7. The Council opens without Cardijn

Inspiration and domination

‘[They’re] crazy! Jocism inspires and dominates the Council. Pressing call to stay and return,’ an astounded Cardijn scribbled in his notebook following his meeting with Bishops José Tavora, Helder Camara and Manuel Larrain at the Domus Mariae Hotel after arriving in Rome on 18 November 1962. Having missed the first weeks of Vatican Il, Cardijn had good reason to be astonished.1

Two months earlier, he had suffered a major blow when he was omitted from the list of 201 periti appointed on 24 September 1962. After his prodigious efforts in the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate and the success of Mater et Magistra, he now found himself excluded from the Council’s work.

Was it an oversight, a deliberate decision, or simply the fact that Cardijn, who had never claimed to be a theologian, was about to turn eighty? Who made the decision? Was it the Council secretariat, the Central Preparatory Commission or even Pope John? Was Suenens involved? Whatever the reason, it was a huge disappointment that emerged as the JOCI Executive Committee was about to meet in Berlin, a venue strategically chosen to make an impression on the German bishops.

As always, Cardijn endeavoured to respond positively. Together with the JOCI leaders, Bartolo Perez and Betty Villa, he wrote directly to John XXIII on 8 October assuring him that movement leaders were offering up their work – and sometimes their ‘lack of work’ – for the success of the Council.2 In this gentlest possible way, they signalled their dismay. Three days later, as members of an official lay delegation,3 Perez and another JOC leader (probably Villa) flew to Rome for the 11 October opening of the long-awaited First Session in the presence of 2540 bishops.4 Ever the diplomat, Cardijn himself did not come.

When he finally arrived six weeks later ostensibly to ‘consult with bishops about the JOC,’ it was a huge and gratifying surprise to learn from Tavora, Camara and Larrain of the extraordinary role that the Jocist bishops were playing. While Cardijn was absent, Liénart, Frings, Chenu, Congar, Garrone, Guerry, Ancel, De Smedt, as well as the Latin Americans, so many bishops and theologians who had worked with him in the foundation years of the JOC, had queued up to give the Council an unmistakable Jocist imprint.

Liénart upends the agenda

The first business session, or First General Congregation of the Council, took place on Saturday 13 October. The opening item was the election of sixteen Council Fathers to each of the ten conciliar commissions. Before Tisserant, the session president, could begin, however, Cardinal Liénart rose to make a statement that would upend the Council’s work.

Like many others, Liénart was unhappy with most draft schemas. As he later recalled, the objective, as defined by John XXIII, was not ‘to formulate new doctrinal definitions, but rather to present, in a form better adapted to modern minds, all the truths already established… that [the Church] had the mission of transmitting to every generation.’5 This meant, Liénart believed, that the gathered bishops had to develop ‘une pensée commune’ – ‘a common way of thinking’ – as a basis for ‘the total revision of their pastoral attitudes and to engage the Church in the new way where its permanent mission called it today?’6

Consequently, the choice of the ‘the most qualified’ commission members was of the greatest importance. But how to identify them if they did not know each other, he asked:

Abruptly, I leaned towards the Cardinal president to tell him in a low voice: ‘Eminence, it is truly impossible to vote like this… If you allow me, I am going to take the microphone.’ ‘I cannot give it to you,’ he replied… So, I said to him, ‘Excuse me but I am going to speak…’.

I rose… to request that a reasonable time be given so we could better inform ourselves of the best election candidates…. Cardinal Frings, archbishop of Cologne, who was sitting beside me at the presidency table, also rose to offer his support and the applause doubled.7

This forced the hand of the presidency breaching the stranglehold that the Roman Curia had exercised over the Council. Although Liénart denied that his intervention was ‘a coup planned ahead,’ other bishops had approached him, and even provided him with draft texts for his intervention, including his compatriots Cardinal Joseph-Charles Lefebvre, Garrone and Ancel.8 Camara apparently also wanted a postponement,9 while others such as the South African Denis Hurley ‘knew what was brewing.’10

Rather than a ‘conspiracy,’ this more likely flowed from a convergence of thought and action of men who had long collaborated to promote Specialised Catholic Action based on the Cardijn model. It was just the first of many examples to follow.

