.- The new head of Opus Dei has been confirmed by Pope Francis, and his plan for the prelature is simple.
“I have the desire that the prelature of Opus Dei continues to do the good it has done and is increasingly doing in service of the world, which is really the only thing that interests us: the good of the person. The good of the person which, in the final moment, is the encounter with Jesus Christ,” Monsignor Fernando Ocariz Braña told reporters Tuesday.
Msgr. Ocariz voiced gratitude to Pope Francis, who formally accepted the nomination Jan. 23.
The Pope acted “with great affection…the affection he has for us, the hope for the work the prelature does in the world,” the monsignor told journalists Jan. 24.
Msgr. Ocariz said the Pope also sent a gift: “a beautiful medal of the Madonna.”
The monsignor served as vicar general of Opus Dei from 1994 to 2014, when he became auxiliary vicar. The prelature’s elective congress began on Jan. 23 and quickly chose him as their nominee.
The new prelate did not visit Pope Francis for the nomination. Rather, Msgr. Mario Fazio, the prelature’s vicar general, was received by the pontiff, who approved the nomination right away.
Msgr. Fazio recounted: “He told me many beautiful things, but in particular that Opus Dei today finds itself in a very important, very historic moment, because we have the first prelate who didn’t work directly with the founder, so we have to be very faithful to the spirit of the founder and at the same time have a great apostolic rush toward the future, and give thanks for the work the prelature is doing throughout the world.”
The fact that the date of Msgr. Ocariz’s nomination fell during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prompted the new prelate to reflect on Pope Francis’ comments about “the need to build bridges” and “to never be people of conflict.”
“Conflicts usually are occasions to lack charity,” he said. “To build bridges doesn’t mean being on good terms is the supreme good, each one can have different ideas but can be friends treat each other well even with different ideas.”
He told reporters he felt inadequate to succeed his predecessors as Prelate of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Alvaro del Portillo. He also felt inadequate to succeed his immediate predecessor Bishop Javier Echevarria, who passed away Dec. 12 at the age of 84.
He questioned how he could be the successor of St. Josemaria and Bl. Don Alvaro, who were “two great personalities with a very high spiritual and human stature.” He asked how he could succeed Bishop Echevarria, who also had a notable humanity and spirituality.
“But at the same time, before God’s providence, I am calm, because if God wanted this he will give me the help needed,” he said. He said he felt “everything together, gratitude and inadequacy, and inside of this, a serenity. Thank God I am so serene, even if I shouldn’t be!”
He credited the many prayers of people who prayed for the prelature.
Msgr. Ocariz briefly outlined his goals for the programs of Opus Dei. He said there needed to be many programs directed to the great challenges facing Christians and civil society. In many places young people feel “crushed, without ideals” and many times lack hope. Families too need pastoral care, as so many recent Popes have said.
“Thanks to God the prelature is working a lot to help families in different ways,” he commented.
He recognized the feeling that sometimes it seems like one’s work isn’t accomplishing anything:
“When things are done out of love for God, to serve others, which are inseparable, nothing is lost, even if at times it seems like something is lost. Nothing is lost. We have faith that the love of God is behind every moment, every event in our lives.”
He also recounted the challenges facing those in poverty or sickness.
He recounted the first time he met Pope Francis, when he was Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, and four years later after he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
“On both of these occasions he seemed like a very serious person, not like now, always smiling. He seemed serious, very caring, simple, educated, you could clearly see a positive interest for the people, a pastoral interest,” he recounted. The Pope seemed like “a serious person who at the same time showed a big heart for the people. You could see this in just 10 minutes of being with him.”
The Prelature of Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by St. Josemaria Escriva. Its spirituality emphasizes that holiness can be achieved by anyone.