The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, commonly known as Opus Dei (Latin for "The Work of God") or the Work, is an international prelature of the Roman Catholic Church, comprising ordinary lay people and secular priests headed by a prelate, whose mission contributes to spreading the Catholic teaching that everyone is called to become a saint and an apostle of Jesus Christ, and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity. Founded in 1928 by a Roman Catholic priest, St. Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei was established as a personal prelature by Pope John Paul II in 1982 through the Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit, making it an integral part of the Church's institutional structures.
Opus Dei's central headquarters is on Viale Bruno Buozzi 75, Rome. The Vatican Yearbook of 2004 states that it has around 85,000 members, about 1,900 of whom are priests. Members are distributed as follows: Africa 1600; Asia and the Pacific 4700; North and South America 29,000; Europe 48,700. In terms of educational level, income and social status, Messori reports that there is a predominance of middle-to-low levels among the members of Opus Dei, its social composition usually corresponding with the local situation, since all honest trades can be sanctified. He also says there are more teachers and professors among its ranks than the normal social composition because of Opus Dei's emphasis on the cultural apostolate.
Meanwhile, critics accuse Opus Dei of elitism. "Opus Dei has consistently sided with the powerful against the weak, theologically and politically," says Johann Hari. "Opus Dei has been a major force on the Catholic right opposing social change." Robert Hutchinson (1999) stated that it has become very powerful and is "the Catholic Church's paramount financial power."
As a result of his research, Allen says on the other hand that while the main apostolate and social work of the members takes place through their daily relationships, they also cooperate with other people in setting up many social initiatives. According to his 2005 study, there are at least 608 such projects in different countries guided by Opus Dei laity and priests: 41% of these are primary and secondary schools, 26% vocational-technical or agricultural training schools, 27% university residences, and the remaining 6% are 17 universities, 12 business schools and 8 hospitals.
He also reports that the worldwide revenue of Opus Dei is only that of a mid-sized American diocese. He says Opus Dei has only 39 bishops out of the 4,564 in the world. And there are only 20 members working in the Vatican, out of 3920 people in total who work there. John Cardinal O'Connor said: "I believe it critical to dispel the notion which borders on calumny that Opus Dei is concerned only about the wealthy and the well educated." Scott Appleby, a Catholic history expert at Notre Dame, estimates that through programs for nonmembers and the articulate piety of its members, Opus Dei informs "about a million conservative Catholics" in the U.S.
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