Message to the world

Eight days later at the Third General Congregation on 20 October, following a debate including more than forty interventions, the Council adopted its first text, a ‘Message to the World’ entitled Nuntius ad omnes homines et nationes. Dominican MD Chenu first proposed the message in a 4 September 1962 letter to the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner. Similarly, to Cardijn’s own proposal in the PCLA for such a message, Chenu called for an ‘ample declaration… in the style of the Gospel’ and ‘in the prophetic perspectives of the Old and New Testaments’:

A declaration addressed to humanity where grandeur and distress are… an aspiration for the light of the Gospel and the presence of God the Creator…. A declaration proclaiming the fraternal unity of men, beyond frontiers, races, regimes, – in a refusal of violent solutions, in love of peace, testifying the Kingdom of God.11

In his journal, Chenu even claimed that ‘this initiative was inspired.’ He immediately communicated it to several bishops, most of whom had close links with the SCA movements. But the draft text, which he had discussed with Congar, was regarded as based too much on ‘natural morality.’ ‘[T]his was normal terrain for dialogue with non-believers, but it had no chance of being accepted by a Council,’ according to Guerry. ‘The draft made no mention of the Saviour. It therefore had to be discarded.’12

Liénart, Guerry, Garrone and Ancel thus reworked the text although not to the satisfaction of Chenu, who criticised its ‘division between nature and grace.’ In the end, he lamented, it had been ‘drenched in holy water.’13 Congar agreed that the text was ‘more dogmatic’ than Chenu’s and felt it suffered from shades of paternalism.14 At this stage of the Council, though, the priority was to find a text acceptable to the Fathers. Thus, Felici presented the revised message ‘as a proposal of the Council of Presidents approved by the Pope.’15

‘We urgently turn our thoughts to all the anxieties by which human beings are afflicted today,’ the Declaration read, anticipating Gaudium et Spes in its concern for the ‘lowly, poor and weak.’

‘Like Christ, we would have pity on the multitude weighed down with hunger, misery, and lack of knowledge,’ it continued, insisting on the need to help people ‘achieve a way of life worthy of human beings.’ It emphasised ‘whatever concerns the dignity of the human person, whatever contributes to a genuine community of peoples,’ in a line that the Cardijn movements had championed for nearly forty years.16

Despite its limits, the message ‘played the very important role,’ as Andrea Riccardi noted, ‘of accentuating the Church’s expression of sympathy for the world’ while several ecclesiological themes it raised ‘would become supremely important during the Council.’17

Distributing tasks

Doctrinal and Lay Apostolate Commissions

Meanwhile, the postponed elections for the Conciliar Commissions took place on 16 October, with the results announced on 20 October. To the 160 elected bishops, John XXIII added nine appointed members bringing the total number in each commission to twenty-five. On 22 October, he also raised the Secretariat for Christian Unity to the status of a Commission, confirming the members of the preparatory secretariat in their new roles.18

Although there was no Jocist ‘ticket,’ the results revealed a significant representation of movement-linked bishops in nearly every Commission. This was particularly so in the all-important Doctrinal Commission on Faith and Morals (Doctrinal Commission) and in the Lay Apostolate Commission (LAC), which now had the clumsy, formal title of Commission on the Apostolate of the Faithful, Press and Public Spectacles [sic], which each numbered at least eight such bishops.

Doctrinal Commission


Gabriel-Marie Garrone, longstanding proponent of the JOC

Joseph Schröffer, who participated in the IYCW Rome pilgrimage in 1957

Alfredo Scherer, a JOC supporter from Brazil

Paul Emile Léger, a Canadian proponent of the SCA movements

André-Marie Charue, who had links with the Belgian JOC back to 1924

Marcos McGrath CSC, Holy Cross father and JOC patron in Panama

Maurice Roy, pioneer JOC chaplain, cousin of Quebec JOC founder, Henri Roy


Bishop Georges Pelletier, Canadian bishop closely linked to the SCA movements

Lay Apostolate Commission

Elected members

Manuel Larrain, pioneer of Specialised Catholic Action in Chile

Franz Hengsbach, bishop of Essen, seat of the German JOC/CAJ

Jacques Ménager, bishop responsible for Catholic Action movements in France

John E. Petit, an English bishop close to the YCW

Joseph Blomjous, of Dutch origin, supporter of the SCA movements in Tanzania

Paul Yu Pin, JOC pioneer in China before coming to Formosa (Taiwan)

Gerardus De Vet, director of (Specialised) Catholic Action, Breda, Netherlands


René Stourm, an early JOC chaplain in France

This gave the Jocist bishops close to a third of the numbers in each of these commissions, with the former responsible for the future Lumen Gentium, and both responsible for the eventual Gaudium et Spes. Other members of the LAC also supported the JOC and Specialised Catholic Action to varying extents, including Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, the Salesian archbishop of Santiago, who admired Cardijn, Emilio Guano, a former International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS-Pax Romana) chaplain from Italy, as well as Castellano and Luigi Civardi from Italian Catholic Action. The Doctrinal Commission also included Vienna Cardinal Franz König, who had known Cardijn for decades particularly through the Pax Romana network.

