- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Pope John Paul II announced yesterday that the Spanish founder of Opus Dei, an influential lay movement in the United States, will be made one of nine new saints.
Monsignor Josemaria Escriva, who founded Opus Dei, "the work of God," in 1928, will be canonized in October in the square of St. Peter's in Rome.
"His teachings about holiness in daily life and work is not just for Opus Dei members, but for the whole church," said Brian Finnerty, spokesman for the U.S. group.
The new saints also include Mexico's Juan Diego, the Indian boy who had a 1531 vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Italy's Padre Pio, famed for having the bleeding "stigmata" wounds of Christ.
After attending World Youth Day in Toronto in July, John Paul will fly to Mexico for the Diego canonization July 30.
Opus Dei, with 84,000 members worldwide and 3,000 in the United States, is considered one of the most influential movements of Catholic laity backing the pope's push for orthodoxy.
While 70 percent of its members are married or seek marriage, a third are individuals with a vow of celibacy. Another 2 percent are diocesan priests who act as chaplains. Everyone in Opus Dei belongs to a parish.
Monsignor Escriva, who died in 1975, was beatified in 1992 after a virtuous life and a first miracle were confirmed. In December, the healing of a Spanish doctor's hands from radiation cancer after "praying for blessed Josemaria's intercession" was ruled the second miracle needed for sainthood.
Advocates say a third of the world's bishops urged the canonization, and one of the largest turnouts ever for a beatification 300,000 people showed up in Rome when the Spanish priest was made "blessed" in 1992.
The Spanish priest's canonization reminds the church "that all men and women are called to sanctity," the vicar of the U.S. group, the Rev. Arne Panula, said yesterday.
During the church debate over John Paul II's anti-communist and conservative stands on morals and doctrine, Opus Dei defended the pontiff and was known for actively converting influential people to the faith.
In 1982, the group became the first of a new kind of organization in the Catholic Church. It is called a "personal prelature," in which members "personally" are tied to a "floating diocese" with a bishop in Rome who reports to the Congregation for Bishops.
Such prelatures, the church explains, are set up "to carry out specific pastoral missions" worldwide.
Liberals in the church have attacked Opus Dei fiercely, claiming it is a Jesuit-like religious order with conservative marching orders from the pope.
Opus Dei rejects the analogy. "We do try to reach as many people as possible," Mr. Finnerty said. "There are many models of holiness in the church, and if Opus Dei does not appeal to everyone, that is fine."
In the United States, Opus Dei has 60 centers, which have about 10 resident members each. They help organize regional activities such as spiritual retreats, private schools and Catholic information centers.
The group faced embarrassment a year ago when admitted spy Robert P. Hanssen turned out to be an Opus Dei member with his wife and children in the Arlington Diocese. Unbeknownst to anyone, the veteran FBI agent had given U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union in exchange for $1.4 million and diamonds.
Opus Dei denounced his actions and showed that between 1988 and 1992, Hanssen had donated just $2,690 to the Woodlawn Foundation, founded in 1978 to fund Opus Dei activities. A year ago, the fund amounted to about $17 million.
The other six candidates for sainthood include a priest from Peru, where the pope will travel for the ceremony, and three men and two women from Spain, Italy and Brazil who will be canonized in Rome in May.

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