Cardijn’s homage to John XXIII

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!

Jos. Cardijn.

(Translation Stefan Gigacz, 27 May 2012, Version 1.0)


Joseph Cardijn, During the reign of John XXIII: A New Pentecost (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Imprimatur finally granted

On 9 April 1963, a day after Cardijn had met with Suenens, the imprimatur was granted for his book.

Stefan Gigacz explains:

While there appears to be no written record of the meeting between the two men (Suenens and Cardijn), the outcome was swift. The next day, 9 April 1963, the vicar general, Msgr P. Theeuws, gave his imprimatur, accepting the modifications that Cardijn had made to his text.

Did Suenens blink? Fiévez and Meert certainly thought so, writing in their biography of Cardijn that he ‘stood firm’ despite the pressures that were placed on him ‘to change his emphasis.’ Moreover, while remaining rigidly faithful to his vow of obedience, Cardijn had forced Suenens to face up to his own responsibilities.

The whole episode left a bitter taste in the mouths of Fiévez and other close collaborators of Cardijn who were familiar with what had occurred.

Cardijn was deeply affected, even though he sought to avoid embarrassing Suenens, going as far as asking Fiévez to recover the initial proofs from the typesetter to ensure that these were not circulated.All things considered, Cardijn’s attitude demonstrated almost heroic forbearance.


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

Suenens meets Cardijn

On 8 April 1963, Cardijn met with Suenens at the Episcopal Palace at Malines.

Fiévez recorded the outcome in her own notes:

Cardijn travelled to Malines… where he was faced [heurté] once again by the apparently very cordial and fraternal welcome offered to him by the cardinal, who took him in his arms, denying that there was ‘anything’ between them.

Stefan Gigacz writes:

Cardijn’s sense of betrayal was palpable. So too was the contrast between Suenens’ backroom modus operandi and that of his predecessor, Cardinal Mercier, who had always had the merit of being upfront.


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

Larrain: Book will be a great service to the Lay Apostolate Commission

On 10 March 1963, Bishop Larrain’s secretary, Fr Huidobro, replied on his behalf to Cardijn’s request for commentary on his book manuscript, signalling the “great service” that the book would provide for the drafting work of the Lay Apostolate Commission.


Archives Cardijn 1608

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

Bishop Araujo Sales endorses Cardijn

On 18 February 1963, Brazilian bishop, Dom Eugenio Araujo Sales, also a member of the Lay Apostolate Commission, wrote to Cardijn approving the draft manuscript of his book, emphasising its timeliness.

Natal, 18/2/63

My dear Monsignor Cardijn.

I received your letter of January 15, 1963, as well as your publication, which I am now reading carefully. I’m very interested. The position is very clear and I fully agree with your points of view. I believe,

Your Excellency, that we are at a moment of the utmost importance in determining the role of the laity in the Church. In the present apostolic situation, the participation of the well-trained layman will succeed in keeping the various de-Christianized or almost de-Christianized circles in the Church, or in bringing them back into it.

In prayer to God to bless your extraordinary work, I send you an affectionate blessing.

Reverend Mgr. Jos. Cardijn

General Chaplain of the YCW

78, Boulevard Poincaré

Brussels 7 7 – CCP 62081


Dom Eugênio de Araújo Sales

Apostolic Administrator


Archives Cardijn 1783

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

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.


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

Cardijn seeks Larrain’s views

On 15 January 1963, Cardijn wrote to Chilean Bishop Manuel Larrain, vice-president of the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM), as well as a member of the Conciliar Commission on Lay Apostolate, seeking his views on his book manuscript.


15 January 1963


Several bishops who have visited me in recent weeks have told me a great deal about the importance of the forthcoming work of the Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity, which is to prepare the second session of the Council, and of which you are an authorised member.

That’s why, at their suggestion, I’m taking the liberty of sending you, under separate cover, the manuscript of a work I intend to publish shortly, which sets out my ideas on the lay apostolate, based on the experience I’ve gained in the course of my fifty years as a priest. Many of the points dealt with in this forthcoming work are obviously in line with the issues being addressed by the Conciliar Commission.

The book will go to press around Easter and will be given to a number of Council Fathers, but all those I have seen have assured me that it is highly desirable to communicate its contents to you without further delay.

You know how much importance I attach to the place of the apostolate in the Church, and I am more and more convinced that at this decisive hour, the future of the Church depends on this same apostolate of the laity, for a large part at least.

Please accept, Your Excellency, with my thanks in advance for the welcome you will give to my letter, the expression of my deepest respect.

Joe. Cardijn,

Chaplain general of the YCW

To His Excellency Bishop Manuel LARRAIN,

Most Reverend Bishop of and to

TALCA (Chile)


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