Pope John Paul II who made Opus Dei the first, and so far the only personal prelature

Church Leaders Reflect on 1st Personal Prelature

ROME, MARCH 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Pope John Paul II had a collegial spirit in his work with the Congregation of Bishops, and the Pontiff’s establishment of Opus Dei as a personal prelature reflects that, affirmed a retired Vatican official. Cardinal Julián Herranz, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, affirmed this at a gathering of Church leaders Monday that discussed the apostolic constitution “Ut Sit,” with which John Paul II assigned Opus Dei the status of personal prelature in 1982.

Personal prelatures were foreseen by the Second Vatican Council with the goal of favoring the Church’s evangelizing dynamism. In a personal prelature, the jurisdiction of a prelate is assigned to a certain group of faithful from one or more dioceses, rather than to a geographical area.

At the meeting Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Benedict XVI’s vicar for the Diocese of Rome, thanked Opus Dei “for the service it carries out in favor of dioceses worldwide and in a special way that of Rome,” not only because of the roles that some priests of the prelature play in parishes or in other diocesan services, but above all in the striving for holiness and for the apostolate that each of the faithful promotes.

Cardinal Herranz focused his remarks on the preparation of “Ut Sit,” explaining how the document shows the “depth and the collegial spirit with which John Paul II followed and directed the work of the Congregation for Bishops.”

The current prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, explained that the juridical state of the personal prelature is best suited to the pastoral phenomenon that the founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá, envisioned in 1928, when Opus Dei was founded.

Everyday Christians

The prelate said that Opus Dei “is made up of everyday Christians” working to spread the message “that faith can and must impregnate, from within, all human existence with all its realities: in the first place, the needs of professional work and, in general, family and social life.”

By doing this, the prelature can help each person to sew back together the “great gap between faith and our own personal existence made up of work and earthly interests.”

Paul O’Callahan, dean of the faculty of theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said that “the uniqueness of Opus Dei’s work with respect to the teaching of the Council, is not found in the newness of its message; it is in the fact that the Work tries to put into practice the Church’s mission and to promote its effective realization.”

With the creation of the prelature, he continued, “it was not a matter of offering yet another theoretical look at the Council’s message or of adding new elements to it, but simply putting it into practice.”

The mission of the prelature, O’Callahan said, “simply coincides with that of the Church; its faithful do not change anything, they act. The Work does not have its own doctrine, its own theology. It simply wants to be a small part of the Church.”

Today, Opus Dei is made up of 86,000 members throughout the world, including 21 bishops.


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