Lack of balance among Lay Apostolate Commission periti

On 26 December 1962, French priest, Jean Rodhain, wrote to Cardinal Liénart seeking intervention by the French bishops over what he regarded as a lack of balance among the periti.

“I consider it as the most elementary loyalty to share my concern and to admit how much the designation as an expert in the Commission of a French priest resident in France and specialising in Catholic Action appears desirable to me,” he wrote.

Although, according to Rodhain, the experts only had a “very accessory role,” the lay leaders of Catholic Action might also “like me, end up astonished and worried,” he warned.

In striking contrast with Suenens failure to react to Cardijn’s non-appointment, Liénart responded swiftly, immediately intervening to obtain the appointment in January 1963 of Msgr Jean Streiff, secretary of the French bishops’ commission on lay apostolate.


Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Archives Jean Streiff St 11, 465 (Institut catholique de Paris)

The Council can change the face of the Earth

Responding to French Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse on 20 December 1962, Cardijn thanks him for his support and encouragement.

Brussels, 20 December, 1962

His Excellency Archbishop Garrone,

Most Reverend Archbishop of and in



Your Excellency,

Thank you for your kind reply! I was unable to follow it up immediately as I would have liked, due to the abundance of mail and visits!

The planned book should have been published before the first session of the Council, but this was not possible. It will certainly be published before the second session… I hope then to be able to send it to a large number of Council Fathers.

You know that, perhaps better than anyone else, I attach great importance to the Council, especially from the point of view of the lay apostolate. The Council can change the face of the earth, if the clergy are unanimous and the laity are encouraged!

I very much regret not having been able to meet Your Excellency in Rome. I hope I’ll be happier next time.

In the meantime, I send You my most fervent wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Holy New Year! What a decisive year it will be for the Church and the world! And I thank You again for your affectionate greetings.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurance of my respectful and faithful attachment.

Jos. Cardijn,

General Chaplain of the YCW.


Archives Cardijn 1777

Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 8, Suenens vs Cardijn, Lay people in the frontlines (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Overwhelmed with work

On 18 December 1962, Marguerite Fiévez responded to Jean-Pierre Delarge explaining the delay in moving forward with the publication of Cardijn’s book.

As usual, they were all overwhelmed with work.

Secondly, there had been discussion over the involvement of the jocist publishing house, Editions Ouvrières.

In the end, it was proposed that Editions Universitaires would publish in France while Editions Ouvrières would publish in Belgium.


Archives Cardijn 1778

Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 8, Suenens vs Cardijn, Lay people in the frontlines (Australian Cardijn Institute)

1962 12 18 – Fiévez – Delarge

The Coordinating Commission

At the end of the First Session of the Council, Pope John XXIII appointed a Coordinating Commission whose role was to coordinate the work of the various conciliar commissions.

Members of the Commission

Cardinal Amleto Cicognani, Secretary of State

Cardinal Achille Liénart, Lille, France

Cardinal Francis Spellman, New York, USA

Cardinal Giovanni Urbani, Venice, Italy

Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, Secretary of the Congregation for Semaries and for the Sacred Consistorial Congregation

Cardinal Julius Döpfner, Munich and Friesing, West Germany

Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens, Malines-Brussels, Belgium.


Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Camara slams First Session failures

As the Council closed on 8 December, 1962, Helder Camara was delegated to celebrate Sunday Mass for the journalists covering the Council, who had not been permitted to enter the Council hall.

Frustrated at the limitations of the First Session, Camara lashed the meagre results of the First Session in a draft sermon, translated into six languages, as journalist Robert Kaiser later reported.

The Council had “unforgivably” failed “to tackle the great world issues of the day and could hardly be proud of its balance sheet,” Camara lamented.

Although he toned down his remarks at the request of Felici, who ordered all copies of the original text and translations to be destroyed, Camara’s remarks were widely published in the US.


Robert Kaiser, Pope, Council and world (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 204.

Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Camara appeals to Suenens

Given that Cardijn had not been appointed to the Lay Apostolate Commission, Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara took it upon himself to approach Cardinal Suenens for assistance.

On 7 December, the day before the First Session closed, he wrote to him, noting that a public celebration celebrating Cardijn’s 80th birthday, which had already taken place in November, was drawing near:

Taking advantage of Msgr Cardijn’s (80th birthday) jubilee, please offer the JOC Internationale a broad gesture of understanding and paternity (a letter, a visit, invitation for a dinner). This would crown a task that I have had the joy of sharing, and which has met with resounding success.


