MADRID, Spain, September 26, 2014—Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, first successor and closest collaborator of Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escrivá, who had once visited the Philippines, will be declared “blessed” on Saturday, September 27, in Madrid, his hometown.
Del Portillo was in the Philippines in January 22 to February 1, 1987, meeting Filipino Opus Dei members, and checking on the various apostolic and social projects the group established in the country.
Then Manila Archbishop Jaime L. Cardinal Sin hosted him at Villa San Miguel, during which he thanked del Portillo for Opus Dei’s apostolic work in the country by “spreading the message of the universal call to holiness among the lay faithful and bringing spirituality to the secular environments where the priests and religious cannot reach.”
During his Philippine stay, the Spanish prelate presided over catechetical fora at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and at the Cebu Plaza Hotel where he spoke and answered Filipnos’ questions on spiritual life, sanctification of work, suffering, Christian joy, family, and social responsibility.
In one of these meetups, he told his Filipino audience, “My daughters and my sons, I have seen enormous wealth and enormous poverty.”
He encouraged Opus Dei in the Philippines to expand by putting up more projects which would provide people with livelihood skills.
Opus Dei-Philippines was then running technical training schools for people unable to afford a college education.
They also opened a farm school in Batangas for farmers’ high school age children.
Once in Rome, del Portillo sent an Italian delegation to Cebu which would help in setting up a technical school modeled on Centro ELIS, a successful social project just outside the capital.
This school would become the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE) in Talamban, Cebu.
Since it opened in 1991, CITE has graduated over 3,000 industrial technicians from the Visayas and Mindanao.
The national government recognizes it as one of the leading technical schools in the Philippines.
Then President Corazon Aquino, to whom del Portillo paid a courtesy call, formally inaugurated CITE in February 1992.
She also inaugurated the Dagatan Family Farm School in Batangas in August 1988, the first of its kind in Asia.
Other projects del Portillo started in the Philippines are the Banilad Center for Professional Development for girls in Cebu, and the Development Advocacy for Women Volunteerism (DAWV).
On July 5, 2013, Pope Francis signed the decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approving a miracle obtained through the intercession the prelate, opening the cause for his beatification.
The miracle involves the healing of Chilean newborn José Ignacio Ureta Wilson in 2003, who was suffering from massive hemorrhage resulting to cardiac arrest.
The doctors assigned to Wilson did all they could to extend the baby’s life even as the boy’s parents were praying for his survival through the intercession of del Portillo.
Just when the doctors were to pronounce Wilson dead, his heart began beating again.
Wilson, now 11 years old, has since been living a normal life—thanks to the Spanish bishop’s intercession.
No sooner had he returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when del Portillo died in Rome on March 23, 1994.
Del Portillo is remembered for his untiring service to the Church, his amiable character, and his concern for those in need.
Then Pope, now Saint, John Paul II, who prayed during his wake, spoke of the prelate and “the example he always gave of fortitude and of trust in divine providence and his fidelity to the See of Peter.”
His beatification ceremony in Madrid, which will be presided over by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, expects attendees from over the world, including some 1,600 from the Philippines. (Raymond A. Sebastián)