The death of Pope John Paul II has occassioned a great deal of speculation in the press about the influence of Opus Dei, the secretive ultra-conservative Catholic organization, in choosing his successor. One of the more strictly factual accounts, "Pope Election: Opus Dei Pulls Strings," is from India’s Sify.com:
One of the unanswered questions about next week’s secret conclave to
elect the next pope is how much influence will be wielded by "the
Work," the conservative Roman Catholic organisation called
the Opus Dei.
Only two cardinals among the 115 electors belong to the organisation,
which counts more than 80,000 followers around the world and has
often been referred to in Spain, the country where it was founded
in 1928, as "God’s Octopus."
But it had an extraordinary degree of access to Pope John Paul II, and
enjoys the support and encouragement of many of the most powerful
cardinals, including Camillo Ruini, the prelate deputed to run the
diocese of Rome, who is seen as a strong contender to become the
Ruini last year opened proceedings to declare the Opus Dei’s second leader,
Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, a saint.
John Paul II canonised the Opus Dei’s founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer,
in 2002, an extraordinarily brief 27 years after his death, at a
Vatican ceremony attended by more than 40 cardinals.
The late pope promoted several conservative groups, such as the Legion
of Christ and Communion and Liberation. But he was extremely indulgent
toward the Opus Dei, which he gave the unique status of personal
prelature, enabling it to operate anywhere in the world outside
the control of local bishops and making it accountable only to the
In 1998, the pope gave the Opus Dei’s theological school in Rome the
title of pontifical university, putting it on the same level as
the prestigious Gregorian University run by the rival Jesuits.
Few accounts recall Opus Dei’s historical connections to both classical and neo-fascism. A Dec. 21, 2001 BBC report on the Pope’s affinity for the organization recalled Opus Dei’s close links to the Franco dictatorship in Spain, where many top officials were members. A Nov. 18, 2001 account in The Tablet, a Catholic paper in Britain, noted that El Salvador’s Archbishop Saenz Lacalle is an Opus Dei member, and the organization worked to cleanse the church in that country of Liberation Theology influence following the 1980 death-squad assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. A Feb. 18, 2002 article in Chile Hoy notes that Opus Dei was officially encouraged under the Pinochet dictatorship, and that Luis Cipriani, the Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru, remained close friends with Alberto Fujimori throughout the horrific repression in the 1990s, which was centered precisely around Ayacucho. Cipriani is today the Archbishop of Lima and Cardinal of Peru.
Here are some worthwhile web sites on Opus Dei:
Opus Dei: Finding God in Work and Daily Life (the official site)
Opus Dei: The Unofficial Homepage ("independent and critical information about Opus Dei")
ODAN: Opus Dei Awareness Network (support group for "people who have been adversely affected by Opus Dei")
Right Web page on Opus Dei: "Exposing the architecture of power that’s changing our world."
Religious Movements Homepage (U. of Virginia) on Opus Dei