Archives Suenens, 589.

Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)

1962 12 07 Camara – Suenens

Church, know thyself

On 4 December, a day full of significant interventions, yet another Jocist bishop, Gerard Huyghe of Arras, called for the Church to apply the Socratic maxim ‘know thyself’. ‘It happens that the Church, far from leading souls to Christ, turns them away from him,’ Huyghe warned.

‘The world expects that the Church will question itself’ and ‘discover its true face,’ he continued, adding that the documents to be drafted would ‘commit the Church for centuries.’


Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)

20% royalties offered

On 3 December 1962, Jean-Pierre Delarge wrote to Marguerite Fiévez expressing his keen desire to publish Cardijn’s manuscript, which he had just read in one sitting, he said.

He proposes that Editions Universitaires will co-publish with the JOC in Belgium and offers 20% royalties plus an advance of 50,000 Belgian Francs.


Archives Cardijn 1778

I owe everything to the JOC: Garrone

On 2 December 1962, Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse, member of the Lay Apostolate Commission, responded to Cardijn praising his book manuscript.

“‘I owe everything to the JOC,” Garrone wrote, “through which the Church has re-presented its eternal message to us in the language of reality.”

He even suggested a subtitle for Cardijn’s book: “The secret of your life.”


Archives Cardijn 1777

Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 8, Suenens vs Cardijn, Lay people in the frontlines (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Belgian bishops pay homage to Cardijn

Bishop Honoré Van Waeyenbergh represented the Belgian bishops at the rally celebrating Cardijn’s 80th birthday.

He read the following message of the Belgian bishops.

The Belgian Bishops1

It is from distant Rome, from the city of the popes, that the Belgian episcopate sends you, through the voice of its representative, its congratulations on the occasion of your jubilee.

At a time when your collaborators, your friends, as well as countless former Jocists and current Jocists are celebrating you, the bishops had hoped to be able to be present and speak themselves as Pastors ofthe church to pay homage to the father and animator of the Christian Worker Youth.

They would have liked to surround you at the altar of the Lord, and thank God — to whom all honour and glory belongs — for your fruitful priestly career and for your fifty years devoted to the service of the Church’s apostolate.

Providence has arranged otherwise. Detained in Rome by the activities of the Second Vatican Council, but united with you in mind and heart, the Bishops send you, from the Eternal City, their warm congratulations as well as the testimony of their deep gratitude.

In Rome, Monsignor, they feel united to you in a very special way.

Here, several glorious popes have followed with great esteem and supported your life’s work with their paternal encouragement, while honoring you with their trust.

On several occasions, Rome, the heart of the Catholic Church, was the moving witness of your splendid Jocist pilgrimages and of the attachment of a new working youth.

Gathered in Rome around the supreme Pastor, the episcopate of the whole world rethinks the task and the mission of the Church in the world today.

Of these 2,500 bishops, how many have you encountered during your travels around the world!

How many of them have been won over to your ideal by the attractiveness of your personality and the conviction of your words. How have they not become your friends!

How many also accompanied their Jocists during the gathering, in St. Peter’s Square, of young workers from 91 countries of the world when they brought to the Holy Father the enthusiastic testimony of their filial fidelity and their fervent apostolic spirit.

They appeared in Rome as the announcement of a new springtime in the Church, as missionaries of the new times spread throughout all countries, as the seed of a new and more beautiful world, as the rich promise of a working class conscious of its human and Christian dignity.

Fifty years have passed since the time when young and ardent curate, you arrived at the parish of Notre-Dame de Laeken. There, in the humble parish ministry, in daily contact with young people, the immense distress of this young worker entering the workplace was revealed to you.

If your heart was painfully wounded by it, the acute perception of this total abandonment, joined to a deep knowledge of the vital resources of this same youth, made mature in you this double conviction: the working youth would find its liberation on the one hand in its own resources, on the other hand in the resources of grace that Christ entrusted to his Church.

Everywhere, in the world, in front of the most varied audiences, by your vibrant words, you have proclaimed it: working-class youth needsthe church, asthe church needs working youth.

You have put your gifts, so rich in intelligence and heart, at the service of this cause. Thus, over the years, you have developed new methods of formation for the apostolate which transform young workers into lay apostles in the heart of the working masses.

