Sunday, December 31, 2023

‘Friendly’ deal between Spanish diocese and Opus Dei on shrine’s future

La diócesis de Barbastro-Monzón y el Opus Dei negocian la normalización  jurídica de Torreciudad - Iglesia Española - COPE

A Spanish diocese has reached a compromise with Opus Dei over the control of a Marian shrine after a five-month dispute.

Tensions flared last July when the Bishop of Barbastro-Monzón named a diocesan priest for the first time as rector of the Shrine of Torreciudad, in Aragon, north-eastern Spain.

While Catholics have venerated a Romanesque statute of Our Lady in Torreciudad since the eleventh century, Opus Dei built a new church at the site in 1975, saying the shrine was ceded to them by the local bishop.

Every rector of the shrine has been an Opus Dei priest since then. 

When Bishop Ángel Pérez Pueyo nominated a diocesan priest, Opus Dei expressed “surprise” at his “unilateral” decision, saying it did not befall a diocesan bishop to make a nomination for an Opus Dei church.

According to canon law, the Torreciudad church has the status of an oratory belonging to Opus Dei, the Church’s sole personal prelature.

The diocese maintains that Torreciudad has been operating as a shrine without being one, an irregularity that needed to be resolved.

Opus Dei said Torreciudad’s statutes decree that only Opus Dei’s regional vicar has the right to name the rector and assign priests to pastoral ministry in the shrine, following the local bishop’s cession to the prelature in the 1970s.

When Bishop Pueyo refused to reverse the nomination of 86-year-old Fr José Mairal as rector of Torreciudad, Opus Dei appealed to the Vatican against the appointment, but Fr Mairal nevertheless assumed the role in September.

On December 8, Bishop Pueyo said that the Dicastery for Clergy had approved Torreciudad becoming a diocesan shrine “at an appropriate time”.

He made the announcement in a homily at a Mass in Torreciudad marking the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

To the congregation’s surprise, Pueyo said he had consulted the dicastery about the issue while the Spanish bishops visited Rome in November to hear the outcome of an apostolic visitation of Spanish seminaries.  

Pueyo is said to be a close friend of Cardinal Juan José Omella, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference.

The shrine’s previous rector Fr Ángel Lasheras, an Opus Dei priest appointed in 2021, thanked the bishop at the end of the Mass, and called for a standing ovation.

Sources close to Pueyo informed the Madrid Archdiocesan newspaper Alfa y Omega that while the shrine will be diocesan “this does not mean that the church is going to change legal ownership. It will still be Opus Dei’s.”

The idea of the shrine passing to the diocese was top of a list of options for Torreciudad which Opus Dei sent to Pueyo to resolve the impasse.

On the Torreciudad website, Opus Dei said they approached the bishop more than a year ago to discuss new statutes to make it a diocesan shrine and reach an agreement on joint pastoral ministry.

Now that both parties have agreed to the decision in principle, sources said “it befalls Opus Dei to present [the diocese] with new statutes which we will study thoroughly and approve or not should they be incorrect”.

Relations between Opus Dei and the diocese were described as “friendly”.

Clergy from both Opus Dei and the diocese will work side by side to provide “the best pastoral care for pilgrims” in future, and details regarding the financial upkeep of the shrine will be finalised.  

Ultimately, the hope is that Torreciudad, which attracted 190,000 visitors in 2022, will become an international shrine.

St Josemaria Escrivá was brought to the shrine by his parents aged two in thanksgiving for his healing from illness.