Goldie replies to Cardijn

Rosemary Goldie - Cardijn 18 06 1959

On 18 June 1859, Rosemary Goldie responded to Cardijn, expressing regret that Cardijn was unable to join the COPECIAL meeting in Montallegro.

“I think you will have heard from Marguerite (Fiévez) about it,” she wrote. “We were very pleased with it. Apart from the intrinsic interest of the discussions – I am thinking, in particular, of those which followed Monsignor (Gerard) Philips’ theological presentation and of the presentation itself – the suggestions received and the collaborations acquired will be very valuable for the development of our work…

Gerard Philips was of course the Belgian theologian, who had published extensively on the theology of the laity, albeit not completely in the Cardijn line.

“In the meantime, I hope you have received the section of the meeting report devoted to theological discussion. The other part is well under way and will be sent to you as soon as possible. It will contain a very comprehensive summary of all the discussions on the work of the Permanent Committee.

“You asked me whether, from the perspective of the Council, we should not consider, “a special study on the apostolate of the laity and contact with non-Christians,” Goldie continued, responding to the concerns expressed by Cardijn.

“I completely agree, but seems to me that this study could fall within the framework of the initiatives that will be undertaken, in collaboration with the ICO Conference, to follow up the Resolution adopted in Luxembourg concerning the creation of a Commission which will have to look to any directives from the ecclesiastical authorities. engaging the help of the laity in view of the Council. (In formulating this very general resolution, possible contacts with non-Catholics were indeed considered.)

“On 12 July, I will participate on behalf of our Committee, in a first small meeting in Paris to study the implementation. of this Resolution,” Goldie concluded.


French original

Rosemary Goldie – Cardijn 1959 06 18 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Rosemary Goldie – Cardijn 1959 06 18 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Formation and ecumenism key issues for the Council

Rosemary Goldie 1964

On 9 June 1959, Cardijn wrote to Rosemary Goldie, an Australian who had studied theology in Paris who was now working at the COPECIAL secretariat in Rome, to thank and congratulate her on the publication of the three volume proceedings of the Second World Congress on Lay Apostolate in 1957.

But, as always, Cardijn also took the opportunity to raise other issues, particularly formation for the lay apostolate for both priests and lay people.

“The leaders of the Permanent Committee know how much I am concerned with the formation of lay people for the apostolate; essential formation

  • for priests (all priests) who must understand the need for it and be capable of ensuring its realisation in all milieux but particularly in the world of work;
  • to the militants and lay leaders themselves, who are directly responsible for ensuring this formation in the life of the masses of these different milieux.

“As long as all clergy, like all laity, fail to be imbued with the need for this formation and do not seek to adapt it, especially to the life problems of young adults, I fear that an effective response will not be given. to the predominant needs of the modern world,” Cardijn wrote.

“I ardently hope that the Permanent Committee will continue and extend its research on the formation of an authentic Christian laity, to the dimension of this world which is expanding in all fields. With respect to this, would it not be the moment to do a special study on the apostolate of the laity and contact with non-Christians, the union of Churches, etc.?

“I believe that this is an important aspect of the ecumenism issue and for the preparation of the Council,” he concluded, showing that preparation for Vatican II was already becoming a key concern.


French original

Cardijn – Rosemary Goldie 1959 06 09 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn – Rosemary Goldie 1959 06 09 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Ruth Lee, Goldie, Rosemary (The Encyclopaedia of Women and Leadership in XXth century Australia)

Technical planning begins

On 17 May 1959, John formally appointed an Antepreparatory Commission to provide initial direction and begin the massive task of technical planning for the Council.

The Commission was charged with the following tasks:

(1) to contact the bishops of the world for their advice and suggestions,

(2) to gather proposals from the dicasteries of the Roman Curia,

(3) to learn the views of the theological and canonical faculties of Catholic universities,

(4) to sketch the general lines of the topics to be discussed at the Council, and

(5) to suggest various bodies (Commissions, Secretariats, etc.) to prepare the Council’s agenda.

The President of the Commission was Secretary of State Cardinal Domenico Tardini, while the Secretary was Msgr. (soon to be archbishop) Pericle Felici, an auditor in the Sacred Rota.