The Church, dear Monsignor, is infinitely grateful to you for having had faith, without any wavering, in the possibilities of working-class youth. She is grateful to you for having, for fifty years, tirelessly revealed to them the dignity of their person, the nobility of their heart, the value of their work, their deep desire for a more beautiful and better life; in a word, to have initiated them into their vocation as young Christian workers and to have shown them the immense possibilities of their apostolate.

On the evening of such a full and fruitful life, in the face of such human slowness and the inevitable partial failures, you can say like Saint Paul: Fidem servavi. Yes, despite the trials, I have kept my faith intact in this merciful love, which the Eternal Father has revealed to us in his Son Jesus Christ and which through the Church is addressed as good news to the poor, the humble and to the most neglected of men.

During a press conference, a few days ago, you would have declared with the vitality that characterises you: “I am eighty years old, but my heart is only twenty”.

Monsignor, by your life completely given to the apostolate of the Church, you participate in the youth which is the privilege of our Mother to all. In her, the Lord is always present to enliven her with his Spirit. She too, at the Council, rediscovers her youth and the ardent heart of the first Pentecost.

May the Lord, by his spirit of love, make rise and ripen in hearts what you have so generously sown there. May, everywhere in the world, as the Osservatore Romano said, shine this light of hope which constitutes for the Church, the presence of young Christian workers.

Ad multos annos, Monsignor, may God keep you. As for your work, it is not finished. On a global scale, it has only just begun.

Léon-Joseph Cardinal SUENENS, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels

André-Marie CHARUE, Bishop from Namur

Charles-Justin CALLEWAERT, Bishop of Ghent

Charles-Marie HIMMER, Bishop from Tournai

Emile-Joseph DE SMEDT, Bishop de Bruges

Guillaume-Marie VAN ZUYLEN, Bishop from Liege

Jules-Victor DAEM, Bishop from Antwerp

Rome, 1 December, 1962.


L’épiscopat belge, p. 17-20, in Collective, Un message libérateur, Hommage à Cardijn, Editions Ouvrières, Brussels, 1962, 251p.

1This letter was read by Monsignor Van Waeyenbergh, Rector Magnificent of the University of Louvain who represented the Belgian episcopate at the 2 December 1962 rally.


L’épiscopat belge (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Dondeyne: A message of liberation

At the academic session in honour of Cardijn’s 80th birthday, Albert Dondeyne, Louvain professor of philosophy, longstanding colleague of cardijn and peritus at the Council, delivered his own appreciation of Cardijn’s life and work under the title “Un message libérateur” – “A message of liberation.”

Albert Dondeyne

A message of liberation1

What is the mission of the J.O.C. in the Church and in the world today? This is the question we must examine.

The answer is very simple: the task of the J.O.C. in today’s world consists in remaining faithful more than ever to the message of the one who founded it and whom we celebrate today.

Between them, by them and for them.

Historically, the J.O.C. was born shortly after the First World War, from the painful observation that work and the working environment not only distanced thousands of young workers from the Church, but, even more, dehumanized them, degrading their spiritual life and morality instead of flourishing it.

This situation was due to a lack of training and information among young people who entered work too early.

Before Cardijn, many people had made the same observation and sought remedies. But the solutions remained in line with the traditional pastoral care of the time: namely a pastoral centered on works of youth, moreover very deserving such as patronages, sports leagues, religious fraternities whose denominations alone already made it seem that The salvation of young people was expected less from the young people themselves than from one or another patron saint of heaven.

The primary objective of this ministry was to withdraw young people for a few hours a week from their own environment to introduce them body and soul into a spiritual bath.

It is to Cardijn’s immense merit that he understood that these solutions were flawed, centered as they were on the concern to temporarily distance young workers from their own living environment, to immerse them for a few hours in a religious atmosphere, to provide them with a counterpoise against what was in fact their daily life.

Instead of removing young workers from their own environment, Cardijn will send them into this environment as apostles charged with a human and divine mission.

Instead of reducing religious formation to a counterpoise against the harmful influence of the harsh life of work, this life of work itself must be sanctified and considered as the concrete form of a life of authentic faith, that is, that is to say, embodied in concrete realities, in short of a life which would make the difficult synthesis between work and faith.

Thus was born the idea of ​​the worker laity and the lay apostolate.

This idea was more than a nice thought, more than an interesting mind game. She carried within her the strength of a liberating message. A message certainly first addressed to working youth, but which was soon to reach the entire Christian community and become the foundation of its mission in today’s world.

* * *

Now let’s take a closer look at this message. We can distinguish three fundamental ideas.

Religious sense of secular life.