A notable absentee in the LAC, however, was Cardijn’s Belgian ally, Charles-Marie Himmer, whose nomination had been opposed by Suenens, who confirmed this in a 16 October 1962 letter to Veronica O’Brien of the Legion of Mary:

In any event, the 65 Belgian missionary bishops are behind me – which is not the case for the seven here (i.e. the seven diocesan bishops)… I felt this in De Smedt’s manoeuvres which aimed to place Himmer on the list of candidates for the Catholic Action Commission (i.e. Lay Apostolate Commission). I told him privately that I did not agree with the idea but he publicly returned to the charge for him to be included on our list.19

Indeed, Suenens was ‘very isolated among the Belgian bishops on account of his ideas of the lay apostolate,’ as Congar noted, although he remained undeterred in his campaign against the alleged ‘monopolisation’ of Catholic Action.20

Other Commissions

Promisingly, every other commission also included a Jocist presence.

Bishops and Government of Dioceses

Emile Guerry, another French JOC pioneer

Pierre Veuillot, previously in the Holy See, connected to France’s Mission ouvrière

Discipline and Sacraments

Alexandre Renard, Liénart protégé, involved in the Ecole Missionaire du Travail in Lille

Discipline of the Clergy and the Christian People

Guillaume Van Zuylen, bishop of Liège, Belgium

Agnelo Rossi, JUC/JIC chaplain from Brazil

François Marty, JOC/JAC chaplain in France

Thomas Cooray omi, Colombo, Sri Lanka


Gerard Huyghe, bishop of Arras, another Liénart protégé and promoter of SCA

Jean Janssens SJ, the Jesuit Superior General and close friend of Cardijn


Guy Riobé, bishop of Orleans, JAC chaplain and promoter of JOC and ACO Jean Zoa, bishop of Yaoundé, Cameroon, former JOC chaplain

Cardinal Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, a Cardijn disciple since the 1930s Liturgy

Henri Jenny, Sillon sympathiser from Lille, and auxiliary bishop to Guerry at Cambrai Joseph Malula, JOC chaplain from Congo Kinshasa

Enrique Rau, former national chaplain of JOC Argentina Bernardo Fey Schneider, former national chaplain of JOC Bolivia Seminaries, Studies and Catholic Education Ramon Bogarin, JOC founder in Paraguay

Denis Hurley omi, Cardijn disciple from South Africa

Emile Blanchet, participated in 1950 JOC Internationale congress, Brussels Justin Simonds, Melbourne co-adjutor and long-time JOC supporter Christian Unity

Emile-Joseph De Smedt, former JOCF chaplain and close to Cardijn Oriental Churches

Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh


These commissions had the massive task of working through the seventy schemas totalling 2,000 folio-sized pages produced by the preparatory commissions – more than double the quantity of texts produced by all previous councils, as Joseph Ratzinger noted.21 The job of charting a path through this material fell initially to two formal leadership groups:

The Council of Presidents: Tisserant, Liénart, Tappouni, Gilroy, Spellman, Frings, Ruffini, Caggiano, Alfrink, Meyer, Wyszinski and Siri;

The Coordinating Commission: Cicognani, Liénart, Spellman, Urbani, Confalonieri, Döpfner and Suenens.

Here again, promoters and fellow travellers of the SCA movements were not lacking, including Liénart, Frings, Caggiano,22 Alfrink and Meyer in the Council of Presidents and Döpfner in the Coordinating Commission. Among the Curial cardinals, Secretary of State Cicognani, Agagianian and Tisserant had always shown themselves well-disposed to the JOC.

This left only Gilroy, who had never allowed the YCW in his Sydney archdiocese, perhaps Ruffini, and of course Suenens, who had somehow succeeded in gaining the ear of John XXIII, despite the latter’s promise to support Catholic Action even more than Popes Pius XI and Pius XII.

In addition to the above formal roles, certain natural leaders were already emerging within the assembly, beginning with Liénart and Frings. According to journalist, Henri Fesquet, the shake-up provoked by their earlier intervention had continued to spread ‘like concentric ripples in a lake.’23 Indeed, this was an apt characterisation of the Jocist method of achieving influence. Among those who showed signs of ‘marking the Council by the influence of their personalities,’ Fesquet identified: König (Vienna), Frings, Döpfner (Munich), Alfrink (Utrecht), Léger, Montini, Béa, Suenens, and Liénart.24 Others like Camara, Larrain, D’Souza would soon emerge.

While not exhaustive, Fesquet’s list hinted at the role that the Jocist and SCA bishops would continue to play.25

The bishops organise themselves

A variety of groups

Meanwhile, the conciliar bishops rapidly began to organise their own formal or informal meetings and groups on a variety of geographical, thematic or ideological bases. Historian Hilari Raguer identified ten such groups, including:

Coetus Internationalis Patrum, a conservative group in which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, originally from Lille, would play a key role;

Jésus, L’Eglise et les pauvres group, known as the Church of the Poor group;

Central European Bloc or World Alliance, a loose grouping of bishops, including

Belgians, Dutch, Germans and later bishops of other regions;

Conference of Delegates, another loose grouping of progressives from various national groups;

Zealot Faction in the Roman Curia, mainly Curial conservatives;

French group, based on the French bishops but collaborating with francophone bishops from Belgium, Switzerland, Africa, Canada, etc.