The other ten members who worked in the various Curial Congregations were:

Giuseppe Ferretto, Consistorial
Pietro Sigismondi, Propagation of the Faith
Antonio Samoré, Extraordinary Affairs
Acacio Coussa, Eastern Church
Cesare Zerba, Sacraments
Pietro Palazzini, Council
Arcadio Larraona, Religious
Dino Staffa, Seminaries and Universities
Enrico Dante, Rites
Paul Philippe, Holy Office.

Of these, Cardijn had already been in regular contact for several years with and received assistance from Archbishops Samoré and Pietro Sigismondi and he would soon get to know Cardinal Tardini too.


Cardinal Tardini with John XXIII (Holy Family of Nazareth Foundation)

Need for a Church Institution on the apostolate of the laity

Cardijn - Castelli 25 03 1959

On 25 March 1959, Cardijn wrote to Mgr Alberto Castelli, the vice-president of the Ecclesiastical Commission of the Permanent Committee for International Lay Apostolate Congresses (COPECIAL), to propose that the committee should look at expanding and upgrading its aims and resources at its forthcoming conference in Montallegro.

“Looking at the program, I regret that only relatively secondary problems, e.g. initiatives to be taken, etc., will be discussed at the planned meeting,” Cardijn wrote.

“Has not the time come to reflect together on the essential goals of the Permanent Committee, its ongoing role, and consequently to present to the Holy See, respectfully and in an attitude of very filial submission, suggestions regarding its structure and its activity. I know very well that this question was already briefly raised at a meeting by Miss Fiévez, but I personally wish to return to this question and emphasise its whole importance, because I believe that it is the key of the future of the Committee itself. I spoke to Mr Veronese about this several times and provided him with written notes on the subject.

“When we look the new structures of the world of today and tomorrow, the primordial importance of the formation of the laity in view of their irreplaceable apostolate in this new world, the need to form priests who are educators and animators lay apostles; the urgency of coordinating the apostolate of the laity and organising it in line with today’s world; the need for an insertion of this lay apostolate into the overall apostolate of the Church and its unbreakable link with the Hierarchy… when one penetrates the concrete and living content of these problems which require a positive and dynamic solution, one cannot avoid the conclusion that there is a need for a Church Institution – Dicastery, Commission, Congregation, whatever name is given to it – which can inform, inform, propose, suggest and study overall or partial solutions based on enquiries, studies and experiences that are properly evaluated and tested.

“And since all these problems are inseparable – problems of young people and adults; problems of formation, action and organisation; specialisation and coordination issues; problems of exchanges, achievements and representation; financial problems and management training problems – this Institution must have the resources to provide both documentation and expertise and above all, it needs to have sufficient authority, both in terms of the value and experience of its leaders as well as enjoying the confidence both of Hierarchical Authorities and lay organisations or institutions.

“When I think of the resources available certain world secular institutions, I can only regret the insufficiency and powerlessness of a Permanent Committee that needs to become the engine and the inspiration for so many people, acting individually or collectively, who have only one desire with respect to the problems in all continents and in every, namely to serve the Church and spread the Reign of Christ in a world that needs and aspires to it more than at any other time in history,” Cardijn concluded.

It was a theme that he would return to many times in the future.


Original French

Cardijn – Castelli 25 03 1959 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn – Castelli 25 03 1959 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Autograph Letter by Pope John XXIII

Just two weeks after Cardijn and Romeo Maione’s audience with John XXIII, the new pope followed the example of his predecessors Pius XI and Pius XII by addressing an autograph letter to Cardijn dated 24 February 1959.

“To Our dear Son Joseph Cardijn, General Chaplain of the Young Christian Workers,” the letter read.

“Over the course of the already distant years since its foundation in Belgium, the Young Christian Workers movement has received the most explicit encouragements from Our venerated Predecessors Pius XI and Pius XII on numerous and solemn circumstances. With all our heart, We confirm these; and in our own turn We are pleased to offer you all Our paternal affection, to you who by your priestly zeal was the initiator of this vast Movement of Catholic Action, and, through you, to all the dear Jocists of the male and female branches that have now spread to every continent.

eWe well understand and value the apostolic work that they are achieving among young workers. They will take care to faithfully follow the precious directives received from the Holy See, particularly those that Pius XII of holy memory addressed to them during the great world assembly in 1957. Thus, they will remain apostles docile to the Hierarchy, well instructed in their faith and penetratedby Christian charity, and attentive to the living and working conditions of all their brothers in all locations, ardently in the service of God’s cause!

eWe pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, to make fruitful all these generous efforts and We willingly grant to you, to the presidents, leaders, chaplains and to all the Members of the Young Christian Workers Our most paternal Apostolic Blessing,” it concluded.


