The Erection of Opus Dei As A Personal Prelature

Author: CBIS


Pope John Paul II

Erecting Opus Dei as the first Personal Prelature of the Catholic Church
For A Permanent Record Of The Matter

With very great hope, the Church directs its attention and maternal care to Opus Dei, which—by divine inspiration—the Servant of God Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer founded in Madrid on October 2, 1928, so that it may always be an apt and effective instrument of the salvific mission which the Church carries out for the life of the world.

From its beginnings, this Institution has in fact striven, not only to illuminate with new lights the mission of the laity in the Church and in society, but also to put it into practice; it has also endeavored to put into practice the teaching of the universal call to sanctity, and to promote at all levels of society the sanctification of ordinary work, and by means of ordinary work. Furthermore, through the Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross, it has helped diocesan priests to live this teaching, in the exercise of their sacred ministry.

Since Opus Dei has grown, with the help of divine grace, to the extent that it has spread and works in a large number of dioceses throughout the world, as an apostolic organism made up of priests and laity, both men and women, which is at the same time organic and undivided—that is to say, as an institution endowed with a unity of spirit, of aims, of government and of formation—it has become necessary to give it a juridical configuration which is suited to its specific characteristics. It was the Founder of Opus Dei himself who, in 1962, in a humble and trusting petition, asked the Holy See to grant an appropriate ecclesial configuration to the Institution, bearing in mind its true nature and theological characteristics, and with a view to a greater apostolic effectiveness.

From the time when the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council introduced into the legislation of the Church, by means of the Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 10—which was made effective by the Motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae, I, n.4—, the figure of the personal Prelatures, to carry out specific pastoral activities, it was seen clearly that this juridical figure was perfectly suited to Opus Dei. Therefore, in 1969, Our Predecessor Paul VI, of beloved memory, graciously accepting the petition of the Servant of God Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, authorized him to convoke a special General Congress to begin, under his guidance, the study necessary for a transformation of Opus Dei, in keeping with its nature and the norms of the Second Vatican Counsel.

We ourselves expressly ordered that this study should continue, and in 1979, We requested the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, which was the competent Congregation, by virtue of the matter involved, to examine the formal petition presented by Opus Dei, following a careful study of all the relevant facts and legal data.

In carrying out the task entrusted to it, the Sacred Congregation carefully examined the matter, taking into account the historical, and also the juridical and pastoral aspects. Thus, having completely eliminated all doubts about the basis, and the possibility, and the specific manner of granting the petition, it became abundantly clear that the desired transformation of Opus Dei into a personal Prelature was opportune and useful.

Therefore, We, with the plenitude of Our apostolic power, having accepted the opinion which Our Venerable Brother the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops had expressed to Us, and making good, in so far as it is necessary, the consent of those who have, or think they have some competence in this matter, command and desire the following to be put into practice.


Opus Dei is erected as a personal Prelature, international in ambition, with the name of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, or, in abbreviated form, Opus Dei. The Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross is erected as a clerical Association intrinsically united to the Prelature.


The Prelature is governed by the norms of general law, by those of this Constitution, and by its own Statutes, which receive the name "Code of particular law of Opus Dei".


The jurisdiction of the personal Prelature extends to the clergy incardinated in it, and also—only in what refers to the fulfillment of the specific obligations undertaken through the juridical bond, by means of a contract with the Prelature—to the laity who dedicate themselves to the apostolic activities of the Prelature: both clergy and laity are under the authority of the Prelate in carrying out the pastoral task of the Prelature, as established in the preceding article.


The Ordinary of the Prelature Opus Dei is its Prelate, whose election, which has to be carried out as established in general and particular law, has to be confirmed by the Roman Pontiff.


The Prelature is under the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, and will also deal directly with the other Congregations or Departments of the Roman Curia, according to the nature of the matter involved.


Through the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, the Prelate will present to the Roman Pontiff, every five years, a report on the state of the Prelature, and on the development of its apostolic work.


The central Government of the Prelature has its offices in Rome. The oratory of Our Lady of Peace, which is in the central offices of the Prelature, is erected as a prelatic church.

The Most Reverend Monsignor Alvaro del Portillo, canonically elected President General of Opus Dei on September 15, 1975, is confirmed and is appointed Prelate of the personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, which has been erected.

Finally, We designate the Venerable Brother Romolo Carboni, Titular Archbishop of Sidone and Apostolic Nuncio in Italy, for the opportune execution of all the above, and confer on him the necessary and opportune faculties, including that of sub-delegating—in the matter in question—in any ecclesiastical dignitary, with the obligation of sending, as soon as possible, to the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, an authentic copy of the act which testifies to the fact that the mandate has been carried out.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

Given in Rome at Saint Peter's, on the 28th of November, 1982, the fifth of Our Pontificate.

Augustinus Card. Casaroli
Secretary Of State

Sebastianus Card. Baggio
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops

Iosephus Del Ton, Protonotary Apostolic

Marcellus Rossetti, Protonotary Apostolic
Sacred Congregation For Bishops

Declaration concerning Opus Dei

The Second Vatican Council provided for the setting up of personal prelatures which would engage in particular pastoral work (Decl. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 10 par 2). These prelatures, which were later regulated juridically in the pontifical legislation applying the conciliar Decrees (cf. Motu Proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae Part 1, n. 4), are a further proof of the sensitiveness with which the Church responds to the specific pastoral and evangelizing needs of our time. For this reason, the pontifical act erecting Opus Dei as a personal prelature, with the name Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, is directly aimed at promoting the apostolic activity of the Church, inasmuch as it puts into operation a new pastoral instrument, which up to now was only foreseen and desired in the law of the Church, and it does so through an institution which offers proven guarantees of apostolic vigour, discipline and faithfulness to the teaching of the Church.

