What is happening in Torreciudad?

In recent months, Torreciudad has been in the headlines due to the appointment of a rector by the bishop of Barbastro-Monzón.

Maria José Atienza-August 24, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Photo: Panoramic view of Torreciudad ©Opus Dei

The slender red brick tower that emerges from the steep silhouette of the mountains surrounding the El Grado reservoir gives an accurate idea of the situation in Torreciudad. This center of Marian devotion, rooted for centuries in the area and internationalized in the last forty years, has come to the forefront of the news by the appointment of a rector by the bishop of Barbastro-Monzon.

What is Torreciudad? Why was its rector appointed, until now, not by the diocesan bishop but by the regional vicar of Opus Dei in Spain? Is this decision in accordance with the law of the Church? How is the church supported? 

A bit of history

What today is identified as Torreciudad comprises, in the foreground, the church designed by the team of architects led by Heliodoro Dols. This temple was built in the first half of the 70s of the twentieth century thanks to the donations of the faithful from various places encouraged by Opus Dei. 

The new temple is located a few meters from the old 11th century hermitage that guarded the image of Our Lady of the Angels, patron saint of the region. 

The ancient hermitage of Torreciudad

Between 1960 and 1975, the founder of the Opus DeiIn 1962, St. Josemaría Escrivá decided to build a new shrine to promote devotion to our Lady. In 1962 he concluded an agreement with the bishopric of Barbastro which, by means of a public deed, ceded in perpetuity the useable domain of the old shrine and the custody of the image of Our Lady to Opus Dei, as long as the conditions set out in the contract were fulfilled. 

The new church of Torreciudad belongs to the Fundación Canónica Santuario Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Torreciudad.

The image of the Virgin

The image of the Virgin passed from the old hermitage to the new building when it was finished in 1975 after a restoration and the pertinent authorization of the then bishop of the diocese. Until then, the steepness of the area did not facilitate the arrival to the place and the central moment of devotion was the months between May and October, when the santera moved to the hermitage, where she did not live habitually. The celebration of the feast of Our Lady, in August, was the key date for the life of the hermitage of the Virgen de los Ángeles de Turris Civitatis.

Since then, the devotion has gone far beyond the borders of the Aragonese region. In fact, the Annual Report of the sanctuary corresponding to 2022 points to Madrid as the main origin of the pilgrims who come to Torreciudad with 28.79%, followed by Catalonia with 26.95%, and the Valencian Community with 12.71%. Pilgrims from outside Spain accounted for 14.82% of all those who came to Torreciudad in 2022. Among them, most came from France (36.23% of the total number of foreigners), Portugal (7.39%), the United States (7.22%) and Poland (7.13%). 

Virgin Torreciudad
The image of the Virgin of the Angels of Torreciudad in procession on her feast day. August 2023 ©Torreciudad

The new church, oratory of the Prelature

Torreciudad is not currently considered a diocesan shrine, but an oratory of the Prelature of Opus Dei. For this reason, from the beginning, the rector has been appointed by Opus Dei. In the note of July 17, 2023, the bishopric of Barbastro-Monzon alluded to the need to "regularize the canonical situation of the sanctuary" as the justification for the appointment of a new rector by the diocesan bishop. 

The bishopric did not specify the nature of this irregularity, but Opus Dei and the bishopric had begun talks to update the legal framework and to transform Torreciudad, if necessary, into a diocesan sanctuary. 

In this case, the bishop has acted by applying the norms he considers applicable, formed by canons 556 and 557 of the Code of Canon Law.

Who finances Torreciudad? 

Since the useful domain of the old hermitage of Torreciudad was ceded to Opus Dei, the Prelature has been in charge of its rehabilitation, maintenance and subsequent repairs, as well as promoting worship and guaranteeing access to pilgrims. It has also financed the construction of the new temple, which is sober in style and rooted in the local architectural tradition. To this must be added the modernization of the evangelization spaces that have been carried out in Torreciudad in recent years, which have given rise to modern museum and catechetical spaces. 

The economic support of the Torreciudad complex corresponds to the civil association Patronato de Torreciudad, a non-profit entity declared of public utility that includes among its purposes the support of the Torreciudad sanctuary and the promotion of pilgrimages. It is currently chaired by a woman, Mª Victoria Zorzano. This Patronage gathers the donations and contributions necessary to cover the expenses of Torreciudad, which are added to the other sources of income. The diocese does not make any contribution. Since 1962, Torreciudad has paid an amount to the diocese in recognition of the bare property, which continues to belong to the diocese. The amount agreed at the time is currently equivalent to 19 euros per year. 

What are the next steps?

Broadly speaking, the recent history of Torreciudad is characterized by the internationalization of Marian devotion and, above all, by its consolidation as a place of prayer for the family and for families. 

In this context, the Marian Family Days, which take place every year, are a large number of celebrations that have been presided over, on many occasions, by bishops from numerous Spanish dioceses and in which the sanctity and future of the family have been placed in the hands of the Blessed Mother in a very special way. 

Panoramic view of the Marian Family Day in Torreciudad in 2022 ©Torreciudad

The next one, on September 16, will be presided over by the bishop of the diocese of Barbastro-Monzon, Bishop Angel Perez Pueyo. By that date, it should have been clarified whether the legitimate rector is, according to the bishop's decision and since September 1, José Mairal, parish priest of Bolturina-Ubiergo, or the current rector. Ángel LasherasThe latter has appealed the last appointment to the competent Vatican dicastery. 

The feeling is that a long judicial process could now begin to determine the validity of the arguments put forward by both parties, but also a period in which both could learn more about each other's reasons and reach an agreement that takes them into account. 

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