Father Álvaro Corcuera, General Director of the Legionaries of Christ, announced today that their Founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, has died in the United States at the age 87 from natural causes.
In the official statement, Fr. Corcuera announced "the departure of their beloved founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado to heaven on January 30,” as well as the Legionaries “deep gratitude to all those who wish to unite in prayer for the eternal repose of his soul".
By the will of Father Maciel, the funeral will be celebrated privately, "in an atmosphere of prayer and simplicity in his hometown, Cotija, in the state of Michoacán, Mexico."
Fr. Marcial Maciel was born in Cotija de la Paz, Mexico on March 10, 1920.
At the age of fifteen, he entered a seminary run by his uncle, Saint Rafael Guizar y Valencia, the bishop of Veracruz. According to his official biography, it was in 1936 when he felt the call to found what in time would become the religious congregation called the Legionaries of Christ, with the later addition of the Regnum Christi lay movement.
On January 3, 1941, with the bishop’s blessing, he established a community in the style of a minor seminary with thirteen teenagers, while he was only 20 years old.
He was ordained a priest on November 26, 1944; and on June 13, 1948, the bishop of Cuernavaca, Bishop Alfonso Espino y Silva, canonically established the religious congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady of Sorrows, which would later be called the Legionaries of Christ.
The Legionaries of Christ gained recognition as a congregation of pontifical right through the “Decree of Praise” granted by Pope Paul VI in February of 1965.
The Legionaries of Christ currently have three bishops, about 750 priests, and close to 2,500 aspirants to the priesthood, novices, and religious in formation, with centers established in 20 countries. Regnum Christi currently has 70,000 members from about 40 different nations.
The Center for Higher Studies of the Legionaries of Christ in Rome currently forms more than 400 religious, and through Regnum Christi, Father Maciel also established an international network of Catholic volunteers.
Father Maciel participated in the bishops’ synods on priestly formation (1990), on consecrated life (1994), and on the Americas (1997). He also took part in the Fourth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Santo Domingo (1992).
After directing the congregation for 64 years, Father Maciel declined to accept re-election as the General Director in January of 2005.
Sixteen months later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement to settle the issue of accusations of misconduct leveled against him.
Father Maciel "spent his final years in a private life of prayer, a spirit of obedience, submission, and reverence for the Catholic Church which he had so deeply loved and taught others to love", the official statement says.
A date for his funeral has not been released.