Bishop Honoré Van Waeyenbergh represented the Belgian bishops at the rally celebrating Cardijn’s 80th birthday.
He read the following message of the Belgian bishops.
The Belgian Bishops1
It is from distant Rome, from the city of the popes, that the Belgian episcopate sends you, through the voice of its representative, its congratulations on the occasion of your jubilee.
At a time when your collaborators, your friends, as well as countless former Jocists and current Jocists are celebrating you, the bishops had hoped to be able to be present and speak themselves as Pastors ofthe church to pay homage to the father and animator of the Christian Worker Youth.
They would have liked to surround you at the altar of the Lord, and thank God — to whom all honour and glory belongs — for your fruitful priestly career and for your fifty years devoted to the service of the Church’s apostolate.
Providence has arranged otherwise. Detained in Rome by the activities of the Second Vatican Council, but united with you in mind and heart, the Bishops send you, from the Eternal City, their warm congratulations as well as the testimony of their deep gratitude.
In Rome, Monsignor, they feel united to you in a very special way.
Here, several glorious popes have followed with great esteem and supported your life’s work with their paternal encouragement, while honoring you with their trust.
On several occasions, Rome, the heart of the Catholic Church, was the moving witness of your splendid Jocist pilgrimages and of the attachment of a new working youth.
Gathered in Rome around the supreme Pastor, the episcopate of the whole world rethinks the task and the mission of the Church in the world today.
Of these 2,500 bishops, how many have you encountered during your travels around the world!
How many of them have been won over to your ideal by the attractiveness of your personality and the conviction of your words. How have they not become your friends!
How many also accompanied their Jocists during the gathering, in St. Peter’s Square, of young workers from 91 countries of the world when they brought to the Holy Father the enthusiastic testimony of their filial fidelity and their fervent apostolic spirit.
They appeared in Rome as the announcement of a new springtime in the Church, as missionaries of the new times spread throughout all countries, as the seed of a new and more beautiful world, as the rich promise of a working class conscious of its human and Christian dignity.
Fifty years have passed since the time when young and ardent curate, you arrived at the parish of Notre-Dame de Laeken. There, in the humble parish ministry, in daily contact with young people, the immense distress of this young worker entering the workplace was revealed to you.
If your heart was painfully wounded by it, the acute perception of this total abandonment, joined to a deep knowledge of the vital resources of this same youth, made mature in you this double conviction: the working youth would find its liberation on the one hand in its own resources, on the other hand in the resources of grace that Christ entrusted to his Church.
Everywhere, in the world, in front of the most varied audiences, by your vibrant words, you have proclaimed it: working-class youth needsthe church, asthe church needs working youth.
You have put your gifts, so rich in intelligence and heart, at the service of this cause. Thus, over the years, you have developed new methods of formation for the apostolate which transform young workers into lay apostles in the heart of the working masses.
The Church, dear Monsignor, is infinitely grateful to you for having had faith, without any wavering, in the possibilities of working-class youth. She is grateful to you for having, for fifty years, tirelessly revealed to them the dignity of their person, the nobility of their heart, the value of their work, their deep desire for a more beautiful and better life; in a word, to have initiated them into their vocation as young Christian workers and to have shown them the immense possibilities of their apostolate.
On the evening of such a full and fruitful life, in the face of such human slowness and the inevitable partial failures, you can say like Saint Paul: Fidem servavi. Yes, despite the trials, I have kept my faith intact in this merciful love, which the Eternal Father has revealed to us in his Son Jesus Christ and which through the Church is addressed as good news to the poor, the humble and to the most neglected of men.
During a press conference, a few days ago, you would have declared with the vitality that characterises you: “I am eighty years old, but my heart is only twenty”.
Monsignor, by your life completely given to the apostolate of the Church, you participate in the youth which is the privilege of our Mother to all. In her, the Lord is always present to enliven her with his Spirit. She too, at the Council, rediscovers her youth and the ardent heart of the first Pentecost.
May the Lord, by his spirit of love, make rise and ripen in hearts what you have so generously sown there. May, everywhere in the world, as the Osservatore Romano said, shine this light of hope which constitutes for the Church, the presence of young Christian workers.
Ad multos annos, Monsignor, may God keep you. As for your work, it is not finished. On a global scale, it has only just begun.
Léon-Joseph Cardinal SUENENS, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
André-Marie CHARUE, Bishop from Namur
Charles-Justin CALLEWAERT, Bishop of Ghent
Charles-Marie HIMMER, Bishop from Tournai
Emile-Joseph DE SMEDT, Bishop de Bruges
Guillaume-Marie VAN ZUYLEN, Bishop from Liege
Jules-Victor DAEM, Bishop from Antwerp
Rome, 1 December, 1962.
L’épiscopat belge, p. 17-20, in Collective, Un message libérateur, Hommage à Cardijn, Editions Ouvrières, Brussels, 1962, 251p.
1This letter was read by Monsignor Van Waeyenbergh, Rector Magnificent of the University of Louvain who represented the Belgian episcopate at the 2 December 1962 rally.
L’épiscopat belge (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)