Jose Maria Chema Postigo was a father to 18 children

Jose Maria Chema Postigo, the father of a family reputed to be the largest in Spain, has passed away after a short battle with cancer.

Postigo is survived by 15 of his 18 children and his wife Rosa Pich.

Postigo died of liver cancer on Monday. He had been admitted to hospital after losing more than 11kg (24lb) in a month. A series of tests revealed his condition and doctors gave him four months to live. In fact he only survived two more weeks.

Rosa Pich announced his passing in a Instagram post. Writing in Spanish, she said: “God is our Father. It is very good although sometimes we do not understand. An hour ago Chema has gone to Heaven forever, forever, forever… We do not know well what God has prepared for those who are faithful. I want to thank you again for all your support, prayers and affection. If we have managed to bear this situation peacefully, it is because many people have been praying. We continue to count on your prayers. Thank you!”

Jack Valero, the press officer for Opus Dei in the UK, was among those who paid tribute to Postigo on Twitter.

Valero told the Catholic Herald he had been to visit Postigo in hospital in Barcelona after hearing he was sick. He said the nurses told him that Postigo was the most accompanied patient they had ever cared for because he was always surrounded by visitors.

Valero hailed the pair as a great example of marriage.

He said: “They were also a great example of marriage as a way to holiness, which they often talked about.”

The Postigo-Pich family travelled the world working for the Family Development Foundation, which runs Family Enrichment programmes based on the Harvard Case Study method as applied to family life.

The family were awarded the European Large Family Award in 2015 for their active involvement in the work of the charity Menudos Corazones, which helps children who suffer with heart problems.

Three of the Postigo-Pich children passed away from complications from heart conditions.

The eldest passed away in 2012 aged 22, despite doctors saying that she would not live past 3.

The second and third children died at 18 months and 10 days old.

After the tragedy of losing two children in the space of four months, doctors advised the parents not to have any more. They paid no attention to this advice and went on to have 15 healthy children, who are between the age of seven and 25.

In a 2014 interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Rosa Pich said: “I have a lived faith, thank God, otherwise we would not have been able to bear the death of these two children in four months. People would say to me, ‘But Rosa, don’t you want to throw yourself out of the window?’ Yes, if we had not had this faith I would have committed suicide, but thank God I have it.”

Rosa Pich has previously written a book – “How to be Happy with 1, 2, 3 Children” – about the secret to a successful marriage and how to raise a large family. The book has been translated into several languages including Chinese and is about to appear in English.

In the book she wrote: “The secret for any family, above everything, is that the spouses love each other;. That gives security to the children and saves you many problems.”