First there is the old biblical idea that comes from the creation story. Genesis (I, 28) says that God made man in his own image and likeness and placed him as master of material nature so that he could transform it by his work and put it at the service of the humanity: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it”. Notice that this word was addressed to humanity at a time when the distinction between Christians and non-Christians did not yet exist.

In the eyes of Cardijn, this means that, in the divine plan of creation, a primitive plan that has never been denounced, each man, whoever he is, rich or poor, young or old, Christian or not, carries within him a divine mission. , that of building through his work and his culture a world which is a dwelling worthy of the humanity which is multiplying there. The profane, earthly life of man, concern for his home, love for his wife and children, his work in the service of the great human community, all of this has the dimension of the sacred, has a religious significance. The whole secular life is a contribution to the development of creation, a collaboration with the creator and joins the views of the creator. Recognizing this—recognizing it before the Creator—is ‘service to God’, ‘religion’, or at least the first step of any genuine religion, the fundamental basis of religious life.

Religion, in fact, is not an artificial superstructure tacked on to the earthly life of the laity from the outside, still less a defense against the dangers of profane life, but the awareness and recognition — before the face of God — of the sacred meaning of secular life itself.

Anyone who has not fully grasped this first fundamental idea and does not keep this first fundamental idea in view will never fully understand Cardijn, nor the true meaning of what he likes | name the “laity”, that is to say the lay apostolate in the fullest sense of the term.

The lay person can certainly serve the Church, promote the apostolate of the Church in many ways, but any apostolate exercised by the “lay person” — however useful and fruitful it may be — is not necessarily the lay apostolate in the highest and most perfect sense of the term, that is to say “a formally lay apostolate of the lay person”, an apostolate which therefore postulates specialization in formation and an appropriate organization.

This first characteristic also allows us to better understand the teaching method of the J.O.C. whose praise is more to be done.

Cardijn repeated more than once that when, as curate at Laeken, he wanted to win over a young worker or a young worker to his ideal, he never began by speaking to them about God, the Church, the confession or the communion ; his attention went first to concrete life: where do you work? what’s going on at your factory? are you treated with respect there? is there any friendship? are you engaged

To reveal the young person to himself, to arouse in him respect for human dignity, to teach him to look, to judge and to act, to help him to discover the beauty of life which quivers in him, the sanctity of love awakening, the human value of work and friendship: this was always for Cardijn the normal path that leads to God and to an authentic Christian faith, embodied in life. Christ, in fact, is not outside the life of man and the human community, but he is present there.

Presence in today’s world.

This leads us to discover the second fundamental idea of ​​Cardijn’s message, which is intimately linked to the previous one.

The redemptive incarnation of the Word of God, his death on the cross and his resurrection, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the foundation ofthe church on the foundation of the apostles, all that which constitutes the Christian economy of salvation has not annulled the primitive plan of creation, such as we have just described it, and has in no way diminished its significance.

On the contrary, redemption restores in Christ the primitive plan of creation, disturbed by sin, and gives him an even more noble destiny, that of sharing in the glory of the risen Christ, the firstborn of the Father, the Alpha and the Omega of all creation.

All that we have said about the primary meaning of human dignity, the sacred meaning of secular life and work, our solidarity with men based on work, all this retains its value in Christianity and is integrated into it. from a higher perspective.

This second theme is also important for a proper understanding of Christian life and the apostolate of the laity. It follows first of all that Christianity does not separate man from his environment.

The idea of ​​”choice” (electio) which we undoubtedly need to define and describe the grace of Christianity in no way justifies the attitude ofl’apartheid’ or ‘ghetto’. Quite the contrary. In biblical theology, the three notions of “choice” (electio), “service” (ministerium) and “mission” (missio) are inseparable.

The choice of “Israel” is not aimed at Israel itself. Rather, he places this people at the service of God’s redemptive plan which from the beginning embraces the whole world. The same applies a fortiori to the choice of the new Israel of God, the Church living community of believers.

The believer is chosen and called by God not only to sanctify his own life, but to make this concrete life an apostolate at the service of the Word of God. Christianity, in fact, is a message from God to the world and Christians are bearers and living witnesses of this message. In a word, the natural solidarity of all men in the unity of the human race is not suppressed by Christianity, but raised in Christ to a more perfect unity: “per Ipsum, cum Ipso et in Ipsum.”

This is why the Christian is, more than anyone else, a man among others, with others, for others. Secular life and its work are an apostolate at the service of the redemptive work of God which is addressed to all men.