Jean XXIII, Lettre autographe (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

John XXIII, Autograph letter (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Yves Congar: Five areas of work

Among the first to realise the Council’s potential was the theologian, Yves Congar, who had begun to work with Cardijn and the JOC during the early 1930s, giving retreats to JOC leaders at the Saulchoir, the Dominican convent then located at Kain, near Tournai in Belgium.

Subsequently, Congar continued to work closely with the JOC and other Specialised Catholic Action movements, culminating in his publication in 1953 of “Jalons pour une théologie du laïcat.” This was later translated into English as “Lay People in the Church.”

Nevertheless, his work had also attracted the attention of the Holy Office, the Vatican body responsible for doctrine. Along with several colleagues, he had been banned from teaching. As a result, he was transferred to Jerusalem at his own request and later sent to England and was eventually assigned to Strasbourg, where Archbishop Weber was more open to him.

Congar therefore took a keen interest in Pope John’s announcement of a Council. Within three weeks of its announcement, in mid-February 1959, he wrote suggesting five areas of work that thought the Council would do well to focus on (Giuseppe Alberigo, “The Announcement of the Council: From the Security of the Fortress to the Lure of the Quest,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, I, 35).

These included:

  • Confirming the unity of the Church
  • Promoting pastoral activity,
  • Reasserting the spiritual vocation of the human person
  • Combating doctrinal error and
  • Completing the work of Vatican I a century before.

First meeting with John XXIII

Although he did not react publicly to Pope John’s announcement there’s little doubt that it must have intrigued and even excited Cardijn’s imagination.

It was therefore with a growing sense of anticipation and even trepidation that he journeyed to Rome with International YCW leaders, Romeo Maione (president) and Maria Meersman (vice-president) in February 1959.

Once again, Maione recorded the colourful story.

“Cardijn always prepared well. This time he was even more meticulous in his preparation.

“The next day, we arrived at the Vatican in time for a 12:30 pm audience with John XXIII,” Maione recalled. But the pope kept them waiting until 1.15pm.

Finally, the pope himself emerged to welcome the YCW delegation, saying: “You are sure an important man, a man must be elected Pope before he is allowed to meet you.”

Here, Cardijn adds a crucial detail of this first meeting, citing the pope’s welcome to him:

“I have known you for such a long time! I have been following you and your work,” Pope John told Cardijn, adding a significant promise. “I will support the YCW as Pius XI and Pius XII, indeed even more than they did!”

The ice broken, Cardijn did not hesitate to outline his own proposals and requests, including “a new papal letter for young workers, a new social encyclical,” and “training of priests for the lay apostolate.”

Official business over, the two men continued to chat freely, Maione noted.

“John started to talk about his hopes for the council. His central hope was the unity of the churches. He talked about the scandal of division then he added: ‘We must shake hands and make up, and we Catholics must be the first to offer our hand in peace. After all, we keep proclaiming that we have the whole truth and this truth is charity, so we should be the first to offer our hand in peace.’

Cardijn himself was greatly impressed.

“He spoke so freely of a new Pentecost! I will never forget our first meeting,” he remembered.

The new pope calls an Ecumenical Council

A Vatican diplomat by training and experience, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was a surprise choice to succeed Pope Pius XII on 29 October 1958.

But an even bigger surprise would come less than three months later on 25 January 1959, when Pope John XXIII stunned the world and the Church by calling an Ecumenical Council for the whole Church as well as a synod for the Diocese of Rome.

The new pope presented the Council as a response to both positive and negative trends in the world.

“The grace of Christ continues to multiply fruits and portents of spiritual elevation, health and holiness throughout the world,” the pope explained.

