Opus Dei leader Javier Echevarría Rodríguez dies aged 84

The Catholic bishop died in Rome after being hospitalised due to a lung infection

File photograph of Opus Dei leader Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, who has died aged 84.

File photograph of Opus Dei leader Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, who has died aged 84.


The leader of the Catholic institution Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, has died in Rome at the age of 84.

The bishop was born in Madrid, where he later met Opus Dei founder St Josemaría Escrivá. He became St Josemaría Escrivá’s secretary from 1953 until his death in 1975.

In 1975, the then Fr Echevarría became secretary-general of the Opus Dei, before becoming vicar-general in 1982.

He was elected prelate/leader of the organisation in 1994 and was ordained a bishop by St John Paul II at St Peter’s Basilica in January 1995.

He visited Ireland on a number of occasions. His last visit was in 2005.

He had been hospitalised in Rome on December 5th because of a lung infection.

Founded in 1928 , Opus Dei was given Catholic Church approval by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

Membership worldwide is now estimated at about 94,000, of which more than 2,000 are priests.

A further 2,000 are diocesan priest members of its Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.

The great majority of Opus Dei members are laity, of whom almost one-third are celibate and live in Opus Dei centres, many of which are also university residences.

Opus Dei is unique within the Catholic Church as it is designated a personal prelature, defined by a chosen spiritual path rather than geography, as would be the case where a diocese is concerned.

Regarded as a particularly conservative force within the church, it was designated a personal prelature by St John Paul II in 1982.

Its prelate is elected by its members and confirmed by the pope.

Opus Dei in Ireland

Opus Dei was founded in Ireland in 1947. One of its first residences here was the Nullamore University centre in Dartry, Dublin.

The centre’s official opening in 1954 was attended by then taoiseach John A Costello, then leader of the opposition Éamon de Valera, then president of UCD Prof Michael Tierney, then lord mayor of Dublin Alfie Byrne and then Catholic archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid.

Other Irish Opus Dei student halls of residence were set up in 1958 at Gort Ard in Galway; in 1959, at Ely, Hume Street, in Dublin; in 1962, at Glenard, Clonskeagh, Dublin; in 1972, in Ros Geal, Galway; in 1982, at Cleraun, Mount Merrion, Dublin; and Castleville, Castletroy, Limerick, in 1985.

Its only parish in the capital is based on Merrion Road, Dublin 4.

Governance of Opus Dei now falls to its auxiliary vicar, Msgr Fernando Ocáriz, who must call a congress to elect a new prelate within three months.