Roman Catholic lay and clerical organization whose actions and beliefs have been both criticized and praised. Its members seek personal Christian perfection, strive to implement Christian ideals in their chosen occupations, and promote Christian values to society as a whole. Opus Dei, in full Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, was founded in 1928 in Spain by Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albá (canonzied in 2002). It is theologically conservative and accepts the teaching authority of the church without question. It was granted special status as the first and only personal prelature in the church by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and has established numerous vocational schools and universities. It is also highly controversial, accused of secrecy, using cult-like recruiting practices, and having grand political ambitions. There are separate organizations for men and women, which, since 1982, have been headed by a prelate elected by its members. At the beginning of the 20th century priests constituted only a tiny percentage of the organization, numbering roughly 1,600 of the nearly 84,000 members living in 80 countries.
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