"Asia was always very close to the heart of Mgr Alvaro".
This was clear when the
first members of the Opus Dei arrived in New Delhi in 1993.
On that occasion,
he asked the world "to pray
for the beginning of the Prelature in this great subcontinent," said Fr Kevin
de Souza, director of the Opus Dei Centre in Mumbai.
Speaking to AsiaNews, he talked
about Mgr Alvaro
del Portillo, who will be beatified on 27 September in Madrid.
is the interview.
How relevant is
the life and mission of the Blessed Alvaro today?
always been regarded as an icon of fidelity. Saint Josemaría, the founder of
Opus Dei, nicknamed him saxum, which
means 'rock' in Latin.
At only 26 years
of age, he was named secretary general of Opus Dei. He had to oversee the
expansion of the apostolic activities of Opus Dei in Madrid and other Spanish
cities whilst completing his engineering studies and earning a living. He did
all these with a great sense of calm.
"He has left a
very deep imprint," said Javier Echevarría, the current Bishop Prelate of the Opus
Dei, after Álvaro's death.
"One of his
essential features was a strong sense of filiation, accompanied naturally by an
effort to be faithful, first to Our Lord and then to the spirit of Opus Dei, left
to us by our founder. Bishop Álvaro incarnated to perfection all aspects of the
spirituality of Opus Dei, making them flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone."
During his years
in Rome, various popes, from Pius XII to John Paul II called upon him to carry
out numerous tasks as a member or consultor of 13 entities within the Holy See.
He played an
active role in the Second Vatican Council. John XXIII appointed him a consultor
to the Sacred Congregation of the Council (1959-1966).
II, he was president of the Commission for the Laity. In the course of the
Council (1962-65), he was secretary of the Commission on the Discipline of the
Clergy and of the Christian People.
Council, Paul VI appointed him consultor to the post-conciliar Commission for
Bishops and the regulation of dioceses (1966).
For many years,
he was also a consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Was Asia a continent
close to the heart of the Blessed Álvaro?
was very close to Bishop Álvaro's heart from the times he was studying for his
civil engineering degree. Whilst the Spanish Civil War was going on, Álvaro
thought he could use the time he had to study another language so that he could
later go to a faraway country to start the apostolates of Opus Dei there. He
chose to study Japanese.
Even though he
did not go to Japan, many years later Bishop Álvaro as the prelate of Opus Dei
gave a fresh impulse to it in Asian countries.
In 1987, he
visited Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines,
among other countries.
Since 1976, he
was looking for ways to start Opus Dei in India. In 1993, the first people of
Opus Dei arrived in New Delhi. Bishop Álvaro wrote to the centres all over the
world asking everyone to pray for the beginnings in this large subcontinent.
How was he
concerned and how did he care for young people?
Guatemalan man came to India in the 1960s searching for spirituality. He
returned to his country dressed in saffron robes. On one of the flights he
took, he happened to sit down next to a young Catholic priest. They had a warm
conversation that could have lasted longer, except that the priest excused
himself at some point saying he had to pray.
The lad did not
exactly know what that meant, but it did strike him deeply. Many years later,
he would say that that moment was pivotal in his returning to the Catholic
As a matter of
fact, he discovered his vocation for the Opus Dei as a married person and had
the chance of meeting that Catholic priest again. It was Bishop Álvaro, the prelate
of Opus Dei.
zeal for souls was universal. He had a great capacity to make friends with the
people he met.
Do you have any
other thoughts about Mgr Álvaro?
Bishop Álvaro was
a very intelligent person, holding several doctorates (in Civil Engineering, History
and Canon Law).
Yet, he was very
unassuming and put himself at the level of everyone. Many people testify to
that gaudium cum pace - joy with
peace - that he always spread.
On 23 March, in
the early hours of the morning, he suffered a heart attack. The physician who was
called in, someone from Opus Dei, was worried, as one might imagine, as he
attended to Bishop Álvaro.
Bishop Álvaro tried to put him at ease by joking about the dressing gown he was
wearing and in this way helped the doctor to smile and calm down.