Pope Francis confirms Spanish Msgr. Fernando Ocariz will step in
By Elise Harris and Kevin J. Jones
Vatican City (CNA)
Photo: Msgr. Fernando Ocariz. (Paul Haring / CNS)
Pope Francis has confirmed the new head of Opus Dei, and his plan for the prelature is simple.
“I have the desire that the prelature of Opus Dei continues to do the good it has done and is increasingly doing in service of the world, which is really the only thing that interests us: the good of the person. The good of the person which, in the final moment, is the encounter with Jesus Christ,” Monsignor Fernando Ocariz Braña told reporters Jan. 24.
Msgr. Ocariz voiced gratitude to Pope Francis, who formally accepted the nomination Jan. 23.
The Pope acted “with great affection…the affection he has for us, the hope for the work the prelature does in the world,” Msgr. Ocariz told journalists Jan. 24.
He said the Pope also sent a gift: “a beautiful medal of the Madonna.”
Msgr. Ocariz served as vicar general of Opus Dei from 1994 to 2014, when he became auxiliary vicar. The prelature’s elective congress began on Jan. 23 and quickly chose him as their nominee.
The new prelate did not visit Pope Francis for the nomination. Rather, Msgr. Mario Fazio, the prelature’s vicar general, was received by the pontiff, who approved the nomination right away.
Msgr. Fazio recounted: “He told me many beautiful things, but in particular that Opus Dei today finds itself in a very important, very historic moment, because we have the first prelate who didn’t work directly with the founder, so we have to be very faithful to the spirit of the founder and at the same time have a great apostolic rush toward the future, and give thanks for the work the prelature is doing throughout the world.”
The fact that the date of Msgr. Ocariz’s nomination fell during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prompted the new prelate to reflect on Pope Francis’ comments about “the need to build bridges” and “to never be people of conflict.”
“Conflicts usually are occasions to lack charity,” he said. “To build bridges doesn’t mean being on good terms is the supreme good; each one can have different ideas, but can be friends (who) treat each other well even with different ideas.”
He told reporters he felt inadequate about succeeding his predecessors, St. Josemaria Escriva, Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, and Bishop Javier Echevarria, who passed away Dec. 12 at the age of 84.
He questioned how he could be the successor of St. Josemaria and Bl. Don Alvaro, who were “two great personalities with a very high spiritual and human stature,” and Bishop Echevarria, who also had a notable humanity and spirituality.
“But at the same time, before God’s providence, I am calm, because if God wanted this he will give me the help needed,” he said. He said he felt “everything together, gratitude and inadequacy, and inside of this, a serenity. Thank God I am so serene, even if I shouldn’t be!”
He credited the many prayers of people who prayed for the prelature.
Msgr. Ocariz briefly outlined his goals for the programs of Opus Dei. He said there needed to be many programs directed to the great challenges facing Christians and civil society. In many places young people feel “crushed, without ideals” and many times lack hope. Families too need pastoral care, as so many recent Popes have said.
“Thanks to God the prelature is working a lot to help families in different ways,” he said.
He recognized the feeling that it sometimes feels like one’s work isn’t accomplishing anything. “When things are done out of love for God, to serve others, which are inseparable, nothing is lost, even if at times it seems like something is lost. Nothing is lost. We have faith that the love of God is behind every moment, every event in our lives.”
St. Josemaria Escriva founded the Prelature of Opus Dei in 1928. Its spirituality emphasizes that holiness can be achieved by anyone.