A letter to Cardinal Cento “clarifying ideas”

Cardijn Cento 18 12 1960

Prior to leaving for Africa, Cardijn had also drafted a letter to the president of the Preparatory Commission, Cardinal Cento. This too was sent by Marguerite Fiévez on 18 December along with Note 2 and Note 3 that he had completing writing before his departure.

In the letter he explained that he was leaving to attend a JOC training session in Lomé, Togo, after which he would continue his punishing travel schedule to other countries.

“After the meeting, I will continue to Dahomey, Cameroon, Brazzaville, Leopoldville, Rwanda and Urundi, thus completing the African tour that I had to interrupt in July following the painful events in Congo,” Cardijn wrote.

“I am sending your Eminence two notes which attempt to clarify the one I sent to Him on October 31,” he added.

“The first contains reflections and suggestions about the work program of the Commission, proposed by Monsignor Glorieux; the second seeks to set out the two essential and parallel aspects of all lay apostolate. I apologise in advance for the repetitions they include; but it is often by repeating and confronting that we end up clarifying ideas!

“I am sending two copies to Monsignor Glorieux, hoping that they will arrive before December 22. Other copies are available to Your Eminence and the Commission, if there is a need to communicate these texts to other Members.

“I will be in Rome for the next Session of our Commission from January 30 to February 4. I can extend my stay there after that date if that would be useful for the work of the Commission.

“I also take the opportunity with this letter to offer to Your Eminence my most fervent wishes for a Holy Feast of Christmas and a Happy New Year! And may He deign to accept my deepest homage and respect,” Cardijn concluded.

SOURCE

Cardijn à Cardinal Cento 1960 12 18 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn to Cardinal Cento 1960 12 18 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Three sub-commissions: More bad news

There was more bad news for Cardijn on 17 October 1960.

The Rome-based members of the PCLA had already met in October to discuss and decide upon the organisation of the work of the commission.

Now Cardinal Cento announced that three sub-commissions were to be created to study three themes: evangelisation, social action and charitable action, with Cardijn appointed to the first of these commissions.

But from Cardijn’s point of view, how could such a division of tasks be reconciled with his vision of lay apostolate transforming the whole of lay life? It was a compartmentalisation that risked reducing evangelisation to its spiritual dimension and confining social and charitable action to their temporal dimensions.

Moreover, it completely contradicted the “incarnational” approach that Cardijn had defended and presented to Pope John just nine months earlier:

“The formation of the disciples of Christ, from whatever social rank, includes this authentic lay apostolate, which will become increasingly urgent and must reach the whole of humanity,” Cardijn had argued.

“And the more we invite the faithful to seek the means to incarnate and realise this spirit, the more the Church will raise up the militants and the apostles that the new world needs in order to be truly animated by the spirit of Christ,” he wrote.

How could lay people be formed to grasp such a mission if the task of evangelisation was to be separated from social and charitable action?

Moreover, at a practical level in terms of the work of the PCLA, Cardijn now found himself sidelined if not excluded from the important work of the social and charitable action sub-commissions.

Nor was Cardijn alone in his concerns. In his history of the drafting process, Ferdinand Klostermann would later write somewhat cryptically of the creation of three sub-commissions: “This division was later to prove a source of difficulty for the commission.”

SOURCES

Achille Glorieux, Histoire du Décret ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem’ sur l’Apostolat des laïcs” in A. Glorieux, R. Goldie, Y. Congar, H.-R. Weber, G. Hasenhüttl, J. Grootaers, M-J. Beccaria, P. Toulat et H. Küng, L’Apostolat des Laïcs, Décret “Apostolicam actuositatem” (Sous la direction de Y. Congar), Séries Unam Sanctam 75, Cerf, Paris, 1970, 91-140.

Ferdinand Klostermann, “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, History of the text,” in Herbert Vorgrimler (editor), Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Volume III, Herder and Herder, 1969, 273.

Joseph Cardijn, Priests and the social doctrine of the Church (Archives Cardijn 1299) (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Cardijn sends Note 1 to Cardinal Cento

Cardijn to Cento 31 10 1960

On 31 October 1960, Cardijn sent his Note 1 to the president of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate, Cardinal Fernando Cento.

“I am honoured to send Your Eminence a note which was inspired by the program proposed for study by the Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity,” Cardijn wrote.

“Your Eminence will judge whether it is advisable to communicate this note to the members of the Commission.

“I have no need to repeat to Your Eminence how happy I am to be able to participate under His presidency in the study of this problem to which I have devoted the whole of my priestly life,” he concluded.

SOURCE

French original

Cardijn à Cardinal Cento (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn to Cardinal Cento (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

An invitation from Cardinal Cento

Cento to PCLA

On 4 October 1960, Preparatory Commission President, Cardinal Fernando Cento, wrote Cardijn and other commission members informing them of their first meeting including a special audience with Pope John XXIII on Sunday 14 November.

He also invited them to take the oath of secrecy before the Apostolic Delegate or Nuncio.

A second letter also invited him to send his “observations and suggestions, not necessarily in Latin.”

Subjects

Also enclosed were other documents listing the subjects to be dealt with along with the other members of the Commission and the Sub-Commissions to which they had been allocated.

This was evidently sent out in Latin but Cardijn had had it translated into French.

Issues for the PCLA

Members of the Sub-Commissions

Cardijn thus found himself appointed to Sub-Commission I, which was to deal with Notions relating to Catholic Associations and Catholic Action.

SOURCES

Original Latin plus rough English translation

Cardinal Cento to PCLA Members 1960 10 04 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Cardinal Cento to Cardijn 1960 10 04 – 02 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Other Documents

Archives Cardijn 1584

Cardijn appointed to the PCLA

Cardijn’s planned five month trip to Africa had to be cut short, probably because of the Congo Crisis that was already under way.

