By Susan Gately - 27 January, 2017
Pope Francis has confirmed the election of Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz as the new Prelate of Opus Dei. The priest, who had been Auxiliary Vicar of the Prelature since 2014, was a natural successor to Bishop Javier Echevarría, who died on 12 December 2016. Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz had worked alongside Bishop Echevarría for many years.
Today the new Prelate formally takes possession of the Church of the Prelature, Our Lady of Peace in Rome, where he will celebrate Mass at 10.30 am local time. This is equivalent to a bishop entering a cathedral when appointed to a diocese.
Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz was elected Prelate by Opus Dei on Monday 23 January and his appointment confirmed by the Pope later that day. He is the third successor to St Josemaría Escrivá.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, the new Prelate said he felt “calm and at peace” with his appointment, convinced that “if God has willed it, He will give me the help I need to carry it out, with the prayer of the Prelature’s faithful and of so many friends.”
He admitted that Opus Dei faced “the same challenges as all of today’s Christians” in their apostolic work. “In the Prelature, a wide-ranging effort is being made to help families,” he said.
“Pope Francis continually insists on pastoral care for the family, as we’ve seen with the Synod and the apostolic letter Amoris Laetitia. We want to follow his exhortations.”
Noting that his appointment came during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he quoted Pope Francis who said “we need to build bridges”.
“We shouldn’t be people who look for confrontation, which leads nowhere and can even be uncharitable,” he said. “It is possible to be friends and have different ideas. The bridge of friendship can also lead to a communion of ideas.”
Monsignor Ocáriz, one of a family of eight, was born in Paris in 1944. His family came from Spain but fled to France due to the Spanish Civil War.
Paul Harman from Opus Dei in Dublin says the new Prelate has a very calm personality. “He is not easily ruffled,” he told CatholicIreland. “He is calm and cheerful and has a great smile.”
Mr Harman, who has met Monsignor Ocáriz several times, most recently in May of 2016, said that he was “not as a good a talker” as his predecessor but he has an “extraordinary theological mind”.
In fact, Monsignor Ocáriz worked for years with Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and has published two works of Christology, one of which has been translated into English. Currently he is a consultor for the CDF as well as the Congregation for the Clergy.
Since 1994, he has been Vicar General of Opus Dei, and in 2014 he was named Auxiliary Vicar of the Prelature. Over the past 22 years he has accompanied the previous Prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarría, on his pastoral trips to more than 70 countries. He also knew the founder of Opus Dei, St Josemaría, whom he met in the 1960s as a theology student.
Founded in 1928, Opus Dei was given Catholic Church approval by Pope Pius XII in 1950. The pillars of its spirituality, which aims to help people to seek God in their work, family life and ordinary activities each day, are: sanctification of work; finding God in ordinary life; charity and service; and love for the Church and the Pope.
It has over 92,000 people actively involved worldwide, the majority of whom are women, and a further 600,000 cooperators and people taking part in activities of Christian formation. More than 2,000 of its members are priests who serve Opus Dei and a further 2,000 men are diocesan priest members of its Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.
In Ireland, around 700 people are involved in Opus Dei and it has one parish in Merrion Road, across the road from St Vincent’s Hospital.
The new Prelate has been to Ireland a few times, though not recently, says Paul Harman. As Prelate, it is expected that he will visit the 49 countries where Opus Dei is most active, including Ireland. Given his emphasis on the pastoral care of the family, Mr Harman hopes that he will be able to visit Ireland during the World Meeting of Families in August 2018.