In this context what is the role which Opus Dei has fulfilled, and is at present fulfilling?
It is not for me to evaluate the work which, through the grace of God, Opus Dei has done. All I will say is that the purpose of Opus Dei is to foster the search for holiness and the carrying out of the apostolate by Christians who live in the world, whatever their state in life or position in society.
The Work was born to help those Christians, who through their family, their friendships, their ordinary work, their aspirations, form part of the very texture of civil society, to understand that their life, just as it is, can be an opportunity for meeting Christ: that it is a way of holiness and apostolate. Christ is present in any honest human activity. The life of an ordinary Christian, which to some people may seem banal and petty, can and should be a holy and sanctifying life.
In other words: if you want to follow Christ, to serve the Church and help other men to recognise their eternal destiny, there is no need to leave the world or keep it at arm's length. You don't even need to take up an ecclesiastical activity. The only condition which is both necessary and sufficient is to fulfil the mission which God has given you, in the place and in the environment indicated by his Providence.
Since God wants the majority of Christians to remain in secular activities and to sanctify the world from within, the purpose of Opus Dei is to help them discover their divine mission, showing them that their human vocation — their professional, family and social vocation — is not opposed to their supernatural vocation. On the contrary, it is an integral part of it.
The one and only mission of Opus Dei is the spreading of this message, which comes from the Gospel, among all those who live and work in the world, whatever be their background, profession or trade. And to those who grasp this ideal of holiness, the Work offers the spiritual assistance and the doctrinal, ascetical and apostolic training which they need to put it into practice.
Members of Opus Dei do not act as a group. They act individually, with personal freedom and responsibility. Thus Opus Dei is not a 'closed organisation' or one which in some way gathers its members to isolate them from the rest of men. The 'corporate activities' which are the only ones the Work undertakes and for which it takes responsibility, are open to everyone with no type of social, cultural or religious discrimination. And the members, just because it is in the world that they seek sanctity, always work with the people with whom they are connected through their job or their participation in civic life.