Opus Dei

Opus Dei
Opus Dei cross.svg
Seal of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei: "A cross embracing the world"
Formation2 October 1928; 91 years ago (1928-10-02)
TypePersonal prelature
PurposeSpreading the universal call to holiness in ordinary life
HeadquartersViale Bruno Buozzi, 73, 00197 Rome, Italy
Coordinates41°55′18″N 12°29′03″E / 41°55′18″N 12°29′03″E / 41.9218; 12.4841

Opus Dei, formally known as the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (Latin: Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei), is an institution of the Catholic Church which teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity.[2][3] The majority of its membership are lay people; the remainder are secular priests under the governance of a prelate elected by specific members and appointed by the Pope.[4] Opus Dei is Latin for "Work of God"; hence the organization is often referred to by members and supporters as the Work.[5][6]

Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928 by Catholic saint and priest Josemaría Escrivá and was given final Catholic Church approval in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.[7] John Paul II made it a personal prelature in 1982 by the apostolic constitution Ut sit; that is, the jurisdiction of its own bishop covers the persons in Opus Dei wherever they are, rather than geographical dioceses.[7]

As of 2018, there were 95,318 members of the Prelature: 93,203 lay persons and 2,115 priests.[1] These figures do not include the diocesan priest members of Opus Dei's Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, estimated to number 2,000 in the year 2005.[8] Members are in more than 90 countries.[9] About 70% of Opus Dei members live in their private homes, leading traditional Catholic family lives with secular careers,[10][11] while the other 30% are celibate, of whom the majority live in Opus Dei centers. Aside from their personal charity and social work, Opus Dei members organize training in Catholic spirituality applied to daily life; members are involved in running universities, university residences, schools, publishing houses, hospitals, and technical and agricultural training centers.

Opus Dei has been described as the most controversial force within the Catholic Church, especially as a result of their close ties with the fascist Franco regime in Spain during his rule from 1936 to 1975. Defenders of the organization argue that many of the negative claims about Opus Dei are unproven or fabrications.


Escrivá surrounded by working people, in a Filipino painting entitled, Magpakabanal sa Gawain or "Be holy through your work".

Foundational period

Opus Dei was founded by a Catholic priest, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, on 2 October 1928 in Madrid, Spain. According to Escrivá, on that day he experienced a vision in which he "saw Opus Dei".[12][13] He gave the organization the name "Opus Dei", which in Latin means "Work of God",[14] in order to underscore the belief that the organization was not his (Escrivá's) work, but was rather God's work.[15] Throughout his life, Escrivá held that the founding of Opus Dei had a supernatural character.[16] Escrivá summarized Opus Dei's mission as a way of helping ordinary Christians "to understand that their life... is a way of holiness and evangelization... And to those who grasp this ideal of holiness, the Work offers the spiritual assistance and training they need to put it into practice."[17]

Initially, Opus Dei was open only to men, but in 1930, Escrivá started to admit women, based on what he believed to be a communication from God.[7] In 1936, the organization suffered a temporary setback with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, as many Catholic priests and religious figures, including Escrivá, were forced into hiding. The atrocities committed during the civil war included the murder and rape of religious figures by anti-Franco Anarchists; it is worth noting, however, when considering the atrocities, that those committed by the pro-Franco Nationalists are usually estimated to far outnumber those committed by the Republicans.[18][19] After the civil war was won by General Francisco Franco, Escrivá was able to return to Madrid.[20] Escrivá himself recounted that it was in Spain where Opus Dei found "the greatest difficulties" because of traditionalists who he felt misunderstood Opus Dei's ideas.[21] Despite this, Opus Dei flourished during the years of the Franquismo, spreading first throughout Spain, and after 1945, expanding internationally.[7]

In 1939, Escrivá published The Way, a collection of 999 maxims concerning spirituality for people involved in secular affairs.[22] In the 1940s, Opus Dei found an early critic in the Jesuit Superior General Wlodimir Ledóchowski, who told the Vatican that he considered Opus Dei "very dangerous for the Church in Spain," citing its "secretive character" and calling it "a form of Christian Masonry."[23]

