BUCKTOWN (CBS 2) The best-selling book, the da Vinci Code, has brought a somewhat secretive branch of the Catholic church into the spotlight. Now, Chicago members of Opus Dei are offering their own farewell to the pope. CBS 2’s Joanie Lum reports.
School children offer song and prayers for Pope John Paul II at St. Mary of the Angels Church. It is the only church in the country entrusted to the priests of Opus Dei. Even Catholics say they don’t know much about Opus Dei, but they think of it as a controversial, ultra-conservative sect of the church. But Pope John Paul II appointed a bishop to oversee Opus Dei and made the founder, Josemaria Escriva, a saint.
Opus Dei Midwest vicar Reverend Peter Armenio says, “It is very important that the pope give that canonical recognition because the founder had been praying for that since 1929. This is something revolutionary.”
Many people had never even heard of Opus Dei until reading the best selling book, the da Vinci Code. In Dan Brown’s fictional religious thriller, members of Opus Dei commit criminal acts in the name of their faith. The book upset the catholic church and made Opus Dei seem sinister.
“The da Vinci code gave us tremendous PR, but not what we would seek,” Reverend Armenio says. “The positive side was people inquired, and we were able to give the true message.”
And the message of Opus Dei is: live as the pope did; try to achieve holiness.
Members of Opus Dei will observe the period of mourning as all Catholics will. But they say the way the pope lived and died inspires them to re-commit to their own faith.
It is estimated that there are only about 400 members of Opus Dei in the Chicago area and just 85,000 around the world. But because their practice is so private, it’s difficult to get an accurate count of Opus Dei’s membership.