Legionaries of Christ

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A clerical congregation established in Mexico City in 1941 by Marcial Maciel, a priest from Cotija, Michoacán. During the religious persecution in Mexico in 1936, Maciel, then a 16-year-old seminarian, felt called to start a religious congregation of priests. On Jan. 3, 1941, under the auspices of Francisco Gonzáles Arias, bishop of Cuernavaca, he founded the Legion of Christ and opened the Sacred Heart Apostolic School with a group of 13 boys.

In 1946 Maciel opened a second Apostolic School and the first novitiate in Comillas, Santander, Spain. On May 25, 1948, the Holy See granted the legion the nihil obstat necessary for the canonical establishment of a diocesan congregation. The Holy See elevated it to pontifical status with the Decree of Praise (Decretum laudis ) on Feb. 6, 1965 and gave definitive approval of its constitutions on June 29, 1983.

Regnum Christi. Meanwhile, in 1949 Father Maciel founded Regnum Christi, an apostolic movement dedicated to the service of humanity and the world. It includes laity, men and women, deacons and priests. The association reminds its members of their responsibility, rooted in baptism, to make faith the driving force in their daily lives and to undertake organized apostolic activity. The Regnum Christi Movement is inspired by the charism of its founder and is closely allied with the Legionaries of Christ.

In 1950 the Legion of Christ moved its general headquarters to Rome and established a Center for Higher Studies. In 1958 the Legionaries, with the support of Mexican Catholics, built the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe adjacent to the Generalate. The legion has centers of formation in Mexico, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the United States. Its U.S. headquarters are in Cheshire, Conn.

Bibliography: j. garcia, "Legionari di Cristo" and "Marcial Maciel," Dizionario degli Isituti di Perfezione, 5 v. (Rome 1978). m. maciel, Integral Formation of Catholic Priests (Hamden, Conn. 1998).

[j. garcia]

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Legionaries of Christ

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