The Vatican: Liberal's Upset by 'Franco's Friend' Sainthood

Priest linked to Franco to be canonised -- Pope helps Opus Dei founder towards sainthood

The Guardian/December 21, 2001
By Stephen Bates

The Pope cleared the way yesterday for the imminent canonisation of one of the most controversial figures in the Roman Catholic church over the last 100 years when he accepted the validity of a miracle said to have been performed in the name of Josemaria Escriva, the Spanish founder of the influential and secretive Opus Dei movement.

The miracle, which supposedly cured a Spanish doctor in 1992, clears the way for the canonisation early next year of Escriva, said by some to have been a friend of the fascist Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

Followers now deny that Escriva was particularly close to Franco and claim he protested against fascist slogans painted on church walls, but it isknown that he narrowly escaped execution by republican partisans.

The strenuous devotions of some Opus Dei followers, which can include self-flagellation, and the success of some members in attaining senior positions within the church and in secular governments such as Franco's, have caused many to criticise the organisation. There are about 84,000 members of Opus Dei worldwide, some 700 of them in Britain.

John Paul II's long championing of the cause of Escriva, who died in 1975, will be seen as a bolstering of authoritarian and reactionary trends within the church, though more than 1,300 bishops petitioned the Vatican to launch the process of canonisation. The Pope has created more than 200 saints since coming to office in 1978, more than any of his predecessors.

Among 13 names listed for canonisation yesterday were the Italian Capuchin monk Padre Pio, who for more than 50 years until his death in 1968 carri! ed weeping marks in his hands, feet and side, reminiscent of the wounds of Christ, and the 16th century Mexican Aztec known as Juan Diego, who may not have existed at all.

The church's acceptance of the authenticity of miracles committed in the name of the three men is the final step before their canonisation which is expected to take place after a meeting of Rome-based cardinals next month.

In Escriva's case he is said to have cured Manuel Nevado from chronic radiodermatitis, caused by the doctor's prolonged exposure to x-ray machinery. Dr Nevado was encouraged to pray to Escriva by a colleague and was said to have been cured within a fortnight. The Vatican's medical committee examined the doctor in 1992, 1994 and 1997 and pronounced the cure "very rapid, complete, lasting and scientifically inexplicable."

Padre Pio is said to have cured an eight-year-old Italian boy of meningitis, after his family pra! yed in the monk's preserved cell in the hospital he founded.

Juan Diego, who is supposed to have had visions of the Virgin Mary who filled his cloak with out-of-season roses and inspired him to build the basilica of Our Lady at Guadalupe, is claimed to have saved a Mexican child who fell from a balcony in 1990.

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