Latin American group

Missionary bishops, dominated by bishops from Belgium, Netherlands, France and Canada.26

Other groups included the religious superiors, bishops belonging to religious congregations, and missionary bishops.

Within these groups, the influence of Jocist bishops was most significant among the progressives. It was particularly dominant in the French group (at least 83 out of 138) plus at least eighteen more out of forty-odd francophone Canadian (Quebec) bishops, and Brazilians, all of whom had direct experience with the JOC and/or other SCA movements.

Although Jocist-oriented bishops generally comprised a much smaller proportion of the Latin American bishops, they occupied many of the leadership positions with personalities such as Larrain, Camara and Bogarin particularly prominent. Archbishop Pierre Veuillot, who worked closely with the Mission ouvrière in France, usually presided over the World Alliance group meetings, indicating a likely significant Jocist influence in this group as well.27

Review of life with the Jesus, the Church and the Poor Group

However, the international group that most approximated a grouping of Jocist bishops was the Church of the Poor group. This began with a meeting at the Belgian College on 26 October on the subject, ‘Jesus, the Church and the Poor,’ which was the title of a book about to be published by Paul Gauthier, a French worker priest working with Arabic communities in Galilee, Israel.28 As indicated by a 1966 request to Cardijn to write a preface for another book, Gauthier also had links to the JOC.29

Convoked by Himmer and Bishop George Hakim of Galilee, the meeting took place under the presidency of another Cardijn ally, Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier. Others with strong SCA connections included Georges Béjot (JOC), Guy Riobé (JOC/JAC), both French, and the Brazilian Antonio Fragoso (JOC) while Camara and Ancel excused themselves as did Patriarch Maximos IV.

The objective was to consider how to develop the theme of poverty within the Council. The working group that emerged thus adopted the title of Gauthier’s book becoming known as the Jesus, the Church and the Poor or the Church of the Poor group. Later it requested the patronage of Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, who in effect replaced the ailing Gerlier, and whose intervention on 6 December 1962 also helped set the orientation of the Council.30

Of an undated list of 112 bishops and theologians who took part in this group, which continued to meet throughout the Council, at least twenty-nine had connections with the SCA movements. At least eight out of fifteen members of the ‘Animation Committee’ also had a Jocist background. A list of speakers who addressed the group, including Chenu, Congar, Houtart, Ancel and Jean Rodhain, further evidenced its Jocist spirit.31

By far the most significant indicator here, however, was the fact that the group followed the Jocist practice of ‘review of life’ in its deliberations, starting with concrete ‘facts’ from their own personal experience, reflecting on the Gospel and seeking to apply it to their own lives as bishops. This led to some remarkable individual commitments.

In July 1963, Hakim reported that he had bought an ordinary car and donated the price difference to a bank for the poor. Vietnamese Bishop Philippe Nguyen Kim Dien abandoned his episcopal palace, Bishop Gregorios of India converted his home into a hostel, while Larrain transformed his palace into a house for the poor and sold 180 hectares of episcopal land at low cost to a local cooperative. This practice continued throughout the Council with bishops committing ‘to make a gesture after returning home.’32

The bishops also committed themselves to community level action, including a proposal by Camara to establish a ‘Bank of Providence’ for the poor, while another proposed to set up a retirement scheme for poor bishops, etc. Group members thus sought to practically implement a concrete commitment to the poor that went far beyond the words of solidarity that they were seeking to insert in the conciliar documents.

Moreover, their practice of seeing, judging and acting themselves helped prepare the way for the adoption of this methodology in Gaudium et Spes and other conciliar documents. Little wonder that Tavora, Camara and Larrain rejoiced at the Jocist influence on the Council, an influence they would honour with a special Mass for Cardijn during the Fourth Session.

Key interventions by the Jocist bishops

The liturgy

Amid the initial fray, it was decided to begin the formal conciliar debates on 21 October with the schema on the liturgy, De sacra liturgia, thought likely to be among the least controversial subjects33 as well as being the best schema of the seven that were distributed prior to the Council.34

Once again, it was Liénart and Frings along with Tisserant, Ruffini and Alfrink, who, at the meeting of the Council of Presidents on 15 October, voted to begin by discussing the liturgy issue.35 It would prove to be a master stroke.

The preparatory schema had already gone a long way to promoting a more participatory Eucharistic celebration as the JOC and other lay movements had sought. Once the debates got under way, the Jocist bishops continued to make their presence felt.

