Torreciudad: Opus Dei explains the current situation

Opus Dei has published detailed information on the current situation of the shrine of Torreciudad. It explains its proposal to the diocese of Barbastro-Monzon to reach an agreement to transform the place into a diocesan sanctuary.

Maria José Atienza-March 2, 2024-Reading time: 5 minutes
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The Marian sanctuary of Torreciudad is the third largest tourist destination in Aragon, and since 1975, when the construction of the new sanctuary was completed, the numerous visits, celebrations and activities have had a crucial impact on the economic and social development of the local environment. 

The appointment of a new rector for the shrine in July 2023 by the bishop of Barbastro-Monzón, Bishop Angel Pérez Pueyo, led to a complicated situation for relations between Opus Dei, promoter of the new shrine, of the renovation of the wayside shrine and the image of the Virgin Mary and of a devotion with ancient roots, and the diocese itself.

The differences of criteria about the ability to decide on the pastoral management of the shrine and on the conditions of the custody of the shrine and the image have since given rise to initiatives on both sides, including judicial ones, and to multiple speculations. Now, Opus Dei has just published on its web page a complete summary of the current situation, as perceived by the Prelature.

Who owns Torreciudad?

From its beginnings, the new sanctuary of Torreciudad has the status of "semi-public oratory", recalls this information. This is how it was erected with the approval of the bishop of the diocese, since, according to the criteria of both parties, it was an adequate figure according to the canonical norms in force at that time. The new temple is property of the Canonical Foundation "Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Torreciudad", and was built in the 70's of the 20th century with donations from many people, who were encouraged by Opus Dei.

The image of the Virgin of Our Lady of the Angels of Torreciudad is venerated inside. This image (and the old hermitage) is the property of the diocese: although on September 24, 1962 the bishop agreed to its perpetual cession by means of an emphyteutic contract to a civil entity promoted by Opus Dei (at that time it was Inmobiliaria General Castellana, S.A., later succeeded by Desarrollo Social y Cultural, S.A.), this figure does not imply a change of ownership. Opus Dei also participated in the signing of the agreement, which was to be entrusted with the promotion of the objectives of the agreement: to maintain and develop the cult of Santa María.

Sixty years later, the visitor to Torreciudad can easily observe the spreading and deep-rooted devotion to Our Lady of the Angels. Since then and as agreed, all the work and costs have been assumed by Opus Dei.

Differences between the Diocese of Barbastro and Opus Dei

According to Opus Dei, in 2020 the Prelature itself asked the Diocese of Barbastro-Monzon to update some details of the legal framework of Torreciudad to accommodate the new approaches of the Code of Canon Law approved in 1983.

In the context of these conversations, disagreements arose, since the Diocese of Barbastro-Monzón expressed the opinion that the original 1962 agreement lacked legal validity, and in July 2023 it proceeded to appoint a rector different from the one who had been carrying out this function on behalf of Opus Dei.

In the course of the "tug of war" that followed, Opus Dei submitted to the diocese its proposal for the erection of Torreciudad as a diocesan shrine and possible new statutes. The diocese is studying it. Also at that time, the entity responsible for the custody of the image and the hermitage was summoned to an act of conciliation with the diocese on October 3; and Opus Dei received a similar summons for December 20. However, Opus Dei decided not to attend, based on the existence of conversations with the diocese on the subject under discussion.

The decision to initiate civil proceedings now would be up to the diocese. Opus Dei says it would not perceive such a step negatively, but would see it "as an opportunity for a civil ruling on the matter."

Who is the valid rector?

At present, Torreciudad's situation is still the same as before from a legal point of view. However, there is no agreement as to who validly performs the responsibility of rector.

When Bishop Perez-Pueyo declared the position vacant and appointed a diocesan priest, Opus Dei urged him to revoke the appointment, and in response to his refusal filed an appeal with the Holy See, which has not yet been resolved. In practice, the Prelature continues to consider valid the rector who was valid before the unilateral decision of the diocese, while the priest appointed by the bishop, José Mairal, usually celebrates Mass every week at the shrine and, as Omnes has verified, is treated with deference by the priests of Opus Dei, who continue to attend to the usual activities of the shrine.

The solution proposed by Opus Dei to update the agreement consists in the transformation of Torreciudad into a diocesan sanctuary, with the bishop appointing the rector upon presentation of a list of three candidates by the Prelature of Opus Dei.

The economic issue 

The information also includes explanations concerning the sanctuary's finances. It details the expenses involved in managing the sanctuary and how they are met. It points out that the ordinary activity generates income that is only enough to cover approximately 30 % of the expenses, while Asociación Patronato de Torreciudad strives to find the rest.

In 1962 the entity in charge of the promotion of the sanctuary was obliged to pay an amount to the diocese in almost symbolic recognition of the property. According to what has been reported in the media, one of the issues raised would be the request by the bishop to update that amount with a figure much: there is talk of about 600,000 euros. In any case, the amount demanded, according to the note, "is considered disproportionate. The annual activity to cover 70 % of the costs that are not covered in an ordinary way is already very difficult in itself; if to that were to be added a fee like the one requested by the diocese, the support of the sanctuary would be unfeasible".


1962: Agreement between Opus Dei and the diocese of Barbastro-Monzón to restore the old hermitage of Torreciudad with the aim of promoting devotion to Our Lady, with the former taking charge of pastoral care and keeping it open for worship. Signing of the emphyteutic contract.

1966: Agreement for the construction of a new temple in which the image of Toreciudad would be venerated. It is agreed with the diocese that the whole complex -which would include, among other buildings, the hermitage and the new temple- would form a single enclosure conveniently fenced. Its status is that of a semi-public oratory.

In the notarial testimony signed by the bishop of the diocese, he agrees that the image of the Virgin may be placed in the new temple for the veneration of the faithful.

1975: St. Josemaría consecrates the main altar, and the newly built church is inaugurated.

1983: Publication of the Code of Canon Law. It includes the configuration of sanctuaries in canons 1230-1234 (book IV, part III, title I, chapter III).

2020: Opus Dei asks the bishopric of Barbastro Monzón to review and update the legal status of Torreciudad.


July 17: The bishop of Barbastro-Monzón appoints the parish priest of Bolturina-Ubiergo, José Mairal Villellas, as rector of the Sanctuary of Torreciudad, so that "he will be responsible for the pastoral and ministerial care until the existing canonical situation between both institutions is regularized".

July 18: Opus Dei expresses its surprise, since the canonical status of Torreciudad continues to be that of a semi-public oratory and "understands that it is not up to the bishop to carry out this appointment," but to the Regional Vicar of the Prelature.

July 22: The diocese requests an act of conciliation with the Prelature of Opus Dei in the courts of Barbastro.

August 31: Opus Dei has sent the diocese of Barbastro Monzón a proposal for an agreement, which includes both legal and pastoral issues, and proposes that the new church be considered a diocesan canonical shrine. 

October 3: The entity Desarrollo Social S.A., owner of the useful domain of the hermitage and of the image of Nuestra Señora de Torreciudad, appears in the conciliation act in the court of Barbastro.

December 2: Opus Dei in Spain receives a notification from the Barbastro courts for the act of conciliation with the Prelature. Opus Dei does not appear at the act, which is scheduled for December 20, 2023, because it considers that the 1962 contract was executed in accordance with current law. It also alleges that "there are conversations between both parties to resolve the matter by mutual agreement".

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