In memory of Bishop Javier Echevarría

A few days after the death of Bishop Javier Echevarría, the Auxiliary Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei has written these lines of remembrance for Palabra. In them he points out two outstanding characteristics of the Prelate's personality.

Fernando Ocáriz-January 2, 2017-Reading time: 3 minutes
Monsignor Javier Echevarría

Naturally, I have experienced and continue to experience great sorrow -as have all the faithful of the Work and many other people- at the unexpected death of the man who for 22 years as Prelate directed the Opus Dei and we used to call him, with all propriety, Father. At the same time, the Lord gives serenity, because thanks to faith we know that, with death, life is not lost but changed into a better one: into the blessed existence that Jesus Christ promised to those who love him. And the love of Bishop Javier Echevarría to Our Lord and, through Him, to all creatures, was great, sincere, full of practical consequences.

Dynamic fidelity

In these brief lines, I would like to emphasize only two fundamental traits. The first is his sense of fidelity: an unfailing loyalty to the Church, to the Pope, to Opus Dei, to the faithful of the Prelature, to his friends, which was a consequence or expression of his fidelity to Jesus Christ, our God and Lord. His whole life, from the time he asked for admission to Opus Dei in the distant year 1948, was marked by this human and supernatural virtue, which grew thanks to the close relationship he maintained, first with St. Josemaría, and then with Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, with whom he collaborated for many years in the government of the Prelature. As I said a few hours after his death, having lived for so many years at the side of these two saints left an indelible imprint on Bishop Echevarría's soul, which explains, at least in part, his deep sense of fidelity.

His was a dynamic fidelity that, while preserving intact the substance, the spirit, also sought the Will of God in the face of the changing needs of the times and people.

A few minutes before her death, she wanted to leave us this desire. As was stated by those who were assisting her most immediately at that moment, the intention of her prayer to the Lord was the fidelity of all of us.

Love for the Pope

A particular manifestation of fidelity concerns prayer for the Roman Pontiff. Following the exhortations of his predecessors, he constantly encouraged them to pray more and more for the Vicar of Christ on earth. In this way he also made the aspiration of the Founder of the Work a reality: to serve the Church as the Church desires to be served, within the characteristics that God himself communicated to St. Josemaría. A manifestation of this communion with the whole Mystical Body of Christ is the ordination of more than 600 priests during the years of his service as Prelate of Opus Dei.

In this context, I am pleased to note the generosity with which Bishop Echevarría welcomed requests from the bishops of many places for priests incardinated in the Prelature to collaborate directly in diocesan pastoral offices or assignments. And this despite the fact that the number of priests of the Prelature, although high, is not sufficient to meet the many needs of ordinary pastoral work.

Interest in each person

The second characteristic I wish to highlight is his generous dedication to each person who asked him for advice, guidance, a prayer; or simply addressed him a greeting or a comment when they met him in a hallway. He did not just listen; he was involved in what he heard, attentive, calm, never in a hurry, always with an interest whose authenticity was evident.

His zeal as a Pastor was not limited to caring for the small part of the People of God that is the Prelature. His heart had grown wider and wider. As a priest and as a bishop, he felt the weight of souls, especially those most in need: for the victims of natural calamities or terrorism; for refugees; for the sick; for peace in Syria, in Iraq, in Venezuela and in any country going through difficult times; for people without jobs or with family difficulties of any kind... Every week, in Rome, he received groups of people from all over the world, who asked him to pray for their spiritual and material needs. Everyone had a place in his heart, as he had learned from St. Josemaría and Blessed Alvaro del Portillo.


One more manifestation of his concern for others: the day before his death, Bishop Echevarría told me that he was sorry that so many people had to take care of him, attending to his needs. I answered him from within: No, Father, you are the one who supports us all. In this new period that is opening up before us, I would like to repeat these words to you and ask you, through your intercession, to sustain us and help us to be good children of the Church, with the help of St. Josemaría and Blessed Alvaro.

Bishop Echevarría brought all these intentions to Mass every day. The Sacrifice of the Altar is like the mold where the aspirations and works of men acquire their true meaning through their union with the sacrifice of the Cross. Now, I am consoled to think that, from Heaven, your Mass has become eternal: no longer under the veils of the sacrament, but in the face-to-face vision of divine glory, with her priestly intercession for all. Thus I ask the Lord through the maternal mediation of the Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother.

The authorFernando Ocáriz

Auxiliary and General Vicar of Opus Dei

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