Opus Sanctorum Angelorum

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Opus Sanctorum Angelorum (English: "Work of the Holy Angels"), more commonly known as Opus Angelorum (English: "Work of the Angels"; German: "Engelwerk"), is a Roman Catholic association which promotes devotion to angels. "(It) 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."[1]

The association is active particularly in Austria, where it originated, and in Germany, but also in Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, India, the Philippines, Italy and the United States.[2]

It includes lay members, religious sisters and priests.

Origin[edit]

The association was founded in 1949 by a group of priests and seminarians in Innsbruck, Austria, to seek the aid of the angels in support of the Church and the priesthood and for the salvation of souls.[3]

The association drew inspiration from the accounts that Gabriele Bitterlich (1896-1978) gave of her private revelations. She claimed to have received visions of the angels, including their names and their functions.

Controversy[edit]

Some of Mrs Bitterlich's followers were circulating sensational theories of "spiritual warfare" between angels and demons, based on her writings.[4] In view of the controversy over these theories, Cardinal Joseph Höffner, Archbishop of Cologne, wrote on 1 December 1977, shortly before the death of Mrs Bitterlich, to ask the Holy See to institute an enquiry.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith carried out the requested investigation and responded on 24 September 1983 with a letter, known by its incipit, Litteris diei, which laid down:

  1. In fostering devotion to the Holy Angels, Opus Angelorum must respect the teaching of the Church and of the Holy Fathers and Doctors. In particular, it is not to spread a form of devotion to the Angels using the "names" derived from the alleged private revelation attributed to Mrs Gabriele Bitterlich, nor may it use those names in any prayers of the community.
  2. Opus Angelorum is not to demand or even propose to its members what is called the Promise of Secrecy, although with regard to the internal affairs of the Opus Angelorum, it is lawful to maintain the discretion that befits members of the Church's institutes.
  3. The Opus Angelorum and its members will strictly observe the norms of the liturgy, especially regarding the Eucharist. This holds in particular for the so-called "Communion of expiation.

This was followed up by a decree of 6 June 1992, which repeated the contents of the 1983 letter and, in view of incorrect interpretation and application of that letter, laid down the following rules:

  1. The theories originating from the alleged revelations of Mrs Gabriele Bitterlich concerning the world of the angels and their personal names, groupings and functions cannot be taught or in any way, whether explicitly or implicitly, be used in the organization and structure of the Opus Angelorum, such as its worship, prayers, spiritual formation, public or private spirituality, ministry and apostolate. The same rule holds for any other Church-approved institute or association.
  2. The various forms of acts of consecration to the angels used in the Opus Angelorum are prohibited
  3. Also prohibited are the so-called distance administration of the sacraments and the insertion into the Eucharistic liturgy and the Liturgy of the Hours of texts, prayers and rites directly or indirectly related to the aforesaid theories.
  4. Exorcisms may be carried out only in line with the Church's norms and discipline on the matter, and with the use of formulas approved by the Church.
  5. A Delegate with special faculties, appointed by the Holy See, will in contact with the bishops oversee and promote the application of these norms. He will also clarify and determine the relations between the Opus Angelorum and the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross.[5]

The Delegate chosen was the Dominican priest, Father Benoit Duroux, who handed over to another Dominican priest, Father Daniel Ols, in March 2010.[1][4]

Approval[edit]

On 31 May 2000, a revised form of the Act of Consecration to the Angels was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[6][7]

In the year 2002, a female branch of the Canons Regular, which is known as the Sisters of the Holy Cross, was established in Innsbruck.[7]

In the following year, 2003, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life granted definitive approval to the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra, a religious institute originally founded in 1131 and, after becoming defunct in the 19th century, refounded in 1977, receiving the formal approval of the Holy See in 1979.[8] To it, in accordance with canons 677 §2 and 303 of the Code of Canon Law, the care of Opus Angelorum movement is committed.[7]

On 7 November 2008, the same Congregation approved the statutes of the Opus Angelorum as a public association of the faithful.[7]

On 4 November 2010, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared: "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. 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."[1]

Misinterpretations[edit]

Some news sources presented the Holy See's statement of approval of the association as instead a warning to beware of it. An example was the BBC's news item "Vatican warns of 'wayward' Opus Angelorum sect". The warning issued was not against the association but against some ex-members, who had either been expelled or who had left of their own accord, and who were endeavouring to form a rival movement that would reject the norms issued by the Holy See.

References[edit]

External links[edit]