Doctrinal Congregation's Note on Opus Angelorum

Association Is in Good Standing, Be Vigilant With Regard to Ex-Members

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the complete text of the circular letter issued to the local ordinaries of the Church by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the current doctrinal and canonical position of the association known as Opus Angelorum (work of the angels).



The letter, dated Oct. 2 and signed by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the congregation, was published Thursday by L'Osservatore Romano.

Before the letter, ZENIT includes a translation of the explanatory note issued Thursday by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.
 
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[Father Lombardi's explanatory note]

L'Osservatore Romano published today a circular letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated Oct. 2, to update bishops on the present doctrinal and canonical situation of the association called Opus Angelorum, so that they can adjust themselves on this matter.
 
The new circular letter reminds that in 1983 a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that the members of the association Opus Angelorum, in promoting devotion to the angels, should be conformed to the social doctrine of the Church and not spread theories from the alleged private revelations attributed to Mrs. Gabriele Bitterlich, and that they should abide by all the liturgical norms in force, in particular those relating to the Eucharist.

With a decree of 1992, approved by the Holy Father John Paul II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith completed these directives with a few other norms, entrusting their execution to a delegate appointed by the Holy See, also in charge of relations between the Opus Angelorum and the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross. For many years this delegate was Father Benoit Duroux, O.P., and now it is, for the past few months, Father Daniel Ols, O.P.
 
Today it can be considered that the Opus Angelorum lives loyally and serenely in conformity with the doctrine of the Church and of the liturgical and canonical norms and constitutes a "public association of the Church." Also the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross and the Sisters of the Holy Cross -- who have a relation with the Opus Angelorum -- are regularly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities.
 
However, a certain number of members of the Opus Angelorum -- and in particular some priests who have left or been expelled from the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross --- in past years have not accepted the norms given by the authority of the Church, and continue trying to restore a movement that practices what has been prohibited. Because of this, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith exhorts the ordinaries to be vigilant with regard to such initiatives.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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[Circular letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]

Your Eminence/Most Reverend Excellency

More than thirty years ago, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began to examine the theories and practices of the association called Opus Angelorum (Engelwerk). At the present time, the dicastery believes that it would be helpful for the bishops of [episcopal conferences] to be informed regarding the developments which have taken place in these years, so that they may exercise effective oversight in this area.

I. The initial examination was brought to a conclusion with the publication of a letter on 24 September 1982, communicating certain decisions approved by the Holy Father (AAS 76 [1984], 175-176); this letter was followed by a Decree entitled "Litteris diei" of 6 June 1992 (AAS 84 [1992], 805-806).

In essence, these two documents stated that, in promoting devotion to the Holy Angels, the members of the Opus Angelorum were to follow the doctrine of the Church and the teaching of the Church Fathers and Doctors. In particular, the members were not to make use of the "names" of angels derived from the alleged private revelations attributed to Mrs. Gabriele Bitterlich and they were not to teach, spread or make use of the theories originating from these alleged revelations. Furthermore, they were reminded of the duty to follow strictly all liturgical laws, in particular those relating to the Holy Eucharist. The Decree of 1992 entrusted the implementation of these measures to a delegate named by the Holy See and possessing special faculties; he was also given the task of regularising the relationship between the Opus Angelorum and the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross.

In the years that followed, the delegate, Fr. Benoit Duroux O.P., successfully completed the work entrusted to him. Today, thanks to the obedience of its members, the Opus Angelorum can be considered to be living loyally and serenely in conformity with the doctrine of the Church and with canonical and liturgical law. On 13 March 2010, given the advanced age of Fr. Duroux, Fr. Daniel Ols O.P. was named delegate, with the same powers as described in the Decree of 1992.

The process of normalisation can be seen in particular in the following elements. On 31 May 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved the formula of a consecration to the Holy Angels for the Opus Angelorum. Having received the positive opinion of this dicastery, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life approved the "Statutes of the Opus Sanctorum Angelorum", in which, among other things, the relationship between the Opus Angelorum and the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross was defined. According to the Statutes, the Opus Angelorum is a public association of the Catholic Church with juridical personality according to the norm of canon 313 of the CIC; it is joined to the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross according to the norm of canon 677, para. 2 of the CIC and placed under the direction of the Order in conformity with canon 303 of the CIC. The Constitutions of the Sisters of the Holy Cross were approved by the bishop of Innsbruck. Finally, the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, whose central government had been named by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life on 30 October 1993, was able at the beginning of 2009 to elect its own superior general and the members of the general council.

Therefore, in its present state, the Opus Angelorum is a public association of the Church in conformity with traditional doctrine and with the directives of the Holy See. It spreads devotion to the Holy Angels among the faithful, exhorts them to pray for priests, and promotes love for Christ in His Passion and union with it. Therefore, there are no remaining obstacles of a doctrinal and disciplinary kind which would prevent local ordinaries from receiving this movement into their dioceses and promoting its development.

II. At the same time, however, the congregation wishes to draw the attention of ordinaries to the fact that, in the course of these years, a certain number of Opus Angelorum members, including some priests who either left or were expelled from the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, have not accepted the norms given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and seek to restore what, according to them, would be the "authentic Opus Angelorum", that is, a movement which professes and practices all those things which were forbidden by the above-mentioned documents. The congregation has learned that very discrete propaganda in favour of this wayward movement, which is outside of any ecclesiastical control, is taking place, aimed at presenting it as if it were in full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, therefore, asks ordinaries to be vigilant with regard to such activities, disruptive as they are of ecclesial communion, and to forbid them if they are present within their dioceses.
 
Most devoted,
 
Cardinal William Levada
Prefect
 
Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria, S.J.
Secretary