At the same time the pontifical decision provides Opus Dei with an ecclesial configuration fully in keeping with its foundational charism and sociological structure. While solving the institutional situation it makes the insertion of the institution in the organic pastoral activity of the universal Church and of the local Churches even more perfect, and in that way renders its service more effective.

As can be seen in the norms by which the Holy See regulates the structures and activity of the prelature, while duly respecting the legitimate rights of diocesan bishops, the chief characteristics of the prelature which has been erected are the following:



a) the Prelature Opus Dei is international. The central offices of the prelate, who is the ordinary of the prelature and of his councils, are in Rome;

b) the clergy of the prelature incardinated therein, are derived from the laity incorporated in the prelature. Therefore no candidate for the priesthood, deacon or priest is withdrawn from the local Churches;

c) the laity (men and women, single or married, of all professions and social situations) who dedicate themselves to the service of the apostolic purpose of the prelature, with a serious commitment, do so in virtue of a clearly defined contract, and not by vows.


The Prelature Opus Dei is a secular jurisdictional structure, and therefore:

a) as established in the general law of the Church and in the law of the prelature, the clergy incardinated in the prelature belong to the secular clergy to all effects. They therefore maintain close relations with the secular priests of the local Churches and, with respect to priests' councils, they enjoy an active and passive voice;

b) the laity incorporated in the prelature do not alter their personal situation. canonically or theologically. They continue to be ordinary lay faithful and act accordingly in all matters and, specifically, in their apostolate;

c) in the aims and spirit of Opus Dei stress is laid on the sanctifying value of ordinary work, that is to say, on the obligation to sanctify work, to sanctify oneself in one's work, and to turn it into an instrument of the apostolate. Therefore, the work and apostolate of those who form part of the prelature are normally carried out in the structure and environment of secular society, bearing in mind the general indications which the Holy See or diocesan bishops may give concerning the apostolate of the laity;

d) as regards decisions in professional, social, political matters, etc., the lay faithful of the prelature enjoy, within the limits of Catholic faith and morals and of the discipline of the Church, the same freedom as other Catholics, their fellow citizens; hence, the prelature does not make itself responsible for the professional, political or economic activities of any of its members.


The jurisdiction of the prelature

a) the power of the prelate is an ordinary power of jurisdiction or government, limited to that which refers to the specific finality of the prelature, and differs substantially, by reason of the matter involved, from the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops in the ordinary spiritual care of the faithful;

b) as well as the government of the clergy of the prelature, the jurisdiction of the prelate includes the general direction of the formation and of the specific apostolic and spiritual attention which the laity incorporated in Opus Dei receive, to help them live a more intense dedication in the service of the Church;

c) together with the right to incardinate his own candidates to the priesthood, the prelate has the obligation to attend to their specific formation in the centres of the prelature, in conformity with the norms established by the competent Congregation, and to the spiritual life and the permanent formation of the priests promoted by him to Holy Orders. He is also obliged to provide for the proper support of his clergy, and for their care in old age and in the case of illness, etc.;

d) the laity are under the jurisdiction of the prelate in regard to what has to do with the fulfillment of the specific ascetic, formative and apostolic commitments which they have freely undertaken by means of the contractual bond dedicating them to the service of the aims of the prelature.


With reference to ecclesiastical territorial laws and to the legitimate rights of local ordinaries:

a) as established by law the members of the prelature must observe the territorial norms which refer to general directives of a doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral nature, the laws concerning public order and, in the case of the priests also the general discipline of the clergy;

b) the priests of the prelature must obtain the ministerial faculties of the competent territorial authority, to exercise their ministry with people who do not form part of Opus Dei;

c) the laity incorporated in the Prelature Opus Dei continue to be faithful of the dioceses in which they have their domicile or quasi-domicile and are, therefore, under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop in what the law lays down for all the ordinary faithful.


In regard to the pastoral coordination with local ordinaries, and the fruitful insertion of the Prelature Opus Dei in the local Churches, it is also established that:

a) the prior permission of the competent diocesan bishop is required for the erection of each centre of the prelature. The diocesan bishop is informed regularly about the activities of those centres and has the right to visit them, ad normam juris;

b) as regards parishes, rectoral churches or other churches, and also other ecclesiastical offices which the local ordinary may entrust to the prelature or to the priests incardinated in the prelature, an agreement will be drawn up in each case between the local ordinary and the Prelate of Opus Dei or his vicars;

c) in each country the prelature will maintain regular contact with the president and with the organisms of the episcopal conference, and have frequent contact with the bishops of the dioceses in which the prelature is established.


The Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross is an association which is inseparably united to the prelature. Priests of the diocesan clergy who wish to strive for sanctity in their ministry in accordance with the spirituality of Opus Dei may form part of this association. These priests, by virtue of their membership in the association, do not form part of the clergy of the prelature. They remain, to all effects and purposes, under the jurisdiction of their own ordinary, whom they will inform, if he wishes, of their membership in the association.


The prelature is under the Sacred Congregation for Bishops (cf. Ap. Consl. Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, n. 49, par. 1), and, like the other autonomous jurisdictions, is entitled to deal directly with the relevant Congregation or Department of the Roman Curia, according to the nature of the matter involved in each case.


Through the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, the prelate will present to the Roman Pontiff, every five years, a detailed report on the state of the prelature and on the development of its specific apostolate, both from the juridical and from the pastoral points of view.

The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, by Divine Providence Pope, in the audience granted to the undersigned Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops on 5 August 1982, approved, confirmed and ordered to be published this Declaration concerning the erection of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei.

Rome, Sacred Congregation for Bishop. 23 August 1982.

Sebastiano Card. Baggio,

Lucas Moreira Neves,
Tit. Archbishop of Feradi maius,