This meant he was back in Brussels to receive his letter of appointment to the newly constituted Pontifical Commission on Lay Apostolate (PCLA) to prepare for the Council.

“I have just received from His Eminence Cardinal Tardini the announcement of my appointment as a member of the Pontifical Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity for the preparation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,” he wrote immediately to Cardinal Cento.

“I will be so pleased to be able to collaborate in the work of this Commission under the presidency of Your Eminence.

“A few weeks ago, I wrote to Your Eminence to say how much the problem of the apostolate of the laity concerned me and how desirous I was to work to seek an increasingly effective solution to this important question.

“Events prevented me from continuing my trip to the Congo,” he explained. “I was unable to travel to the countries of East and Southern Africa and I had to return to Brussels via Brazzaville.

“I will shortly communicate a short report of my trip that I am drafting for the Secretariat of State and Propagande Fide,” Cardijn concluded.

SOURCE

Cardijn au Cardinal Cento 1960 09 07 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Cardinal Cento the president

On 9 June 1960, Cardijn wrote to congratulate Cardinal Fernando Cento, who had just been appointed as the president of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate.

“I cannot prevent myself from expressing to Your Eminence my very great joy at this remarkable appointment as the head of a Commission which will study what seems to me to be one of the most serious problems for the future of the Church,” Cardijn wrote. “I address my warmest and most warm congratulations to Your Eminence.

Cardijn had known Cardinal Cento since his time as nuncio in Belgium. Indeed, Cento had assisted Cardijn and the JOC when the movement faced criticism at the time of the holding of its 25th anniversary rally and international congress in Brussels in 1950.

Cento was thus also certainly very aware of Cardijn’s key role in the negotiations leading up to and including the holding of the First World Congress on Lay Apostolate in Rome in 1951.

Cento’s appointment must therefore have come as a great encouragement to Cardijn. Moreover, it meant that Cardijn’s longstanding Vatican nemesis, Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo, was not in charge.

Cardijn evidently wanted to assist as far as he was able. Yet even at the age of 77, he continued to undertake a punishing travel schedule. As he explained to Cento: “I also take this opportunity to let Your Eminence know the program of my trip to Africa. I intend to visit a large number of countries, but above all to attend the Pan-African Congress and the National and Regional Congresses of the YCW in the Belgian Congo.”

But he confirmed his later availability: “I will be back by the end of October or soon after and if I can give Your Eminence some collaboration in studying one or the other issue (e.g. the apostolate of working youth), I will be very happy to be able to place myself at His disposal for the work of the Commission.”

All things considered, it was a relatively promising beginning for the Commission.

Preparing a visit to Rome

As usual, Cardijn’s preparation for his planned trip to Rome in late February 1960 was minutious.

Even the list of people he planned to visit is impressive.

Archbishop Angelo Dell’Acqua, the Substitute at the Vatican, with whom Cardijn has been in regular contact since his appointment in 1954 to replace Mgr Montini, who had been promoted to archbishop of Milan.

Cardinal Fernando Cento had previously been nuncio to Belgium from 1946 to 1953.

A tough-minded conservative who had been Substitute for Pope Pius XI from 1929-35, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani had only recently been appointed as Secretary to the Vatican Holy Office. The son of a working-class baker, Ottaviani, was sympathetic to Cardijn and the JOC.

Now the Secretary of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, Archbishop Pietro Sigismondi was previously the nuncio to Rwanda the Belgian colony that hosted one of the strongest JOC movements in Africa.

Lebanese-born Cardinal François Agagianian was the Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

Soon to be appointed as a cardinal, Archbishop Pietro Marella became nuncio to France succeeding the then-Archbishop Roncalli in 1953 and would serve in that role until the end of 1959.

Archbishop Antonio Samorè was the secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, the foreign affairs branch of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Cardijn knew and had working relationships if not friendships with them all.

In addition to these Vatican personalities, Cardijn planned to see Fr Jean-Baptiste Janssens, the Belgian-born superior general of the Jesuits, along with the heads of other missionary orders whose priests worked closely with the JOC, including the Oblates, White Fathers and Holy Cross Fathers.

He planned to visit Archbishop Maximilien de Fürstenberg, the rector of the Belgian College in Rome. Interestingly, he also planned to visit the Opus Dei priest, Fr (now Blessed) Alvaro del Portillo, who was on the “Commission laïcs pour le Concile” (Laity Commission for the Council).

In addition, he also foreshadowed a visit to Mgr Achille Glorieux, the French-born former JOC chaplain from Lille, who was secretary to the Permanent Committee for the Apostolate of the Laity.

Most of the topics Cardijn listed for his discussions revolved around the work of the YCW on the various continents and regions.

Particularly interesting and significant, however, is Cardijn’s note of issues to raise with Archbishop Dell’Acqua:

“Peut-on suggérer une Encycllque ?

a/ à l’occasion du 70ème anniversaire de Rerum Novarum, sur ‘L’Eglise face au monde du travail’

b/ pour dissiper le désarroi et la confusion sur « L’ Apostolat des laïcs ».”

“Could we suggest an Encyclical,” Cardijn asks,

“a/ on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum on “The Church and the world of work”

“b/ to dissipate the disarray and confusion over ‘The Lay Apostolate’.”

“The Church and the World of Work” and “The Lay Apostolate”: two themes at the heart of Cardijn’s mission.

Clearly, he was also highly concerned about the “disarray” and “confusion” over the latter.

Although he makes no specific mention of the Council, surely it was not absent from Cardijn’s thoughts.

SOURCE

Voyage à Rome de Mgr Cardijn et Romeo Maione (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Trip to Rome of Mgr Cardijn and Romeo Maione (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)