In 1947, a year after Escrivá moved the organization's headquarters to Rome, Opus Dei received a decree of praise and approval from Pope Pius XII, making it an institute of "pontifical right", i.e. under the direct governance of the Pope.[7] In 1950, Pius XII granted definitive approval to Opus Dei, thereby allowing married people to join the organization, and secular clergy to be admitted to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.[7]

Post-foundational years

In 1975, Escriva died and was succeeded by Álvaro del Portillo. In 1982, Opus Dei was made into a personal prelature. This means that Opus Dei is part of the universal Church, and the apostolate of the members falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Prelate of Opus Dei wherever they are. As to "what the law lays down for all the ordinary faithful", the lay members of Opus Dei, being no different from other Catholics, "continue to be ... under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop", in the words of John Paul II's Ut Sit.[24] In 2017, Fernando Ocáriz Braña became Prelate upon the death of his predecessor, Javier Echevarría.

History of the spread of Opus Dei by country

One-third of the world's bishops sent letters petitioning for the canonization of Escrivá.[25] Escriva was beatified in 1992 in the midst of controversy prompted by questions about Escriva's suitability for sainthood. In 2002, approximately 300,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square on the day Pope John Paul II canonized Josemaría Escrivá.[26][27] According to one author, "Escrivá is... venerated by millions".[8]

There are other members whose process of beatification has been opened: Ernesto Cofiño, a father of five children and a pioneer in pediatric research in Guatemala; Montserrat Grases, a teenage Catalan student who died of cancer; Toni Zweifel, a Swiss engineer; Tomás Alvira and wife, Paquita Domínguez, a Spanish married couple;[28] Isidoro Zorzano Ledesma, an Argentinian engineer; Dora del Hoyo, a domestic worker;[29] and Father José Luis Múzquiz de Miguel.

During the pontificate of John Paul II, two members of Opus Dei, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne and Julián Herranz Casado, were made cardinals.[30]

In September 2005, Pope Benedict XVI blessed a newly installed statue of Josemaría Escrivá placed in an outside wall niche of St Peter's Basilica, a place for founders of Catholic organizations.[31]

During that same year, Opus Dei received some unwanted attention due to the extraordinary success of the novel The Da Vinci Code, in which both Opus Dei and the Catholic Church itself are depicted negatively. The film version was released globally in May 2006, further polarizing views on the organization.

In 2014, Pope Francis through a delegate beatified Alvaro del Portillo and said that "he teaches us that in the simplicity and ordinariness of our life we can find a sure path to holiness.[32]

At the end of 2014, the prelature has been established in 69 countries,[33] while its members are present in 90 countries.[9]

Bishop Echevarría died on 12 December 2016,[34] and was succeeded by Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz. He was elected the new prelate of Opus Dei on 23 January 2017, and on the same day was appointed by Pope Francis as such.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Opus Dei
العربية: أوبوس داي
aragonés: Opus Dei
azərbaycanca: Opus Dei
Bikol Central: Opus Dei
български: Опус Деи
català: Opus Dei
Cebuano: Opus Dei
čeština: Opus Dei
dansk: Opus Dei
Deutsch: Opus Dei
eesti: Opus Dei
español: Opus Dei
Esperanto: Opus Dei
euskara: Opus Dei
فارسی: اپوس دئی
français: Opus Dei
Gaeilge: Opus Dei
galego: Opus Dei
한국어: 오푸스 데이
hrvatski: Opus Dei
Bahasa Indonesia: Opus Dei
Ирон: Опус Деи
עברית: אופוס דאי
ქართული: ოპუს დეი
Kiswahili: Opus Dei
Latina: Opus Dei
latviešu: Opus Dei
lietuvių: Opus Dei
Limburgs: Opus Dei
magyar: Opus Dei
മലയാളം: ഓപുസ് ദേയി
Nederlands: Opus Dei
norsk: Opus Dei
norsk nynorsk: Opus Dei
polski: Opus Dei
português: Opus Dei
română: Opus Dei
русский: Опус Деи
Scots: Opus Dei
shqip: Opus Dei
Simple English: Opus Dei
slovenčina: Opus Dei
slovenščina: Opus Dei
српски / srpski: Опус деи
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Opus Dei
suomi: Opus Dei
svenska: Opus Dei
Tagalog: Opus Dei
Türkçe: Opus Dei
українська: Opus Dei
Tiếng Việt: Opus Dei
中文: 主业会