September 27: The Solemn Rite of Beatification
Álvaro del Portillo, bishop and first successor of St. Josemaría as head of Opus Dei and one of the protagonists of Vatican II, was beatified on September 27 in Madrid, in a ceremony presided over by the delegate of Pope Francis, Cardinal Angelo Amato, who was accompanied by Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, emeritus Archbishop of Madrid, and the Bishop Prelate of Opus Dei, Javier Echevarría.
The ceremony began with the Vicar General of Opus Dei, Fernando Ocariz, reading a message sent by Pope Francis. The Holy Father said that “Blessed Álvaro del Portillo teaches us that simplicity and ordinary life are a sure path to holiness,” and reminded everyone that Blessed Álvaro “went to many countries, fostering projects of evangelization without being inhibited by difficulties, moved only by his love for God and for his brothers and sisters. Whoever is very immersed in God knows how to be close to other people.”
Immediately following the solemn act of beatification by Cardinal Amato, at 12.24 pm an image of the new blessed was revealed to the faithful. His feast day will be celebrated on May 12 every year in the dioceses determined by the Holy See.
Another key moment was the transfer of the relics of Álvaro del Portillo to the altar, borne by the Ureta Wilson family, whose son José Ignacio was miraculously cured thanks to the new blessed’s intercession.
The universal impact of the new blessed was manifested by the presence of several hundred thousand faithful from more than 80 countries, and the participation of 17 cardinals and 170 bishops from all over the world.
Among those in the front row at the ceremony were two hundred people with some form of disability, as well as representatives of the many social initiatives promoted by the new blessed, particularly in Africa and Latin America. There were also many families and some Spanish and international civil authorities.
From very early in the morning, 1,600 buses and a bus shuttle service brought the more than 200,000 people to the Valdebebas site. They waited joyfully for the start of the ceremony watching audio-visual programs on 26 giant screens. Many also prepared themselves spiritually either by praying in the 13 chapels available or by receiving the sacrament of penance in one of the 80 confessionals spread throughout the area.
Faithfulness to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Pope
In his homily Cardinal Amato illustrated some virtues that the new blessed “lived in a heroic manner,” including his “faithfulness to the Gospel, to the Church, and to the Magisterium of the Pope.” The Cardinal stressed that Álvaro del Portillo “always avoided focusing on himself, because he passed on the truth of the Gospel and the fullness of tradition, not his own opinions.” Among other things, “he stood out for his prudence and uprightness of intention in the way he valued events and persons. He also stood out for his respect for the good name and freedom of others.”
Cardinal Amato continued: “Today Blessed Álvaro del Portillo invites us to be holy like him, living a holiness that is friendly, merciful, good-natured, meek, and humble. The saints invite us to bring to the heart of the Church and society the pure air of God’s grace, which renews the face of the earth.”
The huge turnout of the faithful was marked by piety and joyful singing, accompanied by the two hundred voice choir from the last World Youth Day. 1,200 priests distributed communion during the Mass.
Bishop Echevarría: a special prayer for those suffering persecution as a result of their faith
At the end of the celebration, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, addressed some words of gratitude to God, to the Church and to Pope Francis, as well as to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to Cardinal Amato and to the Archdiocese of Madrid, the choir, the volunteers and the media, all of whom have made possible the ceremony followed by so many people throughout the world.
“The raising of Álvaro del Portillo to the altars reminds us anew of the universal call to holiness, proclaimed with great fervor by the Second Vatican Council.” He also made reference to the “joy that Saint Josemaría Escrivá would undoubtedly feel on seeing this most faithful son of his held up as an intercessor and model for all the faithful.”
Bishop Echevarría asked those present to pray in a special way “for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for their faith, including martyrdom in different parts of the world.”
The diocese of Madrid is proud of its son
In his closing remarks, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco wished to point out the close bond between Álvaro del Portillo and the city of 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 in this Archdiocese. His footprints are also felt through the spiritual and social good done by the many initiatives that owe their inspiration to him.”
In conclusion, Cardinal Rouco said that “Blessed del Portillo, who was born here in Madrid, is ours in a unique way and so sends us special blessings from heaven.” “As a diocesan Church,” he added, “we are very proud of the faithful help he lent to Saint Josemaría in spreading the message of Opus Dei throughout the world and the contributions he made to the Second Vatican Council.”
At the end of the ceremony the more than 3,500 young volunteers helped participants to leave Valdebebas. While some returned to their places of origin, others remained in the Spanish capital for the Mass of Thanksgiving that would be presided over by Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, the next day.
On Sunday September 28, a Mass of thanksgiving was held for the beatification of Álvaro del Portillo. The venue was the same site at Valdebebas that the day before was filled with more than 200,000 people who attended the beatification.
Romana, n. 59, July-December 2014, p. 212-217.