World

Tens of thousands gather in Spain for beatification of early leader of Opus Dei

  • Nuns pray while waiting for the start of a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. More than 100,000 Catholics from around the world are expected to attend the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva. (AP Photo/Paul White)

    Nuns pray while waiting for the start of a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. More than 100,000 Catholics from around the world are expected to attend the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva. (AP Photo/Paul White)  (The Associated Press)

  • People kneel at confessional boxes before the start of a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014.  More than 100,000 Catholics from around the world are expected to attend the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva. (AP Photo/Paul White)

    People kneel at confessional boxes before the start of a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. More than 100,000 Catholics from around the world are expected to attend the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva. (AP Photo/Paul White)  (The Associated Press)

  • A stream of people arrive for a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014.  More than 100,000 Catholics from around the world are expected to attend the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva. (AP Photo/Paul White)

    A stream of people arrive for a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. More than 100,000 Catholics from around the world are expected to attend the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva. (AP Photo/Paul White)  (The Associated Press)

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in Madrid for the beatification of an early leader of the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei.

At a large outdoor mass Cardinal Angelo Amato began the process that will turn Alvaro del Portillo into a saint. Del Portillo succeeded Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as leader of the organization.

Opus, once considered a secretive, right-wing, cult-like group that curried high favor within the church, has been trying to foster a friendlier image in recent years.

The turning point came with Dan Brown's best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code" and subsequent 2006 movie. The plot portrayed Opus Dei as a murderous, power-hungry sect at the center of a complex conspiracy.