Decree on the virtues of the Servant of God Álvaro del Portillo

Publisched in:  Romana 54 (2012) p. 60





of the Servant of God


Titular Bishop of Vita

Prelate of the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei

(1914 – 1994)



‘A faithful man will be richly praised’ (Prov 28:20). These words of Sacred Scripture highlight the outstanding virtue of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, namely faithfulness: in the first place faithfulness to God, by prompt and generous fulfilment of His will; then to the Church and the Pope as well as to the priesthood, and further indeed to the Christian vocation in every moment and circumstance.

‘Faithfulness maintained over time is the name of love’, Pope Benedict XVI has said (Homily at the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima, 12 May 2010). The Servant of God was an example of charity and faithfulness to all Christians. He assimilated fully and without any exception, and expressed in his life, the spirit of Opus Dei which calls everyone to seek fullness of love for God and neighbour through sanctification of the tasks and duties which form, as it were, the backcloth of our daily life. ‘To sanctify work, sanctify oneself in work, and sanctify others through work’: it may be rightly asserted that these words apply most fittingly to the diligent work of the Servant of God as doctor of engineering science, as priest and finally as Bishop. In whatever field of activity, he gave himself to the full, well aware that he participated in the salvific mission of the Church by faithful fulfilment of his daily duties.

The Servant of God was born of pious and upright parents in Madrid on 11 March 1914, the third of eight children. He gained doctorates in civil engineering, history and canon law. In 1935, when twenty-one years old, he joined Opus Dei and Saint Josemaría soon came to regard him as his most effective helper. On 25 June 1944 he was ordained a priest and thereafter spent himself in carrying out his sacred ministry. From the very day of his ordination he was the confessor of Saint Josemaría. In 1946 he moved to Rome in order to help the Founder in the government and expansion of Opus Dei: as Secretary-General (1939–1946 and 1956–1975), Counsellor for Italy (1948–1951), Procurator-General (1946–1956) and Rector of the Roman College of the Holy Cross (1948–1954).

He worked also on many tasks committed to him by the Holy See: in the Second Vatican Council he undertook the task of Secretary to the Commission De disciplina cleri et populi christiani, which was in charge of drafting the Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, and he was additionally Peritus (expert) on the Commissions De Episcopis et dioecesium regimini and De religiosis He was later appointed Consultor of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, Qualificator of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office and Consultor of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law; he was also a Judge in the Tribunal for causes coming under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Consultor of the same Congregation. He was, moreover, Secretary of the Commission for Secular Institutes in the Sacred Congregation for Religious and was co-opted to the body of Consultors of the Congregation for the Clergy, to that of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and to that of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

On 15 September 1975 he was elected first successor of Saint Josemaría in the government of Opus Dei, for the performance of which role it was his watchword to tread in the Founder’s footsteps, and he spent himself in bringing to completion what Saint Josemaría had ardently desired and had taken care to prepare: namely, the obtaining of a canonical configuration that would properly correspond to Opus Dei’s foundational charism. This goal was eventually achieved on 28 November 1982 when Blessed John Paul II erected Opus Dei as a Personal Prelature and nominated Álvaro del Portillo its Prelate. On 6 January 1991 the Servant of God received episcopal ordination from the Roman Pontiff. Early in the morning of 23 March 1994, a few hours after his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Places of our Divine Saviour, God called his Servant to himself. On that same day Blessed John Paul II visited his mortal remains, and after praying in silence, recited aloud the antiphon Salve Regina.

Álvaro del Portillo’s pastoral zeal in governing Opus Dei for nineteen years looked especially to ever greater extension of the apostolate of the Prelature’s faithful in the service of the Church: during those years the stable activity of Opus Dei was extended to twenty new countries.

This pastoral care led the Servant of God also to undertake many journeys to strengthen the faithful of the Prelature and other men and women of all walks of life in their spiritual life and in the apostolate. While advancing this evangelizing work, he took care always to ensure that the apostolic activity of the Prelature be at the service of the individual particular Churches. A fruit, moreover, of his zealous concern for priestly formation was the creation of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, which Saint Josemaría had desired. He published writings in the fields of law, theology and spirituality, especially about the priesthood and the laity, among them: Faithful and Laity in the Church; Consecration and Mission of the Priest; Una Vida para Dios. Reflexiones en torno a la figura de Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer; and Immersed in God, an interview on the Founder of Opus Dei.

The Servant of God’s dedication to fulfilling the mission committed to him was rooted in a deep sense of divine filiation which led him to seek identification with Christ; he committed himself entirely with a trusting mind to the Father’s will, filled with love for the Holy Spirit; he was constantly immersed in prayer, and strengthened by the Most Holy Eucharist and by a tender love for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He responded heroically in his bearing of illnesses – which he looked upon as the Cross of Christ –, in his imprisonment for some time during the religious persecution in Spain (1936–1939), and in his undergoing attacks on account of his faithfulness to the Church. He was a man of profound goodness and affability who communicated peace and serenity to others. No one recalls any discourteous gesture on his part, any sign of impatience in the face of adversity, or any word of reproach or protest on account of difficulties: he had learned from God to forgive, to pray for his persecutors, to open his arms in a priestly manner, and to welcome all with a cheerful face and great kindliness.

The Servant of God’s love for the Church was manifest in his total communion with the Roman Pontiff and with the Bishops: he was always a most faithful son of the Successor of Peter, adhering without quibble to him and to his teaching. In describing the figure of this Pastor, moreover, mention must also be made of other characteristic features, such as his keenly-felt solicitude for the faithful of Opus Dei; his humility, prudence, fortitude, joy, and simplicity; his self-denial and his ardent desire to win souls for Christ, which he expressed also in his episcopal motto: Regnare Christum volumus! (We wish Christ to reign!)

The Servant of God’s reputation for holiness, already widespread in his lifetime, attained universal reach after his death. Between 2004 and 2008 two equally principal canonical processes regarding the life, virtues and reputation for holiness of the Servant of God were held at the Tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome and at the Tribunal of the Prelature, as well as eight rogatory processes in dioceses in Europe, North and South America and Australia. A special meeting of Theological Consultors which took place on 10 February 2012 gave unanimously a positive response to the query presented as to the heroic exercise of virtues and reputation for holiness of the Servant of God. On the proposal of his Eminence Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, and with myself, Cardinal Angelo Amato, as Moderator, the Most Eminent and Excellent Members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a favourable verdict at the Ordinary Session convened on 5 June 2012.

An accurate report of all the above having been made to the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI by the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Holy Father, accepting and ratifying the votes of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, has today solemnly declared that: Certainty has been reached regarding the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity towards both God and neighbour, as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude and related virtues, in heroic degree, and also regarding the reputation for holiness, of the Servant of God Álvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano, titular Bishop of Vita, Prelate of the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, in the case and for the purpose in question.

The Supreme Pontiff has ordered that this decree be published and that it be recorded in the acts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Given at Rome on the twenty-eighth day of June in the year of the Lord 2012.


Angelo Cardinal Amato, S.D.B.


L. + S.

X Marcello Bartolucci

Titular Archbishop of Mevania