But there was also “abuse and compromise of human freedom, (by people) who, not knowing the open skies, and refusing to believe in Christ the Son of God, Redeemer of the world and founder of the Holy Church, turn everything in search of the so-called goods of the earth, under the inspiration of him whom the Gospel calls prince of darkness, prince of this world.

In addition there was “the temptation and the attraction towards the advantages of a material order that the progress of modern technology – indifferent in itself – magnifies and exalts,” Pope John noted.

“All this – let’s say, this progress – while it distracts from the search for higher goods, weakens the energies of the spirit, leads to the relaxation of the structure of discipline and of the ancient good order, with grave prejudice of what constituted the strength of resistance of the Church and of the his sons to errors, which in reality always in the course of the history of Christianity, led to fatal and fatal divisions, to spiritual and moral decay, to the ruin of nations,” he warned.

Hence the need for a Council, which like others in “eras of renewal” in the history of the Church had helped increase “clarity of thought” and “compactness of religious unity” as well as promoting “the liveliest flame of Christian fervour.”

We have no record of Cardijn’s reaction to this stunning announcement. Just two weeks later, however, he would travel to Rome hoping for his first audience with the new pope he did not know.


Pope St John XXIII, Announcement of an Ecumenical Council (Vatican 2 Voice)

International YCW president meets the new pope

Cardijn had not yet returned from Asia and the Pacific, when International YCW president, Romeo Maione, had his first encounter with the incoming pope.

He later recalled that meeting as follows:

“I remember well my first meeting with Pope John a week after he was elected. A new Pope as part of traditional protocol meets with various government delegations which attended the enthronement ceremonies.

“Pope John insisted that he also meet with a delegation of lay leaders in the church as part of this protocol. As the international president of the Young Christian Workers, I was asked to be part of this small delegation.

“At that time, I was suffering from a serious attack of sciatica, literally, I was leaning like the Tower of Pisa. As was the custom of the day, one was called to genuflect when introduced to the pope. (This tradition was later abolished).

“Because of my back, I told the papal secretary that I could not kneel. When the pope entered, he gave his usual commentary on a gospel passage and then met and had a personal word with each person.

H”e came to me and moved back looking at my 250 lbs and said: “I suppose that you are the man that can not kneel down, you better not who would be able to pick you up.”

“Suddenly, the laughter brought the great virtue of humour into the Vatican,” Maione wrote.

But in addition to his humour, Pope John was already foreshadowing the importance that he would place on lay leadership and the lay apostolate.

John XXIII: Never heard of him…


Cardijn was deeply concerned following the death on 9 October 1958 of Pius XII, who had reigned as pope since 2 March 1939.

Indeed, the YCW founder had known him even before that as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Holy See Secretary of State, who had written an important letter of encouragement to the YCW on the occasion of its first International Congress in Brussels in August 1935.

Now Cardijn was nervous about whether the new pope would continue to support the YCW.

“I was in New Zealand when we learnt on the radio through the Archbishop of Christchurch of the death of Pius XII,” Cardijn later wrote.

“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!”

Pope Pius XI had memorably endorsed the YCW during Cardijn’s first audience with him in March 1925. And in 1935, he declared the YCW an “authentic” or “perfect” form of Catholic Action.

Pius XII had continued and extended that pontifical support. In 1956, the Holy See had approved the new statutes of the JOC Internationale (International YCW).

A year later on 25 August 1957, the pope had welcomed and hosted the 32,000 young workers from around the world who had joined the JOC pilgrimage to Rome.

Moreover, Pius XII had steadfastly continued to support the YCW despite the fact that he had severely limited the French worker priest experience while several theologians close to Cardijn and the JOC such as the Dominicans, Yves Congar and Marie-Dominique Chenu, had also been sanctioned.

What would the new pope do about the YCW? Cardijn, how 76, was understandably concerned about the future of his life’s work.

Pope John XXIII was elected on 28 October 1958. Therefore as soon as he returned to Brussels from Asia and the Pacific, Cardijn wasted no time in planning to visit Rome to meet the new pope.


Original French

Joseph Cardijn, Sous la règne de Jean XXIII: Une nouvelle Pentecôte (Bulletin de la JOC Internationale) (Bibliothèque Digitale Joseph Cardijn)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, During the reign of John XXIII: A new Pentecost (Bulletin of the International YCW, July – August 1963 No. 90) (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)