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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Opus Dei: questions and answers
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¬†We have received a number of queries about Opus Dei recently, following press coverage of the appointment of Ruth Kelly as new Education Secretary, reports on the novel The Da Vinci Code, and yesterday's news of the first Opus Dei priest in Britain to become a parish priest (Fr Gerard Sheehan at St Thomas More's in Swiss Cottage). There follows a brief description of the organisation and a response to a number of the press claims. It has been provided by Opus Dei's press and information officer, Andrew Soane. What is Opus Dei? Opus Dei is a fully approved organisation of the Catholic Church. The name is Latin, and means "Work of God". It started in 1928. The message of Opus Dei is simple: Everyone is called to holiness, in other words to discover the centrality of Jesus Christ in their life and to try to follow his teachings as faithfully as possible. To apply this to ordinary life was a daring teaching in 1928, but it would later form part of the official teaching of the Catholic church. What is the message of Opus Dei? The central message is that everyone is called to holiness. This has further implications: Work has a spiritual meaning. "God waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work." (St Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei) Our work is to be done as well as possible, and offered to God. "In God's eyes there are no second class jobs. All of them are important Which job is better? Whichever is done with greater love for God." (St Josemaria) Family life becomes a route to holiness. "Love which leads to marriage and family, can also be a marvellous divine way, a vocation, a path for complete dedication to God." (St Josemaria) In fact the majority of members of Opus Dei are married and live with their families. A member of Opus Dei will try to sanctify his or her daily routine by doing their work well and doing it for God. Who was the founder of Opus Dei? Saint Josemaria Escriva is the founder of Opus Dei. He was born in 1902, became a priest in 1925, founded Opus Dei in 1928, died in 1975 (on 26th June, which is now his feast-day in the Catholic church) and was canonised in October 2002. Opus Dei today Opus Dei is established in all five continents, or 65 countries. There are 84,000 members; just over half of them are women. There are members of all ages and backgrounds. Most of them are married. Distribution of members Africa: 1,500 Asia: 5,000 America: 29,000 (USA: 3,000) Europe: 48,500 (Britain: 500) Total: 84,000 Priests: 1,800 Women: 42,000+ Opus Dei in Britain In Britain Opus Dei has about 500 members (men and women), most of them married members, some celibate and a few priests (15 at the time of writing). Activities at Opus Dei centres Opus Dei centres organise courses and seminars on spiritual, moral and cultural themes. They will typically organise retreats, afternoons or evenings of recollection (which are like retreats except for their shorter duration), and talks or courses on doctrinal or spiritual matters. These activities are open to all who genuinely wish to benefit from them. Errors in some newspaper reports 1) Opus Dei is not secretive; it has an information office, its priests and centres are well-known as such, and several have websites. In what refers to people's personal spiritual life, of course confidentiality is essential. 2) Opus Dei is not a cult. It is a worldwide organisation of the Catholic Church, approved at every level and working closely with the hierarchy in every town and city in which it has a presence. 3) Women are not downgraded in Opus Dei (that it should have been alleged that they are, is ironic in view of the context). In Opus Dei women have parity with men in everything. More than half the members are women. 4) There is no risk of a conflict of interest between a politician's membership of Opus Dei and his or her role as an MP or minister. Opus Dei's aims are spiritual and it does not take a political stance. Its members belong to various political parties ≠ or in most cases none at all ≠ and have a variety of political positions. Opus Dei does not issue instructions to its members on how to vote. A Catholic politician who is a member of Opus Dei would be in the same position as any other Catholic politician in respect of Church teaching. 5) Facts taken from the novel 'The Da Vinci Code' are unreliable. To take the ones cited, Opus Dei does not have monks nor do they wear robes; its headquarters are not in New York; its members do not harm themselves. The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction.
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