma Fattorini, in turn, spoke about Bishop del Portillo’s fidelity and simplicity. She said that one could see reflected in his life, in his relationship with his family and in his studies at the university, a “deep interiority, lived at the same time with freedom of spirit.” Therefore “fidelity—which is the key to understanding his personality—is closely tied to freedom.”

Maria-Vittoria Marini-Clarelli, director of the national Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, recalled another feature of the personality of Álvaro del Portillo: his serenity. “His actions seemed to be guided by the Latin phrase festina lente (make haste slowly). He communicated this serenity to others because the beautiful simplicity of his way of being was united to an extraordinary transparency, as though his soul were visible.”

The presentation took place in the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, begun under the impetus of Bishop del Portillo in 1984—following a wish of St. Josemaría—and of which he was the first Chancellor.

Romana, No. 59, July-December 2014, pag. 358-359.