Perspective on a Prelature
ROME, OCT. 6, 2002 (ZENIT).
Opus Dei saw the canonization of its founder, Josemaría Escrivá de
Balaguer, as a moment for humility, not hubris. "For Opus Dei
people, the canonization is an invitation to conversion; it is not a day
of exaltations, but of humility, an ideal moment to renew the desire to
seek God in one's work and in ordinary life," explained Marta Manzi,
a spokeswoman for the Organizing Committee for today's canonization.
According to the organization's Information Office on Internet (www.opusdei.org)
Opus Dei "serves the Church and society by fostering individual
holiness and apostolic commitment among the Christian faithful, helping
them to discover and take on the demands of their baptismal vocation in
the specific place they occupy in the world."
Opus Dei is a prelature, a worldwide diocese, that has its own autonomy
and ordinary jurisdiction to carry out its mission for the Church. It is
directly under the Pope, through the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.
The prelature, like military ordinariates, is an ecclesiastical
structure of a personal nature established to carry out a specific
pastoral task. The authority of the prelate extends to matters dealing
with the specific mission of the prelature, and is in harmony with the
authority of the diocesan bishop as regards anything pertaining to the
ordinary pastoral care of the faithful.
Opus Dei is governed by the provisions of the general law of the Church,
by the apostolic constitution "Ut Sit," and by its own
statutes. The Code of Canon Law of 1983 sets out the basic provisions
covering personal prelatures in canons 294-297.
Priests of the prelature are under the authority of the prelate. He
assigns to them their pastoral responsibilities, which they fulfill with
due regard to the pastoral guidelines for the diocese in which they
live. The prelature is responsible for the financial support of its
The lay faithful also come under the authority of the prelate in all
that refers to the specific mission of the prelature. They are subject
to the civil authorities in the same way as any other citizen, and to
other ecclesiastical authorities in the same way as any other lay
The prelate, and the vicars who represent him, have jurisdiction in Opus
Dei. The prelate is the proper ordinary of the prelature.
One of the characteristics of Opus Dei is its collegial style of
government. The prelate and his vicars are assisted in their work by
councils, made up largely of laity. The prelate is helped in his work of
government by one council for women (called the Central Advisory) and
another for men (the General Council). Both are based in Rome.
"The idea that inspired Blessed Escrivá was that of collegiality;
to have all apostolic activity carried out on the basis of collegial
work and not on the personal ideas of one or another individual,"
explained Francesco Calogero, the spokesman of the Press Office for the
"Moreover, there was the idea of decentralization and that the Work
be incarnated in the mentality and way of living of every nation, and
respond to the needs of that country," he emphasized.
Who is a member?
Those who ask to join Opus Dei do so moved by a divine calling. Formal
incorporation into the prelature is carried out by means of a bilateral
agreement which stipulates the mutual commitments taken on by the person
and the prelature itself.
The majority of the faithful of Opus Dei are supernumerary members.
Generally they are married men or women, for whom the sanctification of
their family duties is the most important part of their Christian life.
Supernumeraries now account for about 70% of the total membership.
The rest of the faithful of the prelature are men and women who commit
themselves to celibacy, for apostolic reasons. Some live with their
families, or wherever is convenient for professional reasons. These are
the associates of the prelature.
For other members, circumstances allow them to be more available to
attend to the apostolic undertakings and the formation of the other Opus
Dei members. These are the numeraries, and they are usually able to live
in centers of Opus Dei. The principal task of the women assistant
numeraries is that of the domestic responsibilities in the centers of
the prelature, which constitute for them their ordinary professional
The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross is an association of clergy
intrinsically united to Opus Dei. It is made up of the clergy of the
prelature, who are automatically members, and other diocesan priests and
deacons. The prelate of Opus Dei is the president of the society. The
diocesan clergy who belong to the Priestly Society seek exclusively
spiritual help and strive for holiness in the exercise of their
ministry, according to the spirit of Opus Dei. Their membership of the
Priestly Society of the Holy Cross does not involve incorporation into
the presbyterate of the prelature. Each one continues to be incardinated
in his own diocese and comes under the authority of his own bishop. In
regard to his pastoral work he gives an account only to his bishop.
The prelature comprises about 84,000 people, including 1,800 priests.
Europe has 48,700 members; America, 29,000; Asia and Oceania, 4,700; and