‘May the Council Fathers who are not involved in ministry remember that a great number of Christians only rarely over the course of their lives enter a church,’ Ancel counselled. ‘Is it by speaking Latin that we will be able to reach them?’ he asked.36

Two weeks later, on 12 November, another ex-JOC chaplain, Cardinal Feltin called for Easter to be fixed on the same date each year to facilitate the participation of the faithful, particularly those on a schedule such as students.37

According to the journalist Henri Fesquet, ‘the interventions that produced the greatest impression on the Fathers were those which sought the simplification of liturgical vestments,’ including one by Larrain, who called for the Church to take into account ‘the poverty of the under-developed countries, as well as the social concerns expressed by the encyclicals’ and abandon the ‘shocking luxury of its temples and its liturgical vestments.38 He was backed up by yet another Jocist bishop, Paul Gouyon, who appealed for ‘greater simplicity,’ including the abandonment of the ostentatious ‘cappa magna.’


Ottaviani presented the schema on Revelation for debate on 14 November, lauding the pastoral value of the schema since it was based on truth, which remained always and everywhere the same.39 Pushback from the Council floor was immediate, led once again by Liénart’s immediate non placet,40 supported by Alfrink, Frings, Bea, König, Suenens, Léger, Ritter and Patriarch Maximos IV.41

As deadlock emerged, it was Ancel who proposed that Pope John might appoint additional experts from the opposing school of thought to prepare a completely new schema.v Now another Cardijn ally took the floor, namely De Smedt, who criticised the lack of ecumenical spirit in the draft schema. In a statement that met with thunderous applause, he warned that ‘if the schemas prepared by the Theological Preparatory Commission are not drafted in a different manner, we shall be responsible for having crushed, through the Second Vatican Council, a great and immense hope.’42

It was during this debate that a purported opposition between ‘doctors’ (teachers) and ‘pastors’ began to be articulated. This drew a swift response from the French bishops, who aware that they were regarded as favouring the pastoral approach, wanted to eliminate any misunderstanding. ‘The separation between doctrine and pastoral is inadmissible,’ stated Archbishop Guerry in an interview with La Croix:

It is a mistake. It weighs like an ambiguity on the Council because it risks ending up by dividing the Council Fathers into two groups: on one side, those who faithfully safeguard and defend doctrine; on the other, pastors concerned primarily with fulfilling their pastoral (mission)…’43

Or to put it in terms of the Cardijn dialectic, the point was not to oppose ‘truth of faith’ and ‘truth of reality’ but to identify a method to reconcile them.

Social communications

The discussion on the schema on social communication took place over three days from 23 November and was the least controversial topic to be discussed. Indeed, René Stourm, introducing the discussion, joked that it was introduced to provide an opportunity for relaxation!44 But he was completely serious in his proposals.

‘There are three things that we have always kept in mind,’ Stourm noted:

a) We wanted to affirm that the Church has a duty to teach that it cannot fulfil … if does not place the press and other means of communications at its service;

b) We wanted to affirm the Church has a right to educate, and thus the duty to encourage the press… and the duty to remind all those … concerned by these obligations of their obligations and responsibilities…

c) We wanted to affirm that the work of the Church in this field must be coordinated… (Emphases added)

Such an organisation needs to be established at international, national and diocesan levels.45

In other words, the Church’s work in the field of social communications must serve, educate and represent (or be coordinated), Stourm proposed, explicitly following the old Jocist formula.

Moreover, a major criticism of the schema, coming from those with an SCA background, such as Cardinals Tarancon and Léger was that the media was an area more suitable for lay people than priests.46

The Church as People of God: Ending triumphalism, clericalism and legalism

The final schema up for debate from 28 November – 4 December was De Ecclesia.47 Again, the Jocist bishops took the lead. In fact, trouble had begun inside the Doctrinal Commission when Léger and Garrone refused to endorse the proposed schema, Léger even threatening to resign from the Commission if he were not free to criticise it in the plenary.48

Inevitably, Liénart opened fire, applauding the schema for its insistence on the ‘mystical aspect of the Church’ but criticising its overly exclusive association with the Roman Church. ‘Can one say that (separated Christians) are not part of the mystical Body?’ he asked.49

In a speech for the ages, De Smedt, after welcoming the schema’s doctrine of the Mystical Body, the episcopate and the laity, launched a fierce attack on its triumphalism, clericalism and its legalism.[486] The schema presented its subject as a ‘concatenation of triumphs’ by the Church Militant, De Smedt claimed, which was totally out of touch with the reality of the Church, the ‘little flock’ of Jesus Christ. It was marked by the ‘pomposity and romanticism to which we are accustomed in L’Osservatore Romano and other Roman documents.’

