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Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei or more commonly known as Opus Dei, is an organization of the Roman Catholic Church. The aim given to Opus Dei by the Catholic Church is to tell everyone that God wants them to be close to him. This means that everyone is called by God to become a saint.
Opus Dei was started by St. Josemaria Escriva, a Roman Catholic priest. He started it in 1928. Now, Opus Dei has around 85,000 members all around the world. The head of Opus Dei organization is called a prelate, that is why the organization is called a prelature. The prelature of Opus Dei has priests and also ordinary lay people.
Opus Dei was approved by the Catholic Church in 1941. And it became a personal prelature in 1982 because of Pope John Paul II.
How it started and what it wants to do
Opus Dei was started by a Roman Catholic priest, Josemaria Escrivá, on 2 October 1928 in Madrid, Spain. He said that God himself showed him what to do. On that day he "saw Opus Dei."
He said that the aim of Opus Dei is to help Christians to know that their ordinary life is a way to become a saint and to bring people close to God. And to those who truly understand this, Opus Dei gives them classes, talks, and other help so that they can practice this teaching.
How it is called
John Paul II said that Opus Dei was started by Escriva but he was led by God.
The present Pope, Benedict XVI, said in the year 2002, that the name of this organization, shows that it is true that Josemaria Escriva did not want to start any organization. Escriva just allowed God to do what he wanted. And so the organization is not Escriva's work, Benedict XVI says. It is Opus Dei, or God's work. God just used Escriva as a tool to start his own work.
Some people do not accept what the Popes say. They say Opus Dei is just the work of a man.
What it teaches
The message of St. Josemaría, says José Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is part of the constant teachings of the Catholic Church. Here are the main points of the teachings of Escrivá and of Opus Dei on how to get close to God.
- Becoming a saint in ordinary life
- When they received baptism, Christians became children of God. And so they have to act like people who belong to the family of God. They should live like saints. And most Christians should live like Jesus Christ, making their everyday lives holy. Jesus worked as a carpenter and lived as a son in a Jewish family in a small village for 30 years.
- Making work holy
- If they want to do their work for God, Christians should do their work in the best way, so that their work serves the needs of society. By doing this, their work then becomes pleasing to God. In his work of service, Jesus Christ "did all things well" (Mk 7:37).
- Love for freedom
- Christians should be happy that God created them in a way that they are free. Being free means they can choose do something or not to do it. When God himself became a man, he also became free like any man. And throughout his life, he obeyed what God the Father wanted from him, even when he had to die in the process. "Because he wants to," each person either decides to be with God or away from him. Those are the two basic choices in life. 
- Prayer and sacrifice
- Love is what holiness is all about. And one learns to love by praying throughout the day like a child. Also by sacrificing for God by doing good deeds which are hard to do. You can have great holiness just by doing the little duties of each moment, Escriva said. 
- Charity and bringing people to God
- The most important habit of Christians is to love God and others: understanding people, being courteous, etc. When we love we have to do the first things, first. So we have to do our duties and also give God to others.
- One life
- A Christian who seeks God not just in church, but also in the material things does not have two lives. He has one life. He lives the life of Jesus Christ, and Jesus is both God and man. A good Christian becomes another Christ. He becomes god-like.
Escrivá said that the basis of the life of a Christian is the fact that we are children of God.  If we are aware of this fact, then we will be very happy always.  "Joy comes from knowing we are children of God." 
What it does
According to the Catholic Church, people can find God in their daily work and activities. There they can be very close to him. They do not have to become priests or monks to become a saint. God wants them to become a saint by doing their ordinary duties and activities well. For example, studying, playing, watching TV, helping in the house, reading a book, editing Wikipedia, etc. The task given to Opus Dei by the Catholic Church is to spread this knowledge that one can be a real saint by doing ordinary things and offering them to God.
Beliefs, newness and problems
Pope John Paul II praised Opus Dei and said that its aim of bringing God into the place of work is something great. Cardinal Albino Luciani who later became John Paul I, said that Escriva brought about a big change in how people deal with God. Before people gave importance only to prayers as a way of being close to God. Escriva, he said, gave importance also to work. The work one does can become prayer.
But when Escriva started teaching this, some Jesuits in the 1940s did not understand him. They said he was doing something that is against the Catholic faith because at that time it was believed that only priests and nuns can become holy. Some Jesuit leaders started saying that Opus Dei has secrets which it does not want the world to know, that is why it is dangerous. In fact, they said, Opus Dei just wanted to become very powerful and to control the world.
