Signs for Harmabee Africa International outside the Basilica of St. Eugene in Rome, where Alvaro del Portillo's relics will be displayed following his Sept. 27 beatification. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

To mark the impending beatification of Alvaro del Portillo, who led Opus Dei from 1975 to 1994, those attending the celebration are being invited to contribute to initiatives aimed at bringing aid and support to the people of Africa. Headed by Harambee Africa International, whose aim is to promote awareness-raising activities throughout Africa, the goal is to raise funds for four separate projects, each of which owes its existence to the impetus of the soon-to-be Blessed. Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. He was appointed head of Opus Dei on the death of its founder, St. Josemaria Escrivá. When the group was made a personal prelature in 1982, he was made its first prelate, and he was consecrated bishop in 1991. Over the years he spent as head of Opus Dei, Bishop del Portillo promoted the start of activities of the prelature in 20 new countries, on every continent. As prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop del Portillo also inspired the start of many social and educational initiatives, including the Monkole Hospital in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo); the Niger Foundation Hospital in Enugu (Nigeria); and the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise in Cebú (Philippines). In an interview with CNA, Rossella Miranda, who works with Harambee Africa International, described a 1989 visit of the bishop to such places as Ivory Coast and Nigeria as “his great gift, his great legacy.” During these visits, she said, Bishop del Portillo never offered his own solutions; rather, “he encouraged the people to grow and to form themselves and professionally” so that they might serve “their own families, their own societies, and their own countries.” The initiatives to which those attending the beatification will be asked to contribute include a mother and child care wing at the Niger Hospital and Diagnostic Centre, which will directly benefit the 200,000 inhabitants of Ezeagu, a rural area where the hospital is located. The faithful are also invited to contribute to the Social and Cultural Development to eradicate malnutrition in the Bingerville area of Ivory Coast. A third initiative is the strengthening of three health clinics in the outskirts of Kinshasa, offering aid to the 10 million mostly impoverished inhabitants. Finally, patrons are invited to support a scholarship program which would allow African priests to study in Rome, “giving them the possibility to come … to study and become formed at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, close to the Holy Father.” Born of St. Josemaría's desire to begin a center of higher education for ecclesiastical studies at the service of the universal Church, Bishop del Portillo brought this desire to fruition in 1984 by establishing the Rome Academic Center, which would later be given the title of Pontifical University. As the Harambee members await the pilgrims who will attend the beatification, Miranda noted their “joy and desire to also thank those contributing, through these projects, to the aid of persons and families who live in great difficulty.” “It is for this reason that I chose to support these four initiatives,” she said, “encouraged by Don Alvaro in his journey to Africa, just to support people in difficulty.”