The Nature of the Episcopate in the Prelate of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei
“The power whereby bishops of particular Churches govern their portiones Populi Dei is a sacramental origin, since episcopal ordination confers the fullness of the priesthood. Opus Dei’s prelate, however, governs the prelature entrusted to him with a power conferred by a juridical act (that has no sacramental nature) of the Church’s Supreme Authority…. Therefore, the prelate’s power has an intrinsic theological dependence on the Supreme Authority. And this not only or principally because the prelate need not be a bishop, but rather because the power he receives participates in the native character of service to the mission and communion of the Churches that is proper to the Supreme Authority….
“The power of Opus Dei’s prelate, having this origin and basis, has a jurisdictional content of an episcopal nature (even when the prelate is not a bishop). This is so, because the object of that power radically consists in moderating and regulating the constitutional ‘faithful/sacred ministry’ relation, which is the nucleus of the internal dynamism of the Church and of the ‘pastoral’ function of bishops. Opus Dei’s prelate carries out this function with regard to his faithful and clergy in order to serve the communio Ecclesiarum entrusted to the prelature. We already said that the power in question can have this content, because it is supported and grounded in the episcopal authority of the Pope and participates in it. It is not, therefore, ‘the mere immanent unfurling of the ‘clerical possibilities of the ordination received,’ as Villar so aptly remarks. Rather, on the basis of priestly ordination, when a priest is made prelate of Opus Dei, functions are conferred on him in Ecclesia that in themselves are episcopal, theologically sustained in the Supreme Authority, and specified by his canonical mission and the prelature’s Statutes. Therefore, even if he be only a priest, his power is of an ‘episcopal’ nature, that is, he is canonically capacitated ‘as if he were a bishop’ (ad instar episcopi).
Episcopal Ordination: Not Necessary, but Very Appropriate
“The kind of opower its prelate has is explained by the theological nature of Opus Dei. He does not ‘need’ the fullness of the priesthood as a bishop does, since his role, unlike that of the bishops presiding over local Churches, is not one of making the universal Church’s sacramental fullness present in a particular place (local Church). Rather, his role is to gather faithful and priests in Opus Dei in order to carry out its own particular apostolic mission, which is one of a universal scope. But, at the same t ime, it is very appropriate that Opus Dei’s prelate, since he has episcopal powers, should also have episcopal ordination. However, even if the prelate is ordained a bishop that in no way modifies the theological and legal nature of the coetus Populi Dei of the prelature, or its relation with particular Churches, or the statute of his authority, which continues to be a canonical development of the power-service of the universal Authority in the Church – not a form of presiding over a local Church. But episcopal ordination does give whoever heads up Opus Dei a new sacramental title to exercise the ministry he discharged. Thus his ministry moves from being a priestly way of co-operating with the Corpus episcoporum (though, as we have seen with some powers of an episcopal natue) to an episcopal ministry of a member of the episcopal college and in collegial communion with all of them. In effect, if the sacred power that sustains the prelate as a hierarchical institution is concentrated in the prelate, in a certain way he also personifies the prelature’s communion with the Pope and the episcopal college, and represents the Sollicitudo of the Pope and episcopal college to serve the communion of the particular Churches, within the scope of the pastoral task entrusted to the prelate. His episcopal ordination then acquires a profound theological meaning, because it brings the prelate into a sacramental relation of communio with the diocesan bishops of the particular Churches, and the prelature itself is seen more clearly as a structure at the service of the communio Ecclesiarum.”
From Benedict XVI in 2005
1/6/11 - 16th Anniversary of the Episcopal Ordination of Javier Echevarria Rodriguez as Prelate of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei
Esteemed BrotherJavier Echevarría RodríguezTitular Bishop of CilibiaPrelate of the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus DeiAs the joyous commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the start of your priestly life and activity draws near, we have received word, Esteemed Brother, that you plan to celebrate it solemnly, in union with the members of the personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, raising heartfelt thanksgiving to the Blessed Trinity for the ineffable gift of the priesthood and for all its blessings. With great joy, we take advantage of this singular occasion to add our congratulations on this happy jubilee and express our esteem and affection.While still young, on hearing God’s gentle voice calling you, you promptly followed it, coming to form part of Opus Dei. After the necessary formation, you received priestly ordination on August 7, 1955. You have obtained a doctorate in civil law and in canon law. You have carried out various pastoral and academic ministries. For twenty years you were the Secretary of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Founder of Opus Dei, and now you faithfully govern his providential Work with the same spirit. Casting a glance back on the long priestly path you have followed, you will undoubtedly recall so many labors and difficulties overcome with divine grace; but, above all, so many joyful occasions granted by God to you and to your personal Prelature. As Secretary General, in 1982, you were present at the raising of Opus Dei to the status of a personal Prelature, of which you were immediately named Vicar General. Twelve years later, after the holy death of our Esteemed Brother Alvaro del Portillo, you were elected Prelate of the personal Prelature; and, in the same year, you were named titular bishop of Cilibia. In 1995, here in Rome, on the solemnity of our Lord’s Epiphany, our beloved Predecessor John Paul II conferred on you episcopal ordination, as a clear sign of his benevolence and trust.Governing your Prelature and contemplating in it the action of God’s grace, you never cease exhorting its members—with your example, with your writings, with your words and your pastoral trips—to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose (Acts 11:23). When you foster the eagerness for personal sanctity and the apostolic zeal of your priests and lay people, not only do you see the flock that has been entrusted to you grow, but you provide an effective help to the Church in her urgent evangelization of present-day society. In the terrain of culture and the sciences, you strive to spread the Christian message in all environments, as is clearly seen in the recently established Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. You bear in your heart the defense of life, the family and marriage, and the formation and pastoral care of young people.Therefore, Esteemed Brother, receive this proof of our love and benevolence, along with the Apostolic Benediction that, imploring divine grace, through the intercession of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, we impart to you with all our heart, and also to the bishops, priests, and men and women who form part of the beloved personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, and to all who, filled with joy, celebrate such an important jubilee.From the Vatican, the 9th day of July of the year 2005.
 Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1993) 55-56.