The beatification of the Venerable Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of Saint Josemaria Escriva as the head of Opus Dei, became a certainty with the signing by Pope Francis of decrees approving a miracle obtained through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II and another miracle attributed to the intercession of del Portillo.
These decrees pave the way, respectively, for the canonization of Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005), and the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo (1914-1994).
Pope Francis also approved the favorable votes of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for the canonization of Blessed John XXIII, the pope who in 1959 convoked Vatican Council II.
The Holy See has also announced the approval of more decrees (see www.vatican.va).
The Opus Dei website in Rome said in a report that Bishop Javier Echevarría, prelate of Opus Dei, said the news is “a happy coincidence and a cause of deep joy.”
“Blessed John Paul II spent himself with untiring generosity in the service of mankind. He brought us closer to God with his rich teaching, through his words and writings, with images and so many gestures charged with meaning. His whole life was based on intimate union with Jesus Christ. You needed only to see him pray to understand the fruitfulness of his ministry,” Echevarria said.
“John Paul II and John XXIII were truly fathers close to all the faithful, to the Church, and particularly, I can say, to this part of the Church which is the Prelature of Opus Dei. I think they helped millions of people to feel that they were the Pope’s favorite sons and daughters,” he added.
Echevarria described del Portillo as “Saint Josemaría’s best support, and a most faithful collaborator of John Paul II.”
“I turn to the intercession of this good and faithful servant, and I ask him to ‘infect’ us with his loyalty to God, the Church, the Pope, Saint Josemaría, and to his friends. I ask him to win for us a share in his social concern, which was shown in the many initiatives around the world for people in need which he encouraged. I ask that he may transmit to us his special love for the family and his passionate love for the priesthood, as well as his tender and simple piety, which had such a Marian flavor,” he said.
The miracle approved by the Holy See is the instantaneous healing of a Chilean newborn —Jose Ignacio Ureta Wilson. A few days after his birth in August, 2003, he suffered a cardiac arrest lasting more than 30 minutes and a massive hemorrhage. His parents prayed with great faith through the intercession of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo. The medical team thought that the baby had died when, without any additional treatment and in a totally unexpected way, the heart of the newborn started to beat again, reaching 130 beats per minute. Despite the seriousness of his medical situation, Jose Ignacio led a normal life 10 years later.
Msgr. Flavio Capucci, postulator of the cause, has received close to 12,000 signed accounts of favors received through the intercession of Bishop Alvaro. They include “graces of all kinds, both material and spiritual. Clearly the most striking are the extraordinary cures, of which there is a variety: from the disappearance of melanomas with metastasis after praying to Alvaro del Portillo, to the full recovery of a child who had drowned in a swimming pool.”
Capucci said many of these favors refer to family life: married couples who are reconciled and live together again in harmony; the ability to have children, sometimes after waiting for many years before going to his intercession; reconciliations between estranged relatives; giving birth to healthy children after being told that the baby would be born sick or malformed. Bishop Alvaro was a family person, who carried out a wide and deep catechesis on the family. It is perhaps because of this that the desire to go to his intercession for these kinds of matters arises spontaneously.
Capucci explained that, with the miracle’s approval, the next step is for the Holy See to fix the date for del Portillo’s beatification. The ceremony will most likely take place in Rome, where del Portillo died.
Del Portillo was born in Madrid on March 11, 1914, the third of eight children. An engineer and doctor in History and Canon Law, he joined Opus Dei in 1935.
Very soon he became Escrivá’s best support. The Decree of Heroic Virtues promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on June 28, 2012 describes the future blessed as a “profoundly good and amiable man, able to transmit peace and serenity to souls.”
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1944. In 1946, he moved to Rome. Between 1947 and 1950, he spurred forward the apostolic expansion of Opus Dei in Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo and other Italian cities. He promoted Christian formational activities and provided priestly service to many people.
From the pontificate of Pius XII to that of John Paul II, he carried out numerous tasks for the Holy See. He played an active role in the Second Vatican Council and for many years was consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
On September 15, 1975, following the death of Escriva, del Portillo was elected as head of Opus Dei. On November 28, 1982, when Blessed John Paul II established Opus Dei as a personal prelature, he appointed him Prelate, and on December 7, 1990, the Pope named him bishop. Over the years he spent as head of Opus Dei, he promoted the start of activities of the prelature in 20 new countries. As the Prelate of Opus Dei, he also inspired the start of many social and educational initiatives.
Del Portillo died in Rome in the early hours of March 23, 1994, just hours after returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.