‘To guard the charism’: In new decree, Pope Francis makes changes to Opus Dei

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Mons. Fernando Ocariz. / Opus Dei Communications Office via Flickr (CC BY NC SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis issued a document on Friday that changed the oversight of Opus Dei. It also decreed that its leader, the prelate, can no longer be a bishop.

In the motu proprio, issued on July 22, the pope confirmed the Catholic organization and urged its members to safeguard its charism in order “to spread the call to holiness in the world, through the sanctification of one’s work and family and social occupations.”

“It is intended to strengthen the conviction that, for the protection of the particular gift of the Spirit, a form of government based more on the charism than on hierarchical authority is needed,” Pope Francis wrote.

The motu proprio, known as Ad charisma tuendum (“To guard the charism”), contains six articles that go into effect on Aug. 4.

Among the changes, the prelate of Opus Dei will no longer be ordained a bishop and the prelature will fall under the competence of the Vatican Dicastery for Clergy.

This change is in accord with the pope’s reform of the Roman Curia in the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium.

Opus Dei is a personal prelature made up of lay men and women and priests founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá in 1928. Escrivá called the organization Opus Dei to emphasize his belief that its foundation was a “work of God,” –– or, in Latin, “Opus Dei.”

Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, the current prelate of Opus Dei, was not ordained a bishop when taking office in the year 2017, during the current pontificate. Both his predecessors, Javier Echevarría and Álvaro del Portillo, had been made bishops by Pope St. John Paul II. The founder of the movement, St. Josemaría, died before the prelature was established.

In his response to the changes made by Pope Francis on July 22, Ocariz said: “It is a concretization of the Holy Father’s decision to place the figure of personal prelatures in the Dicastery for the Clergy, which we filially accept.”

“The Holy Father encourages us to fix our attention on the gift that God gave Saint Josemaría, so as to live it fully. … I would like this invitation of the Holy Father to resonate strongly in each and every one of us. It is an opportunity to go more deeply into the spirit that our Lord instilled in our Founder and to share it with many people in our family, work and social environments.”

Ocariz noted that “the episcopal ordination of the Prelate was not and is not necessary for the guidance of Opus Dei.”

He said: “The Pope’s desire to highlight the charismatic dimension of the Work now invites us to reinforce the family atmosphere of affection and trust: the Prelate must be a guide but, above all, a father.”

While the prelate will no longer become a bishop under the changes, he will receive the honorary title of protonotary apostolic.

In his decree, Pope Francis also changed some of the text of Opus Dei’s constitution, Ut sit, which was issued by John Paul II in 1982.

For example, the constitution formerly asked the prelate to submit a report on the apostolic work of Opus Dei directly to the pope every five years. Under the new changes, the prelate will now be required to submit a report to the Dicastery for the Clergy every year.

Article six states that “all questions pending at the Congregation for Bishops relating to the Prelature of Opus Dei will continue to be treated and decided by the Dicastery for the Clergy.”

“The Motu Proprio reminds us that the government of Opus Dei must be at the service of the charism – of which we are administrators, not owners – so that it may grow and bear fruit, confident that it is God who works all things in all people,” the organization states on its website.

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  1. It seems to be all about Papa. Who might ask, running away from Jesus, but big on the dictatorial cultural Marxism alternative?

    Jesus is life eternal, what is the alternative?

    Prayers for Papa, he appears a man in reverse and as much in need for God’s guiding Spirit as any other man!

  2. I am not Opus Dei. What I do know of it is this, that Opus Dei becoming an episcopate was part of Escriva’s inspiration and it was made foundational by JPII.

    The layman acting on charism rather than from hierarchy matches with membership in, for eg., the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a secular institute pious organization.

    I don’t want to point fingers but some of the secular pious institutes are no longer functioning according to their own charisms.

    I go back to the apostolic themes of VATICAN II, articulating an ecclesial witness. It was anticipated and proposed in grace by both the SVdeP and Opus Dei.

    Being accommodating of particular sinners and errant movements shouldn’t entail denaturing other parts of the Church. It is the former who must improve.

  3. In these 2 links at ZENIT, both published yesterday, Ouellet and Kasper discuss on the one hand the “harmonization of charisma” and on the other hand the episcopate behaving as in the “early Church”. The idea seems to be a constructing and concretizing of the Church that will be “more true” to Trinitarian image and the action(s) of the Holy Spirit.

    The common thesis seems to be that without this growth the Church will necessarily stagnate into clericalism; and also this innovation secures the Pope’s roles as head according to the nature and evangelical merits of charisms.

    To remark in passing, somehow the episcopacy of Opus Dei which was from its inception an integral aspect of its charism, gets suspended (if not disqualified altogether -the intention is not clear). There would be other aspects, in that the original inspiration for Opus Dei was already a faithful expression of the universal Church and her eschatology; and, more generally, “universal” does not mean “not diverse” etc.

    Presumably then the Synod on Synodality is a process of finding more of the right “fits” to bring the “renewal” to a fuller form. At that point maybe Opus Dei will get back its episcopacy?

    And therefore the SSPX is undergoing a similar re-conditioning?

    Ouellet’s article is “La reforma de la Curia Romana en el ámbito de los fundamentos del derecho en la Iglesia”.

    Kasper’s article is “Sinodalidad y renovación de la Iglesia”.



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