Further, the schema clung to the traditional pyramid of pope, bishops and priests. ‘Hierarchical power is only transitory,’ De Smedt continued, railing against ‘hierarchism,’ ‘episcopolatry’ and ‘papolatry.’ On the other hand, ‘what is permanent is the People of God’ who are ‘united with one another’ and have ‘the same fundamental rights and duties,’ De Smedt insisted.50

The same day, another former JOC chaplain, Léon-Arthur Elchinger, called for an ecclesiology inspired by ‘pastoral concern’ based on the Church ‘as a communion’ rather than as ‘an institution.’ ‘In the past, theology affirmed the value of the hierarchy,’ Elchinger noted, ‘now, it is discovering the People of God.’ Moreover, where ‘in the past, the theology of the Church considered its internal life above all; now it sees the Church turned towards the world,’ he added.51

On 4 December, a day full of significant interventions, yet another Jocist bishop, Gerard Huyghe of Arras, called for the Church to apply the Socratic maxim ‘know thyself’. ‘It happens that the Church, far from leading souls to Christ, turns them away from him,’ Huyghe warned. ‘The world expects that the Church will question itself’ and ‘discover its true face,’ he continued, adding that the documents to be drafted would ‘commit the Church for centuries.’52

The Suenens plan

It was obvious by now that the schema on the Church needed to be completely redrafted. Here it was Suenens who responded in another speech that day, introducing his own ‘plan,’ dividing the work into two major parts, namely ‘the Church in its inner life (Ecclesia ad intra) and the Church in its relations with the outside world (Ecclesia ad extra)’ which would become the bases of the future Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes respectively.53

According to Suenens, the origins of this proposal lay in a note that he had prepared for John XXIII following an audience in March 1962.54 He had shared this with several cardinals, including Montini and Liénart, the latter of whom replied on 14 June 1962 that ‘your project enchanted me.’ This proposal, Suenens believed, also inspired John’s speech on 11 September 1962 in which the pope referred twice to the Council’s work as ‘lumen Christi, Ecclesia Christi, lumen gentium.’55

Yet Liénart himself had drafted ‘Un plan pour les travaux du Concile’ (A plan for the work of the Council), which although undated certainly preceded that of Suenens. This plan proposed a similar albeit less developed structure to that of Suenens:

It involves a double effort for [The Church]: On herself

In the present world.56

Liénart also shared Suenens’ plan with Guerry, who agreed fully with the ad intraad extra division. Significantly, however, Guerry noted that it made no reference to ‘the evangelisation by the Specialised Catholic Action movements of the life milieux.’57 Nor was this surprising since Suenens himself had adapted his ad intraad extra binomial from his book L’Eglise en état de mission, where he used it to refer to the Church’s missionary role of preaching the Gospel (The Word) to the world, rather than to the transformation of the world in the Jocist sense.58

On the other hand, in Suenens’ Council plan, his use of the term ad extra had evolved. He now referred to a series of problems to be addressed: family, economic society, civil society, international community, which were drawn from the preparatory schema. As Guerry perceived, however, this was still the old doctrinal approach of applying the Church’s message to the world, rather than starting from life. Thus, while Suenens’ plan retained the outline of the Church-world schema that Cardijn had proposed two years before, and that Liénart had adopted in his own unpublished plan, the content was different, particularly in its consideration of the Church’s relationship with the world.

Despite these limitations, Suenens’ proposal achieved a breakthrough in conceptualising the Council’s work. His speech drew quick support from Montini who backed the plan in another important address the following day.[496] Lercaro’s address on 6 December calling for a new ecclesiology of ‘the Church of the poor’ further helped orient the Council’s direction.59

Cardijn in Rome

The meeting with Tavora, Camara and Larrain

Amid these debates, Cardijn visited Rome from 16-20 November,60 where he met Tavora, Camara and Larrain, who enthusiastically testified to the huge Jocist influence already evident, as Camara recorded the same evening in a circular to his Brazilian colleagues:

Msgr Cardijn has just left. He cried with joy at everything that Dom Larrain, Dom Tavora and I told him. If God wishes, we will succeed in having him appointed as an expert on lay apostolate issues (and who surpasses him in this area?).

Tomorrow he will come to celebrate his 80th birthday with us. What a life, fully and well lived in the light of grace!61

In the same letter, Camara recalled Cardijn’s 1951 speech on ‘The lay apostolate and the world today’ at the First World Congress on Lay Apostolate, which had made such an impression on him – ‘one of the greatest of my life.’

‘Just about everything that we are trying to achieve, with the grace of God, is in response to the anguished call of this great apostle,’ Camara added, confirming Cardijn’s impact on the conciliar actors.62

Other contacts

Immediately, after this meeting, Cardijn went to meet Suenens, whom he had informed that he was coming to Rome ‘to consult with various bishops concerning the JOC Internationale.’63 This was certainly true as indicated by a list of letters to various Jocist-connected bishops, particularly from Asia, including Cordeiro (Karachi), Olçomendy (Singapore), D’Souza (Nagpur), Cooray (Colombo).

