One Hundred Million Dollars In Dispute After The Death Of The Most Important Woman In Opus Dei In Latin America

One hundred million dollars in dispute after the death of the most important woman in Opus Dei in Latin America

“Elina died. The goose that laid the golden eggs of Opus Dei died ”. That message circulated among former members of Opus during the morning of Sunday, November 14, while in Argentina they only talked about elections. After the news, the conversation grew throughout the day also in Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia. At the age of 80, Elina Gianoli Gainza, the most important woman in Opus Dei in South America and part of one of the families that contributed the most fortune to the ultraconservative Catholic institution, had died at the Austral Hospital in the city of Pilar. Around noon another question appeared in those circles: “And now what will happen to the inheritances?”

Gianoli Gainza had entered Montevideo as a numerary when she was just a teenager, at the beginning of the 1950s. Once she grew up she moved to Argentina and since then she has lived under commitments – equivalent to the vows of the religious – of chastity, obedience and poverty. . The poverty that Opus Dei asks of its permanent members implies a surrender of all their possessions and the signing of a will in favor of the institution. It is not an obligation, but an invitation that the majority of the members fulfill. And Elina complied: her inheritance in goods and companies will swell the coffers of Opus. How much the fortune amounts to is a mystery: it is at least 100 million dollars, but those who know the family’s businesses closely say that that number could be multiplied several times.


There is another testament of a Gianoli Gainza that Opus Dei awaits, but that it will not be able to execute for now: it is that of one of Elina’s sisters, María Luisa. The 86-year-old woman, widowed and without children, has been admitted to a psychiatric clinic in Montevideo for years and previously lived for decades between temporary hospitalizations. The will was signed on November 15, 2000 and today there are two court cases in Montevideo, one civil and one criminal. According to the complaint for “incapacitated patrimonial abuse” that eleven nephews of the two women did in 2016, Elina manipulated her sister to make her sign this will for the Cultural and Technical Association of Montevideo, one of the civil associations that has the Opus in there. As in the 68 countries in which it is present, it works through a network of these types of organizations that manage their institutions and their assets.

Although the declared is about 20 million dollars, with what has been found so far from the cause it is estimated that it could reach about 100 million dollars – that is why it is believed that Elina, who continued in the family businesses , I would have much more. The case involves lawyers, notaries and psychiatrists of Opus Dei in Uruguay. At the beginning of 2020, the justice of that country requested the extradition of Gianoli Gainza. Due to the pandemic and his fragile state of health, he could not materialize. Before, she had been dismissed as her sister’s curator: she had been since 2009, despite the incompatibility due to being partners in companies. The criminal complaint – today in the Criminal Law Court of the 22nd shift of Montevideo – indicates that “prohibited donations of the incapacitated assets were made,” that Elina as curator did not carry out a complete and estimated inventory of her assets. sister in a trustworthy and legal way and, among other facts, that she never rendered an account in due form.

Before going to court and afterwards, several of her nephews tried to approach Elina to be able to talk about her actions. “We understand that all this, including the appropriation of the inheritance that corresponds to us and we do not receive, is the responsibility of Opus Dei. We had a good relationship with her but in recent years they cut off our bond and prevented us from visiting her and even talking to her. They put together an insurmountable armor, “says Tomás Gatica Gianoli, one of the eleven nephews who denounced her after trying to reach an agreement. He and two of his brothers attended the funeral at Pilar’s Jardin de Paz private cemetery on Monday. Despite the fact that the woman had many acquaintances, neither the authorities of the house in which she spent her last years nor the national authorities wanted to hold a wake. Elina lived in an Opus women’s house in the City of Buenos Aires, on Austria Street, in the Recoleta neighborhood. And he only received the calls that were passed to him.

Created in Spain by the priest and today a saint of the Catholic Church Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Opus Dei functioned during its first years in secret because it did not have the endorsement of the Catholic Church. The access to power during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco helped him to get the first support of the Spanish Church in 1941 and from there they penetrated the Vatican, which in 1950 legitimized them. With these permits, they began world expansion and that same year they landed in the Southern Cone. Upon arriving in Chile, they very soon identified the Uruguayan Elina Gainza de Gianoli, a mother of five children, very Catholic and, above all, the widow of one of the richest businessmen in the country, with investments in mining and metallurgy. In a few years they got their first donations and included numeraries in the directories of family businesses. The first Opus Dei women’s house in Santiago was donated by her and the aula Magna of the Universidad de los Andes, an initiative of the institution, bears her name in gratitude for the donations that allowed it to be built.

