What a performance!

Cardijn’s friend and colleague, the French Dominican theologian, Yves Congar, who had just launched his own conciliar diary, has left us a colourful if not positively disdainful description of the launch ceremony for the newly constituted preparatory commissions:

“What a performance!” Congar wrote. “Papal gendarmes or Swiss guards in full uniform everywhere. The actual arrangements were impeccable. But what ceremonial, what a display of pomp! We were shown into a tribune, where I went and sat beside Fr de Lubac. The whole length of St Peter’s has been fitted out with tribunes, armchairs. A fantastic equipage of fellows in crimson uniforms, Swiss guards in helmets, holding their halberds with proud bearing. All the colleges in Rome have been mobilised and there were certainly a good ten thousand people present. Why? What a waste of time!

“At about ten minutes past eleven, the Credo was intoned and the Pope came in on foot. It was a good moment. But then the Sistine choir sang a theatrical “Tu es Petrus’: mediocre opera. The 10,000 people, the forty cardinals, the 250 or 300 bishops, said nothing. One only will have the right to speak. As for the Christian people, they are there neither by right nor in fact. I sensed the blind door of the underlying ecclesiology. It is the ostentatious ceremonial of a monarchical power.

“The Pope read a text in Italian which I did not fully understand, but which seemed to me very banal…

“Alas! After giving his blessing (alone, always alone, to the 10,000, the 300, the 40…), the Pope got up and departed, enthroned on the sedia;- stupid applause. The Pope made a gesture as if to say: alas, I can do nothing about it,” Congar concluded.

We have no record of Cardijn’s own feelings about the ceremony but Congar’s comments probably offer a good proxy – except that the JOC founder would, as always, have sought to focus on the positives of the event.

Moreover, Cardijn would have quickly latched onto the fact that among the large number of bishops and priests who were present, he did have allies, beginning with Congar.

These allies, whose presence is noted by Congar, also included the sociologist, Canon Fernand Boulard, the Belgian Dominican, Jérôme Hamer, Cardijn’s publisher Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée as well as Cardinal Liénart, Archbishop Emile Guerry and Gabriel Garrone, the latter of whom who had written a book explaining the concept of Specialised Catholic Action and defending it from critics including the Belgian, Léon-Joseph Suenens, an auxiliary bishop in Cardijn’s own diocese of Malines-Brussels.


Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, ATF Press, 2012, 25.

A book by Cardijn?

Cardijn had many things to do before leaving for Africa, one of which was to deal with a project to write a book to be published by the French-Belgian company, Editions Universitaires, which was directed by a French Catholic layman, Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée.

After two years of correspondence with the JOC founder, the publishers were frustrated by the lack of progress.

Jean Lannoye, a well-known Belgian Catholic figure, who happened to be the father-in-law of Jean Delarge, the editor at Editions Universitaires, now took the opportunity to press Cardijn further.

But since Cardijn had no time to reply, he left it to Marguerite Fiévez to do so.

“You are undoubtedly aware,” she wrote, “that a project was begun to respond to the desire of J.-P. Dubois-Dumée as well as many leaders and chaplains of the JOC, who wished to see established for those who come after us, the fundamental thinking of the JOC. I am in the process of completing the first chapters done by Mgr Cardijn.

“But he himself has always refused to look at anything that would speak of his own life published, particularly here in Belgium and France.

“Once the drafting is finished, we will see what the result is and that will perhaps be the time to rethink the problem,” Fiévez wrote.


Jean Lannoye (Connaître la Wallonie)

Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée (La Croix)

Marguerite Fiévez à Jean Lannoye (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

No autobiography for Cardijn

On 9 June 1960, Marguerite Fiévez replied to Jean Lannoye informing him that Cardijn had just left for Uganda.

She also explained that Cardijn did not wish to write an autobiographical book and informed him that Cardijn was already working on a project with Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée.


Archives Cardijn 1778

New Management Committee for COPECIAL

Ramon Sugranyes de Franch

On 6 August 1959, L’Osservatore Romano announced the appointment by Pope John XXIII of a new management committee for COPECIAL, following the departure of Vittorino Veronese, who had been appointed secretary-general of UNESCO.

The six members were:

  • Silvio Golzio, president of the committee. Golzio was a professor of statistics at the University of Turin and director of the Piedmont Hydro-Electric Company. He was also president of the Movimento laureati, the Italian Catholic Action movement for Graduates.
  • Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée, a French publisher, who was then working with Cardijn for the eventual publication of a book.
  • Prince Karl zu Lôwenstein, a German nobleman, who was also the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics.
  • Claude Ryan, secretary-general of Catholic Action in English-speaking Canada.
  • Ramon Sugranyes, a Catalan exile living in Switzerland, who played a significant role in the foundation of Pax Romana ICMICA and in the organisation of the World Congresses on Lay Apostolate.
  • Juan Vasquez, an Argentine mathematics professor who also worked for the Argentine Ministry of Transport. He was also responsible for international relations for the Central Committee of Catholic Action in Argentina and president of the International Federation of Catholic Youth.

There was an obvious absence of worker representation here and, no doubt after some feedback if not protest, this was remedied by the addition of three more members:

  • Marguerite Fiévez, Belgian former leader of the JOC Internationale, now working as Cardijn’s personal secretary.
  • Patrick Keegan, another former leader of the JOC Internationale, originally from Britain, now involved with developing an adult lay apostolate in the UK and also coordinator of “The Team,” an exclusive group of mainly former YCW leaders devoted to the lay apostolate.
  • Martin Work, an American, who was secretary-general of the National Council of Catholic Men of the USA.


Bernard Minvielle, L’apostolat des laïcs à la veille du Concile (1949-1959)

Golzio, Silvio (Treccani)

Ramon Sugranyes de Franch (Website)

Ramon Sugranyes de Franch (Wikipedia.fr)

Tribute to Ramon Sugranyes de Franch (Pax Romana ICMICA)

Karl, 8th Prince of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg (Wikipedia)


Ramon Sugranyes

Let’s be realistic

On 11 November 1958, Marguerite Fiévez responds to JP Dubois-Dumée explaining that she is in the process of reviewing the first set of texts written by Cardijn.

“Let’s be realistic,” she says, adding that Cardijn is very busy and she herself very inexperienced in the matter of editing.


Archives Cardijn 1778

When will the book be ready?

On 5 November 1958, Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée, former editor of Témoignage Chrétien, writes to Marguerite Fiévez saying that he had just met the editor of the “Chrétienté Nouvelle” series published by Editions Universitaires and asking when he could expect the draft of the book Cardijn proposed to write.


Archives Cardijn 1778