In 1946, St. Josemaria Escriva travelled to Rome to work towards the pontifical approval of Opus Dei. Blessed Álvaro del Portillo had travelled to Rome twice for the same purpose; he had made some headway, but he was also told by a high official in the Curia that Opus Dei had come to Rome a century too soon.
Father Josemaria was suffering from an acute form of diabetes, but he was more concern about the future of Opus Dei. Despite his poor health, Father Josemaria made the long and difficult journey to Rome. He arrived Rome in the evening of June 23, 1946. At the place where Father Josemaria stayed, there was a balcony from which St. Peter’s Basilica and the Papal Palace could be seen. Father Josemaria spent his first night in Rome at the balcony praying for Pope Pius XII.
A few weeks after his arrival to Rome, Father Josemaria was granted an audience with Pius XII. The pope was impressed and confided to Cardinal Gilroy: “He is a true saint, a man sent by God for our times.”
Pius XII gave Opus Dei pontifical approval as secular institute first in 1947 and then more definitively in 1950. In 1947 Father Josemaria was appointed a Domestic Prelate and hence the humble priest reluctantly became a monsignor. Before the final approval in 1950, Msgr. Josemaria made few significant additions to the Constitution of Opus Dei. On February 2, 1948, he presented a request to Pius XII for approval of an additional statute that recognized married or single persons of any background or occupation could be incorporated into Opus Dei.
Msgr. Josemaria felt very strongly that God wanted him not only to bring the spirit of Opus Dei to lay people, but to diocesan priests as well. Eventually he decided that the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross could include diocesan priests as well. A diocesan priest member would remain fully a part of the clergy of his diocese and fully under the jurisdiction of his bishop.
Msgr. Josemaria did something revolutionary at the time by admitting non-Catholics and even non-Christians as cooperators or helpers of Opus Dei. Cooperators collaborate with the faithful of Opus Dei in various educational, charitable and cultural activities. When he met with Pope St. John XXIII, Msgr. Josemaria jokingly said, “I did not learn ecumenism from Your Holiness”. For non-Catholics were already cooperators of Opus Dei prior to the pontificate of John XXIII.
A few weeks after the definitive approval of Opus Dei in 1950, there were new attacks of Opus Dei in Italy. Priests who were opposed to Opus Dei visited the families of Opus Dei members, sowing anxiety, dissension and confusion. Msgr. Josemaria strived to maintain close relations with the families of his spiritual children. He always responded to those who defamed him with charity and would not speak a word recrimination against them. He also responded to the problem with prayers, especially by consecrating the families of the members to the Holy Family. He made the consecration on May 14, 1951.
As there were new plots against Opus Dei, Msgr. Josemaria sought the protection of Our Lady. On August 15, 1951, he consecrated Opus Dei to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the shrine of Loreto. Msgr. Josemaria visited other shrines of Our Lady and renewed the consecration. Under the protection of Our Lady, Msgr. Josemaria and members of Opus Dei fostered different projects in the 1950s in answer to the needs of many countries: universities, training schools, agricultural colleges, hospitals and clinics.
Msgr. Josemaria sent his spiritual children to different parts of the world and Opus Dei was expanding in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1958 Opus Dei’s apostolate began in Japan and Kenya, and in 1963 the apostolate began in Australia.