Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928 by the Roman Catholic priest Josemaria Escriva. It was approved by the bishop of Madrid in 1941 and by the Holy See in 1947. Since 1982, it has been a personal prelature* of the Church. It is neither a religious order, like the Dominicans, Franciscans & Jesuits, nor a Secular Institute or religious movement, like Cursillo or Charismatic.
Opus Dei is made up of lay people and priests governed by a prelate, who is appointed by the Pope. Presently it has about 87,000 members, both men and women. 98% are lay persons, most of whom are married. 2% are priests. Its members are in more than 80 countries. About 58% reside in Europe, 34% in Americas, 6% in Asia and the Pacific, and 2% in Africa. Joining Opus Dei requires a supernatural vocation. It is a personal call from God to place one’s whole life at His service.
Opus Dei’s main activity is offering its members and other people, the spiritual means they need to live as good Christians in the middle of the world.
Opus Dei has been called “the most controversial force in the Catholic Church.” It is stigmatized by its opponents (some ex-members and their families, liberal Catholics, secularists, and supporters of liberation theology) because they misunderstand Opus Dei’s ideas (such as the practice of mortification, members’ resistance to dilute Church laws, members’ absence of self-publicity) or they cannot tolerate the ‘return of religion’ of the secularized society. Various popes and Catholic leaders have strongly supported Opus Dei’s innovative teachings. In 2002, St. Pope John Paul II canonized St. Josemaria Escriva and called him “the saint of ordinary life.”
As of today, there are 13 Opus Dei members whose process of canonization has been opened. Some of them are: Bishop Alvaro del Portillo (successor of St. Josemaria), Montse Grases (a teenage Catalan student), Ernesto Cofino
(a pediatrician and father of 5 children), Dora del Hoyo (a professional homemaker), Toni Zweifel (a Swiss engineer), and Tomas Alvira and Paquita Dominquez (husband and wife with 9 children).
Yes, Opus Dei is Catholic. It is fully legitimate and fully recognized by the Church led by the Roman Pontiff.
*Personal prelature – the prelate’s jurisdiction is not linked to a geographic area (diocese, country) but covers the persons (members of Opus Dei), wherever they are.
(Reference: http://www.opusdei.ph/en-ph/; http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Opus_Dei; http://www.ewtn.com Fr. John Trigilio explains Opus Dei for CRNET )