Controversial saint

By on November 1, 2002

Rome

Pope John Paul II has canonised Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, an organization of lay people that has stirred as much admiration as controversy in the Roman Catholic Church.

Born in Spain in 1902 and ordained a priest in 1925, Escriva in 1928 founded Opus Dei, an institution that encourages its adherents to attain sainthood ?in ordinary life? through the world of work and family. Opus Dei does not disclose the names of its members, which has led to accusations, even from within the church, that it is a secret sect. Members reject the accusation.

In 1992, the Pope beatified Escriva in a gesture praised by many bishops who supported reinvigorating the mission of lay people. But it was criticized by other prelates, who thought that the beatification of someone who had died only 17 years before was too hasty.

Others accused Escriva of supporting the regime of General Francisco Franco, who died in 1975, because members of Opus Dei had been government ministers in Madrid under the Spanish dictator.

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