María Elina returned to her native Montevideo a few years later and there she also helped found the female branch of Opus. Of his five children, three became members. As supernumeraries, they raised a family and educated their children in the teachings of Escrivá in Uruguay and Argentina. Of the other two, one was María Luisa, who married, but always dealt with her psychiatric disorders and had no children. The other was Elina, the only one who devoted herself to the life of numerary in Argentina. Thirty years of her life were spent in a women’s house – centers where the numerary members live, separated by gender – in Rosario called Nabla. From there, where he was the highest authority, he also wielded greater power. Until the end of the 90s, she did not get too involved in family finances, but suddenly she decided to get involved and, according to those who shared intramural life with her, the time of resource transfer began. From that time are also the 14 donations for several million dollars that the Uruguayan Justice detected that María Luisa made: eight signed while she was in psychiatric hospitalizations. Some were for private individuals and several for Opus Dei institutions, such as two for $ 200,000 and $ 500,000 to the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, where Elina Gianoli Gainza presented her chair at the Faculty of Communication in 2018. As announced at the time, the chair aims to support the Family & Media Project, the think tank Opus Dei International which analyzes the relationship between family, media and society.

A few years ago Elina was the second largest benefactor in the history of the Universidad de Los Andes, in Chile. According research published in 2019 by Pattern, contributed more than 9 million dollars to that house of studies. Elina is listed as part of a company in Panama from the 80s until 2019 together with the Spanish numerary José Enrique Diez, the first “agent” of Opus Dei in Chile and incorporated into the directories of the Gianoli companies. She is also president of the G&D Foundation in Switzerland where Diez stayed until he passed away. The nephews also point to the numeraries José Domingo Arnaiz and Gonzalo Ibáñez Langlois as part of this intrusion of Opus Dei into family finances and ask the institution for explanations.

At the end of 2019 they got an audience with a high-ranking authority from Opus in Buenos Aires, but he told them that there was nothing he could do to bring them closer to their aunt. “Opus Dei is not responsible for what its members do,” he told them. And he promised to pray for them: “That is all I can do for you.”

Inside the institution, Gianoli Gainza was a figure of power. “It was enough for them to say ‘Elina’ for us to know that what she said was unquestionable,” recalls a former number who lived in Buenos Aires and Rosario. “She was like ‘the father’ -Escrivá de Balaguer- in Rosario. And when there was a numerary in crisis because they wanted to leave, they would send her to talk to her. It was very good with several, because it gave them a freedom to decide that Opus does not give you. It was very important for her that they were happy, “recalls another ex-numerary. Almost all agree that she was happy and that she was convinced of her vocation.

“She was a very nice and educated woman, who always smiled and who seemed to live her task with conviction.” Also one of the exnumerary assistants – the domestic service of Opus Dei- remembers her fondly: “I met her in Rosario. Elina was a human and loving person. She was very attentive to our needs and watched over our rest. I remember one day who took us all for a walk to the river and told the director of the residence for male numeraries where we worked to take care of the food. That was not done by any director there. ”The one who speaks is Claudia Carrero, who is one of the 42 women who reported Opus Dei to the Vatican for labor exploitation. It is the first class action lawsuit to be formalized in Rome in the history of the institution and elDiarioAR published the exclusive in early October. It was later picked up by the Associated Press agency and reproduced on the Washington Post.

A phrase is repeated among them when they remember Gianoli Gainza: “She was not a bad person, but the monster devoured her and she did everything that had to be done. Everything that the Work asked of her.”

With Elina’s succession underway, there are some obstacles that Opus Dei will have to overcome to execute her will: accounting liabilities -among them part of a loan that María Luisa gave her for six million dollars and a guarantee that He never paid – and so did the legal debts. “She died being required by the justice to which she did not respond,” say those close to the cause in Uruguay. In addition, the nephews will be able to follow their claim for the patrimonial abuse of María Luisa: they want to show that Elina delayed the declaration of her sister’s incapacity to have her assets tested against Opus Dei.



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