Obviously, there was much more on his agenda, though, as indicated by his list which also included De Smedt, Garrone, Charrière (Geneva) as well as Montini, Camara and other Brazilian bishops. He did not seek a meeting with John XXIII, whom he had seen earlier in 1962, but he did visit other Vatican officials whom he wished to make aware of his forthcoming book.64

He also informed Suenens of the book project during their forty-five minute meeting, which Cardijn later noted went ‘very well.’ According to a file note, he planned to consult Suenens about the eventual establishment of an office in Rome for the JOCI for the duration of the Council, a project that never eventuated but which highlighted the importance Cardijn placed on the Jocist presence there.65

Bishops petition for a commission on the Church in the world and focus on labour

Although it is not possible to definitively establish a link with Cardijn’s visit, which concluded on 20 November, it is highly suggestive that the next day, two overlapping groups of bishops, including several whom Cardijn had just met, addressed petitions to Pope John via Cardinal Cicognani dealing with the twin themes of world and Church. At least eight of the first group, namely Himmer, Larrain, Ancel, Angerhausen, Marcos McGrath, Cooray, Helder Camara and Bernard Yago, were all closely linked to Cardijn.66

Citing the pontiff’s own insistence that the problems of the world have always been in the heart of the Church and appealing for solutions based on the dignity of man and the Christian vocation, they called for the establishment of a secretariat or commission that would discuss the role of the Church ‘ad extra’ in responding to ‘the most important issues of today’s world.’

The same day the second group of eleven bishops addressed another letter to Cicognani calling for greater clarity in the organisation of the work before the Council and proposing that the next session of the Council should begin with a discussion on the Constitution on the Church. Overlapping with the signatories on the first letter, this group included Camara, McGrath, Larrain and Cooray as well as another three Jocist bishops, Jean Zoa, Pierre Veuillot and Maurice Baudoux.67

In any event, it is clear that lobbying for the Council to adopt a twin focus on Church and world is making significant progress.

The Commission on the Apostolate of the Faithful

A new name and a new mandate

Naturally, Cardijn was also extremely concerned with the direction of the new Lay Apostolate Commission (LAC), which was to hold a preliminary meeting on 22 November to discuss its new mandate to draft an abbreviated ‘Decree on the Laity’ – not on ‘lay apostolate’ – in place of the Constitution originally proposed.

This mandate was to establish ‘general principles’ under three main headings:

a) the apostolate of the laity in the service (actio) of the reign of Christ;

b) the apostolate of the laity in charitable and social works;

c) societies of the faithful, based on a schema for a ‘Decree on the Societies of the Faithful’ which had been prepared by the Preparatory Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and Faithful.

These instructions clearly maintained the structure of the original schema that had frustrated Cardijn. Worse, the change in name of the Commission from ‘Apostolate of the Laity’ to ‘Apostolate of the Faithful’ amounted to an unambiguous rejection of the line he had championed, although it continued to be known (in protest) as the Lay Apostolate Commission.

All this must have been evident to Camara, Larrain and other Cardijn allies in the new Commission as they gathered for the first meeting. However, although the Jocist network was well represented within the LAC, there was still no certainty that their views would prevail.

Rodhain and Liénart seek more SCA representation

This was the context in which Rodhain wrote to Liénart on 4 December seeking intervention by the French bishops over the lack of balance among the periti. ‘I consider it as the most elementary loyalty to share my concern and to admit how much the designation as an expert in the Commission of a French priest resident in France and specialising in Catholic Action appears desirable to me,’ he wrote.68

Although, according to Rodhain, the experts only had a ‘very accessory role,’ the lay leaders of Catholic Action might also ‘like me, end up astonished and worried,’ he warned. In striking contrast with Suenens, Liénart reacted swiftly, immediately intervening to obtain the appointment in January 1963 of Msgr Jean Streiff, secretary of the French bishops’ commission on lay apostolate.69

Why was Cardijn excluded?

This brings us back to the question of why Cardijn had not been appointed as a peritus. Was he simply too old? Was he not enough of a theologian? Was it a deliberate snub? Who made this decision? Certainly, it was not Cardinal Cento, who continued his role as president of the conciliar commission and who, according to Glorieux, ‘had made efforts’ to obtain Cardijn’s appointment and welcomed it.70

In the light of John XXIII’s appreciation of Cardijn’s advocacy for Mater et Magistra, it is unlikely that the pope wished to exclude him even though he made the formal appointments. According to historian Eric Mahieu, Felici drew up the initial list of possible periti in February 1962 in consultation with Ottaviani.71 Thus, it may be that the initial responsibility for Cardijn’s non-appointment rests here.