Labour: a turning point in history.

We thus arrive at a third idea: it brings together the ideas outlined above and the great event of our time, namely the awareness of the universal solidarity of all men in a world which is unifying thanks to the technical progress.

It cannot be denied that Cardijn possesses a remarkable sensitivity for what is currently happening in the world and furthermore has the courage to take this world seriously.

“The hour of the working class has come”: this affirmation was already from 1925 onwards, the central theme of the national study days of the young Jocist movement.

“Our century: the century of the working class! was not for Cardijn an apocalyptic cry of alarm, nor the expression of a narrow workerism, but an appeal addressed to the whole Church and to all humanity. In what he called the emancipation of the working class, he rightly saw an event of universal significance, affecting all classes, all peoples and all continents. In Cardijn’s eyes, “the hour of the working class” meant a turning point in world history.

In this respect, Cardijn spontaneously brings to mind Karl Marx. Marx was also convinced that the awakening of the working class would open a new phase in human history. Also he considered it as the “universal class” of today, the one which in these moments represents and expresses “universal humanity”, more exactly: an essential and universal trait of humanity, namely work in as a human value.

In other words: the historical event of our time is less the awakening of the working class than the discovery of the very value of work and an extension of the notion of work.

Once “work” was practically synonymous with slavery. It was interpreted and experienced by men as a punishment for sin or as the fate of slaves.

Today, work is considered an essential feature of human nature, as what distinguishes us from things and animals and thus characterizes human dignity. By his “work” which is the fruit of his work, man transforms raw nature into a world of civilization and culture.

Through work, man struggles with matter to subjugate it and mark it with his spirit. Thus, he transforms the material world into a human abode where there is space and freedom for all.

It’s still in and byl“work”, the fruit of work, that the human spirit expresses itself, expresses itself and puts itself at the service of others. Thus, work is not only the living link between spirit and matter, but also between people, between the past, the present and the future of humanity. In short, work makes history possible and is the basis of human solidarity throughout history…

This valorization of work is a long-range event. It must inevitably lead to a gradual restructuring of social relations. When humanity realizes that work represents a universal and essential dimension of human nature itself, it will endeavor to translate this notion into social structures and community forms of life. From there comes this intense current of social justice and international equality which crosses our world. The working class does not want to pass for a second-class class any longer. It struggles for greater equality in life, at the same time as the underdeveloped peoples of Asia and Africa want to put an end to the tutelage of the West. In other words: the “capital and labor” relationship has been thoroughly rethought and revised.

What had always been taken for granted, namely the division of humanity into a wealthy minority and an overwhelming majority of poor people, is suddenly called into question.

Also, the world has reached a turning point in its history. What is called the “worker’s problem” of our time is therefore more than a socio-economic problem. It is a historical event of universal dimensions, which inevitably concerns not only all of humanity but also Christianity and the Church. In this sense, it is no exaggeration to claim that “it is the hour of the working class”.

We must also have this third characteristic of Cardijn’s message always before our eyes if we want to understand his work and appreciate its true value for the Church and the world.

In the spirit of Cardijn, the J.O.C. has always been more than an ordinary youth movement. It meant for him a call for more understanding and openness on the part of the Church to the problems of our time; it was at the same time an effort to ensure the active presence of the Church in today’s world through a lay apostolate embodied in earthly realities.

In short, the J.O.C. was for Cardijn a joyful and liberating message to the whole world. The fact that the J.O.C. gradually blossomed into a J.O.C. should come as no surprise to anyone, it was already contained in its essence and its mission from the start.

* * *

These are the three fundamental ideas of Bishop Cardijn’s message. They form a coherent and indivisible whole.

As we said at the beginning, remaining faithful to this triple message is the great mission of the J.O.C. in the world and the Church today.


Albert Dondeyne, Un message libérateur, p. 191-198, in Collective, Un message libérateur, Hommage à Cardijn, Editions Ouvrières, Brussels, 1962, 251p.

1Professor at the University of Louvain, Canon Dondeyne has always brought to those in charge of the J.O.C. the benevolent help of his doctrinal reflection.


Albert Dondeyne, Un message libérateur (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Albert Dondeyne giving a speech, July 1955. [KADOC-KU Leuven: KFB859] (Dries Bosschaert, A Brave New World, Albert Dondeyne’s Christian Humanism in
the University and Society, Trajecta 24-2015 | 309-331