Opus Dei backs new pope

Conservative group enjoyed John Paul II’s support

MADRID, Spain (AP) — The conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei, which enjoyed firm support from the late Pope John Paul II, welcomed the election of the orthodox watchdog Joseph Ratzinger as his successor.

“This is a time of great joy,” Opus Dei’s prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarria, said in a statement pledging support for the new pontiff.

Opus Dei, founded in Spain in 1928, has what is called a “personal prelature”, which basically means that it does not answer to a local bishop, although it does need permission to open up an Opus Dei office in a given diocese.

Echevarria said “the new pope knows the mission of the prelature and knows he can rely on the joyful dedication of the priests and lay people who compose it to serve the church.”

Opus Dei has more than 80,000 members worldwide, many of them lay people but also hundreds of priests and bishops. Two cardinals are also known to belong to Opus Dei: the archbishop of Lima, Peru, Juan Luis Cipriani; and Julian Herranz, a Spaniard based at the Vatican.

Its mission — to give lay people a dynamic role in spreading the word of God — was backed by John Paul, who championed the movement as a means of confronting the secularization of society and reinforcing his conservative doctrine. But Opus Dei — Latin for “God’s work” — is also accused of secretive, cult-like practices.

Ratzinger is not known to be affiliated with any movement within the church, said the Spanish liberal theologian Enrique Miret Magdalena.

“He’s a man with a strong personality, so I imagine Opus Dei will be watching his reaction closely in the coming months,” Miret Magdalena said.

Daniel Thompson, a theology professor at Fordham University in New York, said Opus Dei has to be satisfied with Ratzinger because they have the similar views of the contemporary world.

They both hold a “very negative view” of Western society and its influences, Thompson said, citing a homily Ratzinger gave Monday warning against “dictatorship of relativism” and liberalism permeating society — “all the -isms of the contemporary world … destroying adherence to the truth of Catholicism.”

“I think Opus Dei has a similar kind of thought of having to rescue the Catholic Church from these kinds of forces and to keep the purity of the faith,” Thompson said.

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Associated Press, via CNN, USA
Apr. 19, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 20, 2005.
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