Pope Francis sends condolences on death of Opus Dei leader

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Guayaquil in Ecuador on July 6 2015 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA 7 6 15 Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Guayaquil in Ecuador on July 6, 2015. | L'Osservatore Romano.

On hearing of the Dec. 12 death of Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, the Prelate of Opus Dei, Pope Francis sent a telegram Tuesday expressing his deep sympathy to the members of the organization and to Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz Braña, auxiliary vicar.

"I wish to make known to you and to all members of this prelature my deepest condolences," the Pope wrote Dec. 13, "at the same time that I unite to your action of giving thanks to God for his paternal and generous witness of his priestly and episcopal life."

Bishop Echevarría died in Rome Dec. 12 in the evening at the age of 84, several days after being hospitalized with pneumonia.

According to a Dec. 12 statement from the personal prelature, Bishop Echevarría was given the final sacraments that afternoon by his auxiliary, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz.

"Bishop Echevarría was receiving an antibiotic to fight a lung infection," the statement added. "The clinical situation was complicated in the final hours provoking respiratory insufficiency, which resulted in his death."

In his letter to Msgr. Ocáriz, Francis praised the bishop, saying that, "In the example of St. Josemaria Escriva and of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo…he lived his life in constant service of love for the Church and for souls."

Raising to the Lord "a fervent prayer for this servant" that God will "receive him in his eternal joy," the Pope also entrusted the bishop to the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, "on whose feast he entrusted his soul to God."

"With these sentiments, and as a sign of faith and hope in the Risen Christ, I bestow on all the comforting Apostolic blessing," the telegram concluded.

Bishop Echevarría was born in Madrid in 1932, where he met St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, an organization dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the laity which teaches its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.

He was St. Josemaria's secretary from 1953 to 1975, and was ordained a priest of the prelature in 1955, at the age of 23.

He was later named secretary general of Opus Dei, and was elected prelate in 1994. He was consecrated a bishop the following year.

Opus Dei stated that the prelature's ordinary government now falls to Msgr. Ocáriz. He is to convoke a congress of the community within three months to nominate a successor to Bishop Echevarría, who must be confirmed by the Pope.

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