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Opus Dei Hopes to Play a Role With the New Pope

Tuesday, 19 April 2005 12:00 AM

From the fictional book, one might think Opus Dei is a mysterious movement at the center of political and economic power that endeavors to hide the historical truth on Jesus and Mary Magdalene - that they married and started a bloodline that carries forth even today. In the best-selling novel, an Opus Dei zealot commits the murder that spring-loads the novel's action.

Popular with the late Pope John Paul II, the "Work of God" group with 85,000 members (most non-priest laypersons) around the globe is, in fact, is scandal-free and not noted for the fictional Magdalene connection but for living in and advocating for strict adherence to the Church's teachings.

Numbered among its members are two of the 115 voting cardinals — Julian Herranz of Spain and Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Peru.

But despite its depiction as a villainous secret society by author Brown, its prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarria, has publicly called for prayer, not politicking - and has pledged the society's fidelity to the new pontiff.

"We already love with our whole soul the successor of John Paul II, whoever he may be," Echevarria wrote before Benedict XVI was chosen. "Let us renew our desire to serve the pope, for it was only to serve the church that God wanted Opus Dei."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, considered by some Vatican watchers as pope material himself, has criticized "The Da Vinci Code" as espousing heresy and distorting the roots of Christianity.

Furthermore, a clique of European cardinals is reportedly sympathetic to Opus Dei, among them Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Italian prelate who runs the Diocese of Rome.

Another cardinal sympathetic to the controversial order is the archbishop of Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi, who many thought might have been made pope had Cardinal Ratzinger not.

Its advertised role of benign follower aside, the general take on Opus Dei is that it has plenty at stake in the papal election, and that praying can't help but give way to the politicking publicly eschewed by its leader.

In fact, the Italian press has reported that the two Opus Dei cardinals threw their support behind the candidacy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German-born traditionalist who had served as chief enforcer of church doctrine for two decades before being elevated.

Ratzinger is a comfortable fit for the group that is rigid in its view of church dogma. Like Pope John Paul II, Ratzinger favors giving lay people a dynamic role in spreading the word and sees the Opus Dei movement as a means of confronting the secularization of society and reinforcing conservative doctrine.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes, Opus Dei would obviously like to continue to be in the good graces of the new pope.

Opus Dei flourished and grew during John Paul's long reign. In 1982, he took the remarkable step of making Opus Dei a personal prelature of the church - answerable not to local bishops in the dioceses where it operates but to the pope alone.

Furthermore, the pope placed Opus Dei's founder, the Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, on the fast track to sainthood in 1992. Escriva was canonized before a crowd of 300,000 in St. Peter's Square, becoming St. Josemaria just 27 years after he died.

About 3,000 of the group's members live in the U.S. It has 1,875 priests worldwide. Opus Dei has opened a $42-million, 17-story headquarters in Manhattan, and operates student outreach centers throughout the country.

Seventy percent of Opus Dei members are married men and women. Known as "supernumeraries," they commit to be guided by spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reciting the rosary, and attending Mass.

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From the fictional book, one might think Opus Dei is a mysterious movement at the center of political and economic power that endeavors to hide the historical truth on Jesus and Mary Magdalene - that they married and started a bloodline that carries forth even today. In the...
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2005-00-19
Tuesday, 19 April 2005 12:00 AM
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