_1?), Cristina Odone and Viviane Hewitt in Rome BRITISH opponents of Opus Dei are launching a campaign to halt the canonisation of the society's founder.
Spearheaded by a group of former members of the controversial personal prelature, the campaign aims to bring to light fresh evidence that would put a stop to the canonisation of the Spanish-born Mgr Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer. Mgr Escriva was beatified last year in what some critics called "a fast track process".
While a special anniversary encounter was held in Rome last week to celebrate 7,000 "testimonies" to Escriva's "heroic virtue" that have flooded in since his canonisation process began, British opponents of the process were co-ordinating a letter writing campaign.
"We plan to put forward a number of testimonies from people who knew Escriva and/or have experience in the society. We must get the hierarchy to take a public stand against Opus Dei," said a spokesperson for the campaign, pointing out that although Cardinal Hume had issued a set of guidelines for Opus Dei in 1981, "no member of the British hierarchy has ever publicly denounced Opus Dei."
Cardinal Flume had issued his guidelines in response to a demand from Eric Heffer MP, who had threatened to raise the issue in the Commons.
"If you talk to priests in this country about the society, they confess that they are very worried about it," said Eileen Clark, a former member of the Opus Dei Advisory Board on the Women's Section in London and a member of the campaign.
Ms Clarke told the Catholic Herald she knew of similar campaigns to discredit Escriva in both Spain and the US. However, she said that, to date, "very little coordination exists" between campaigners in the different countries.
Fr Vladimir Felzmann, a former Opus Dei priest, said that The hasty beatification, given the number of witnesses against Escriva who were not allowed to speak, caused a great disquiet". He said many English Catholics had expressed their worries about the credibility of the Church being affected by such a step.
One campaigner said that the speed with which the canonisation was progressing pointed to Opus Dei fears "that the next Pope would not be as sympathetic to their cause as this one as rumours persist that John Paul II is seriously ill, they rush to achieve their goal."
In Rome, the coordinator of Escriva's canonisation process, Fr Flavio Capucci, dismissed the campaign. saying that "the polemics surrounding this cause have crumbled."