Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the second leader of Opus Dei, will be beatified in his birthplace of Madrid on Sept. 27, the Vatican has announced.
The current Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, said the Vatican’s Jan. 21 announcement of the beatification ceremony was a “moment of profound joy.” He said Bishop del Portillo “loved and served the Church so much.”
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside over the beatification ceremony, which could draw thousands of faithful from around the world. Related events will also be held in Rome.
Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, known as “Don Alvaro,” was born in Madrid on March 11, 1914, the third of eight children. As a student, he was active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He taught catechism to children in poor neighborhoods and distributed donations and food to families in need, Opus Dei said on its website.
He studied to be an engineer and received doctorates in philosophy, liberal arts and canon law.
He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and soon became a close collaborator of St. Josemaria Escriva, who founded the organization dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the Catholic laity. The organization teaches its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.
Bishop del Portillo was ordained to the priesthood in 1944. He helped Opus Dei expand in 20 countries, including Italy. He was an active participant at the Second Vatican Council and was a consultor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was elected to succeed St. Josemaria Escriva as the head of Opus Dei in 1975, after the founder’s death.
When Pope John Paul II made Opus Dei a personal prelature in 1982, he named Bishop del Portillo as head of the unique church structure.
Consecrated a bishop in December 1990, the future blessed died in Rome in 1994. His remains are presently in the crypt of the Opus Dei church Saint Mary of Peace in Rome. Civil authorities are considering whether to transfer his remains to Rome’s Basilica of Sant'Eugenio.
In July 2013, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Bishop del Portillo. It involved the August 2003 healing of a Chilean newborn boy who suffered a 30-minute period of cardiac arrest and a major hemorrhage.
Although the newborn’s medical team thought he had already died, his parents prayed for healing through the bishop’s intercession. The baby’s heart began to beat again and he went on to live a normal life.
Monsignor Flavio Capucci, the postulator in charge of Bishop del Portillo’s cause for canonization, told Opus Dei in June 2012 that he had received almost 12,000 signed reports from Catholics who believe they have received favors through the bishop’s intercession.
The recognition of a second miracle is typically necessary for a blessed to become a saint.
Beatification events will include visits to Madrid’s Almuenda Cathedral and other places related to the bishop’s life and the beginnings of Opus Dei.
Opus Dei said the development charity Harambee Africa International will hold activities during the beatification in both Rome and Madrid to help finance its medical and educational projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Bishop del Portillo encouraged these activities during his time as head of Opus Dei.
Bishop Echevarria will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving the day after the beatification.