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Interview With Marlies Kücking, of the Central Advisory Office

ROME, JUNE 23, 2005 (Zenit) - Marlies Kücking might be the most influential woman of Opus Dei, though she notes that there is no favoritism in the prelature when it comes to its governance.

Kücking is in charge of 45,000 women of all ages and states. She worked with Josemaría Escrivá from 1964 until his death, 30 years ago this month.

In this interview with us, held at Opus Dei's headquarters in Rome, Kücking, a native of Cologne, Germany, describes the functioning of the central administration of this personal prelature.

Q: You are undoubtedly the woman who holds the most important post in the Opus Dei, but you are not well known outside the organization. Is it a strategy, as that of St. Josemaría, to conceal oneself and disappear so as not to create favoritism?

Kücking: Governance in Opus Dei, in all its degrees and, therefore, also in the central advisory office of which I form part, is based on collegiality.

Each of its components is in charge of specific tasks -- that I would not describe as more or less important -- which are carried out in a coordinated way, through serious and responsible study of the issues that, according to their importance, are handled by several individuals, never fewer than three.

This way of proceeding -- I am convinced that it was a special grace from God that St. Josemaría received at the beginning of the Opus Dei -- avoids both the tyranny of a personality-cult government as well as hiding comfortably in anonymity.

Perhaps it is appropriate to recall that when there is talk of posts or governance in the Opus Dei, reference is being made to a task that has an eminently spiritual purpose: to give Christian formation. Opus Dei, the founder said, is "a great catechesis."

The objective is to make it possible for the faithful of the prelature -- the cooperators and the many thousands of people who approach Opus Dei -- to have access to means to live their faith coherently in the world, to facilitate their encounter with Christ in professional, family and social activities.

As you can imagine, this calls for a minimum of coordination and organization. It is here that the task of governance I mentioned comes into play.

Q: How does the governance of the Work function? What is the role of the central directors and, specifically, your role?

Kücking: My task, together with that of other central directresses, consists in informing the prelate about questions relative to the apostolic work of Opus Dei among women worldwide, to present studies of new initiatives, as well as to resolve many issues that arrive from different countries in which the prelature works, and from other places where there are a few faithful of Opus Dei.

Q: You spoke earlier of collegiality in the governance.

Kücking: I would like to add another facet that is closely related to this: decentralization and respect for the freedom and autonomy of Opus Dei at the regional and local level.

Within the same spirit, common to all the faithful of the prelature and valid now and always, it is necessary to keep in mind the diversity of mentalities, a society's degree of development and the prelature's apostolic work.

It is not the same thing to work in places such as Japan or Sweden as it is in Portugal. It is not even the same to work in Catalonia as it is in Andalucia.

Q: Do you feel like the manager of a multinational, the mother of a large family, a bishop's assistant, or a companion or sister of the 45,000 women who belong to the prelature?

Kücking: I have never thought of it, really. Certainly not as a manager. "Opus Dei is a small part of the Church," St. Josemaría used to say. And, fundamental in the Church is charity, concern for one another for love of God.

We love one another very much in the prelature. We share joys and sorrows; we try to be close to people who, because of illness, exhaustion, etc., might need more help.

This obligation -- which I would call joyful -- corresponds logically in the very first place to the prelate and, together with him, to the directors and directresses, wherever they are.

Q: It is 30 years since the death of Opus Dei's founder. You have said, on some occasions, that you were impressed by the "maternal concern" of this saint. What are you referring to?

Kücking: St. Josemaría was father and mother for his daughters and sons, and for all people who approached him.

Like mothers, it was enough for him to look at someone to realize that he looked ill, was not feeling well, had lost weight or was worried. He shared joys and sorrows. He knew how to inquire about things that might enthuse a person; he knew each one's taste.

But his was not a sentimental love. As a good mother, he would also be strong and correct when it was necessary. He did so with clarity and, at the same time, with infinite affection.

I can say -- and not only from my own experience -- that after this sort of conversation one was very grateful. Moreover, not infrequently, hours later or the next day, he would show special affection which made it clear that "nothing had happened."

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