VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved the beatification of Venerable Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, the second leader of Opus Dei, after recognizing the miraculous healing of a newborn who had suffered major cardiac arrest.
Opus Dei Father C. John McCloskey, told Catholic News Agency July 8 that the bishop was notable for “his humility and his serenity and good humor.”
Father McCloskey said he felt “joy” at the announcement, realizing “the great good for the Church this will be.”
On July 5, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a miracle obtained through the intercession of Bishop del Portillo.
The miracle involves the August 2003 healing of Chilean newborn Jose Ignacio Ureta Wilson. A few days after his birth, the boy suffered a 30-minute period of cardiac arrest and a major hemorrhage.
The medical team treating the baby thought he had already died, but his parents prayed for healing through the intercession of the bishop.
The baby’s heart started to beat again, and he recovered to live a normal life, the Opus Dei Information Office reports.
Bishop Javier Echevarria, the present head of Opus Dei, said in a statement that Bishop del Portillo was St. Josemaría Escrivá’s “best support” and “a most faithful collaborator of John Paul II.”
“Many Churchmen and laypeople from all over the world have told me how much good this faithful priest did to them. And they all agree in this: that it was easy for them to love him, to trust his advice, because they sensed his sincere and priestly interest for their souls,” Bishop Echevarria said July 5.
He prayed that Bishop del Portillo would transmit to Catholics his loyalty to God, the Church, the Pope, St. Josemaría and his friends.
“I ask that he may transmit to us his special love for the family and his passionate love for the priesthood, as well as his tender and simple piety, which had such a Marian flavor,” he added.
Bishop del Portillo was born in Madrid on March 11, 1914, the third of eight children. He studied to be an engineer and achieved doctorates in philosophy, liberal arts and canon law.
He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and soon became a close collaborator of St. Josemaría, who founded the organization dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the Catholic laity. The organization teaches its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.
Bishop del Portillo was ordained to the priesthood in 1944. He helped Opus Dei expand in 20 countries, including Italy. He was an active participant at the Second Vatican Council and was a consultor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was elected to succeed St. Josemaría Escrivá as the head of Opus Dei in 1975.
When Pope John Paul II made Opus Dei a personal prelature in 1982, he named Bishop del Portillo as head of the Church structure. He was consecrated a bishop in December 1990.
Msgr. Flavio Capucci, the postulator for Bishop del Portillo’s cause of canonization, said that the Holy See must now set a date for the beatification ceremony. The ceremony will likely take place in Rome, where the bishop died in 1994.
Msgr. Capucci said that he has received almost 12,000 signed reports from Catholics who believe they have received favors through Bishop del Portillo's intercession.
Some extraordinary cures include the disappearance of metastasized melanomas and the full recovery of a child drowned in a swimming pool. Many favors concern family life, including the reconciliation of married couples, the conception of children after a period of infertility and the birth of healthy children whom doctors believed to be sick or malformed.
“Bishop Álvaro was a family person, who carried out a wide and deep catechesis on the family. It is perhaps because of this that the desire to go to his intercession for these kinds of matters arises spontaneously,” Msgr. Capucci said.
Father McCloskey said he met Bishop del Portillo several times during his studies in Rome and said his beatification will encourage Opus Dei members to imitate the bishop’s fidelity to the spirit of St. Josemaría Escrivá, who was canonized in 2002.