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.

A new clampdown on worker priests

On 3 July 1959, Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo, the president of the Vatican Congregation for Seminaries and Universities as well as secretary of the Holy Office, which was responsible for doctrinal matters, wrote to French Cardinals Maurice Feltin of Paris and Achille Liénart of Lille, to clamp down even harder on the worker priests.

In 1941, the French Church had launched the “Mission de France” in a bid to reach the working class. Two years later, Cardinal Suhard launched the “Mission de Paris” with a similar objective.

Cardinals Liénart, who was president of the Assembly of (French) Cardinals and Archbishops, and Feltin, both of whom had been early JOC chaplains, were

Many of the priests, including many who had been or were JOC chaplains, also began to work in factories, on wharves and elsewhere as “worker priests.” Indeed, Bishop Alfred Ancel, a Prado father, auxiliary bishop of Lyon and keynote speaker at the JOC Internationale Congress in Brussels in 1950, had also taken up part-time work.

However, as an increasing number of priests became involved in trade union struggles and strikes, often alongside communists and communist trade unions, fears began to rise.

As a result, in 1953, the Holy See requested the French bishops responsible for the worker priests to prohibit them from engaging in fulltime paid employed.

Now, Cardinal Pizzardo had again written to his French colleagues asking for the prohibition of even part-time work outside the Church.

To the extent that this decision was a portent, the early signs for the Council were not promising.

PHOTO

Giuseppe Pizzardo (Press Photo)