All these accusations were cleared up by the Popes and Catholic officials. These officials say that Opus Dei is doing something good for the world, by teaching people how to practice good habits such as telling the truth, working hard, keeping promises, loving people and being concerned with those who are in need.
However, since the Jesuits are much respected, a lot of people in the world believed what they said. Catholics and non-Catholics are now attacking Opus Dei around the world. They say that the members develop a strong drive to gain influence, and that the behaviour resembles that of a sect. What is also said about the organisation is that it has a very traditional view of the role of women in a Christian society. According to these critics, for Opus Dei the duty of the woman is to busy herself about the house and to raise the children of the family.
A writer named John L. Allen, Jr. wrote a book in the year 2005, which went against these accusations. He said that these claims are mainly based on not understanding Opus Dei. He said that Opus Dei only teaches what the Catholic Church teaches. He said that there are many Opus Dei women who are very good leaders in business, fashion, art, schools, social work, etc. One half of Opus Dei leaders are women, he said, and these women also lead men. It is also true, he says, that Opus Dei teaches that women are very good at taking care of their family. Escriva said that women are natural teachers.
Another writer, Massimo Introvigne, said that Opus Dei is now being attacked by people who do not believe in God and people who think that God should not be present in the world of human beings. These people, he says, do not want religion to come back to the lives of many people in society.
History: how it developed
- 1928: October 2. Start of Opus Dei
- 1930: February 14. Start of the Women's branch of Opus Dei
- 1939: The Way, Escrivá's book which has spiritual thoughts, is first published
- 1941: March 19. The Bishop of Madrid approves Opus Dei
- 1943: February 14. Start of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
- 1946: Escrivá went to Rome and puts up the headquarters of Opus Dei there
- 1950: June 16. Pope Pius XII gives the Catholic Church's approval of Opus Dei
- 1962: Start of the Second Vatican Council, a big meeting of Catholic bishops from all over the world. In this meeting, the bishops and the Pope teaches to everyone that they are all called to become holy
- 1975: June 26. Escriva dies. Alvaro del Portillo, his closest co-worker, is chosen to become his successor
- 1982: November 28. Opus Dei become a personal prelature, an organizational set-up that is best for it. John Paul II appoints del Portillo as prelate, or head of the prelature
- 1992: May 17. John Paul II declares that the founder, Escriva, is in heaven
- 2002: October 6. John Paul II says that Escriva is a saint. John Paul II calls Escrivá the "saint of ordinary life"
- Allen, John, Jr. (2005). Opus Dei: an Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church, Doubleday Religion. ISBN 0-385-51449-2 — Some online excerpts are: Opus Dei: An Introduction, Chapter I: A Quick Overview, Chapter 4: Contemplatives in the Middle of the World, Chapter 7: Opus Dei and Secrecy
- Berglar, Peter (1994). Opus Dei. Life and Work of its Founder. Scepter. — online here
- Coverdale, John (2002). Uncommon Faith. Scepter Publishers.
- Estruch, Joan (1995). Saints and Schemers: Opus Dei and its paradoxes. — online Spanish version here
- Hahn, Scott (2006). Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei. Random House Double Day Religion. ISBN 978-0-385-51924-3 — online excerpt of Chapter One here
- Introvigne, Massimo (May 1994). "Opus Dei and the Anti-cult Movement". Cristianità, 229, p. 3-12 — online here
- John Paul II. Sacred Congregation for Bishops. (23 August 1982). Vatican Declaration on Opus Dei. — online here
- Le Tourneau, Dominique (2002). What Is Opus Dei?. Gracewing.
- Martin, James, S.J. (25 February 1995). "Opus Dei in the United States". America Magazine. — online here
- Messori, Vittorio (1997). Opus Dei, Leadership and Vision in Today's Catholic Church. Regnery Publishing.
. — online Spanish version here
- O'Connor, William. Opus Dei: An Open Book. A Reply to "The Secret World of Opus Dei" by Michael Walsh, Mercier Press, Dublin 1991, ISBN 0853429871
- Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal (Benedict XVI) (9 October 2002). "St. Josemaria: God is very much at work in our world today". L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English, p. 3. — online here
- Schall, James, S.J. (Aug-Sept 1996). "Of Saintly Timber". Homiletic and Pastoral Review. — review of Estruch's work, online here
- Walsh, Michael (2004). Opus Dei: An Investigation into the Powerful Secretive Society within the Catholic Church. Harper San Francisco.
Sites supporting Opus Dei
- Opus Dei Official Site
- Romana, the Opus Dei's Official Bulletin
- McCloskey's Perspectives — website of writer Fr. McCloskey, priest of Opus Dei
Sites critical of Opus Dei