Writing in the July-August edition of the IYCW Bulletin, Cardijn paid homage to the recently deceased Pope John XXIII.
Despite not knowing him before he became pope, Cardijn developed a very close relationship with the pope, who had promised to support him even more than Pius XI and Pius XII had done.
Here is his homage to John XXIII.
Bulletin of the International YCW
July – August 1963 No. 90
During the reign of John XXIII: A New Pentecost
In five years John XXIII, the “transition Pope” has renewed the Church and the world! “Et renovabis faciem terrae…”.
He spoke so freely of a new Pentecost!
I will never forget our first meeting.
I was in New Zealand when we learnt on the radio through the Archbishop of Christchurch of the death of Pius XII. After a session of fervent prayer in the chapel, we asked ourselves: “How will we find a worthy successor to such a great and holy Pope?”
I continued on my voyage to Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia and it was at the airport of Formosa (now Taiwan) that people told us: “We have a new Pope: John XXIII!”
– John XXIII, who is he?
– It’s Cardinal Roncalli, the Patriarch of Venice
– Roncalli… never heard of him!
A little later, I went to Rome after also visiting Japan, Korea and finishing my tour of Asian countries. The Pope received me. I wanted to kneel down and ask for his blessing… but he came to me with open arms and embraced me:
– I have known you for such a long time! I have been following you and your work. I will support the YCW as Pius XI and Pius XII, indeed even more than they did!
He stopped and looked at me:
– How old are you?
– Holy Father, I was born in 82.
– And I was born in 81!
– What month?
– November, Holy Father…
– Me too. What day? I was born on the 25, the feast of St Catherine! You see, we are young! We will work together for the salvation of the workers…
And he told me about his life, he spoke about his family, the reforms that he proposed to introduce at the Vatican in relation to the salaries of the guards, employees and families.
I saw him again in 1959:
– Very Holy Father, could I propose to the Pope an idea that has come to me? In two years, in 1961, it will be the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. The times and the problems have completely changed… And I launched into an explanation.
– Send me a written note!
How many times he thanked me for it! He did not merely want a doctrine; he lived it and he wanted the world to live it: the dignity of the most human person, the poorest, of every race and colour; the dignity of the poorest family. And with that, all the consequences and all the applications from the social and human point of view; the relations between communities, based not on force, arms and profit, but on openness, loyalty, and the most absolute solidarity; the price finally, between all and for all, guaranteed by a just authority instituted, recognised and supported by all, and not by an atomic power that would ruin the world.
To achieve this, dialogue is necessary, person to person contact, simple, open, straight, whatever our opinion, ideology or the religion of our interlocutor.
And John XXIII opened the Vatican to all, friends and adversaries. Or rather, he did not have adversaries, only misunderstanding and obscurities. And whatever the cost these needed to disappear. He did not know obstacles, he left the Vatican, visited sick friends, hospitals, handicapped asylums, poor parishes and prisons. He wanted to see, to understand, to be present.
And to achieve this, he decided that all the bishops and their advisers would meet in Rome in an Ecumenical Council where they would discuss problems, seek solutions, not secretly but we could say in the open air in front of representatives of other Churches and confessions as well a the press and international opinion.
That took five years… Five years of youth, will, courage, prayer and work! With no rest. And the world, the whole world was touched, turned upside down, more than by an atomic bomb!
John XXIII died on the second day of Pentecost. “Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and you will renew the face of the earth…”
May the Holy Spirit give to the Church and to the world a new John XXIII!
(Translation Stefan Gigacz, 27 May 2012, Version 1.0)
Joseph Cardijn, During the reign of John XXIII: A New Pentecost (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)