VATICAN CITY — A New Jersey priest has been named the U.S. leader of Opus Dei, one of the Roman Catholic Church's most controversial and fastest-growing movements.
The Rev. Thomas G. Bohlin was appointed vicar for the United States by Bishop Javier Echevarria, prelate of the Rome-based movement. Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer to encourage Catholic laity to bring holiness to daily life.
Pope John Paul II elevated Escriva to sainthood Oct. 6, 27 years after his death. As a "personal prelature," Opus Dei operates around the world and reports directly to the pope.
Bohlin, a New Jersey native, has worked for five years at Opus Dei headquarters in Rome. He succeeds the Rev. Arne Panula, who is now regional spiritual director for the United States.
Critics of the group call it "a church within a church" and accuse it of secrecy and elitism.
Opus Dei claims 3,000 members in the United States and 1,788 priests and 82,715 lay members around the world.