On the other hand, Suenens had loudly expressed his anger over the PCLA’s failure to heed his remarks concerning Catholic Action. Did he play a role? Given his history of negativity regarding Cardijn’s work, the conflict over Catholic Action that had flared in the Central Preparatory Commission,72 and his opposition to the election of Himmer to the LAC, the question needs to be posed.

Moreover, as archbishop, Suenens had embarked on a clearing of the decks among the personnel of the diocese. Thus, another Cardijn ally, the long serving rector of the University of Louvain, Bishop Honoré Van Waeyenbergh, had been replaced in a move that left him embittered as his counterpart from the Institut catholique de Paris, Bishop Emile Blanchet recorded.73

Although Charue felt that Van Waeyenbergh, who was nearly 71, had been given every opportunity to retire gracefully, it was true that Suenens had simultaneously engineered the removal of the rector of the Pontifical Belgian College and his replacement by Albert Prignon. As Claude Troisfontaines wrote in his introduction to Prignon’s Council Journal:

(Prignon) thus succeeded J. Devroede whose eviction did not fail to surprise. It was no secret to anyone to perceive the will of L-J Suenens in this sidelining. The latter… had clashed with the incumbent rector during the reception of his cardinal’s hat.74

Suenens was quite justified in seeking to replace Van Waeyenberghe, who was past retiring age, but it was an extra bonus that this enabled him to remove those whom he regarded as obstacles. Nevertheless, there is no direct evidence of the latter’s involvement in Cardijn’s non-appointment. Meanwhile, Camara took it upon himself to act as go-between, no doubt with the aim of having Cardijn appointed to the LAC. On 7 December, three days after Rodhain’s letter to Liénart and the day before the First Session closed, he wrote to Suenens appealing for his assistance:

Taking advantage of Msgr Cardijn’s (80th birthday) jubilee, please offer the JOC Internationale a broad gesture of understanding and paternity (a letter, a visit, invitation for a dinner). This would crown a task that I have had the joy of sharing and which has met with resounding success.75

Although Camara was too delicate to ask directly, Suenens cannot have failed to understand his intent. These efforts by Camara, Cento and perhaps others finally bore fruit with Cardijn’s appointment in February 1963.

Cardijn turns 80

Meanwhile, Cardijn, who turned eighty on 13 November, returned to Brussels, where preparations were under way for the celebration of his eightieth birthday on 2 December 1962. This began with an academic session at the Brussels Palais des Congrès, where historian Roger Aubert detailed Cardijn’s influence not only in the pastoral field but in the development of theology. Similarly, Benedictine Dom Simons outlined Cardijn’s impact in the field of participatory liturgical practice. These contributions as well as other papers, including by Gerard Philips and Jacques Leclercq, were later published in a festschrift entitled simply Monseigneur Cardijn.

A later rally at the Palais des Sports attracted 12,000 people – a large crowd by any standard albeit a far cry from the huge gatherings of earlier times.76 While the JOC and the Christian Worker movement (MOC) took responsibility for the event, tellingly, Himmer’s diocese of Tournai was also highly involved, rather than Cardijn’s own archdiocese of Malines-Brussels. Although Suenens was appointed president of a Committee of Honour, there is little indication of any involvement beyond his signing of the moving letter – clearly not in Suenens’ style – sent to Cardijn by the seven Belgian bishops still in Rome.77

This letter provided yet another acknowledgement of Cardijn’s influence over the Council Fathers, indicating that even in his absence, he had not been forgotten, except perhaps in his own diocese. Although Van Waeyenbergh represented the Belgian bishops, poignantly, he was outnumbered by the Brazilians, Camara and Tavora.

The balance sheet

Such was Cardijn’s position at the close of the First Session on 8 December. This perhaps helps explain the frustration of Camara, who, having refrained from speaking in aula – as he would for the entire Council – could contain himself no longer.

Delegated to celebrate Sunday Mass for journalists covering the Council, who had not been permitted to enter the Council hall, Camara lashed the meagre results of the First Session in a draft sermon, translated into six languages, as journalist Robert Kaiser later reported. The Council had ‘unforgivably’ failed ‘to tackle the great world issues of the day and could hardly be proud of its balance sheet,’ Camara lamented.78 Although he toned down his remarks at the request of Felici, who ordered all copies of the original text and translations to be destroyed, Camara’s remarks were widely published in the US.

Cardijn and the Jocist bishops undoubtedly shared similar views. They may have dominated the debate and helped mould the pensée commune of the Council Fathers but a mountain still remained to climb.


1Daybook, Sessions 1-2, 24: https://vaticaniiat50.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/council-daybook-vol-1-opening-general-congregation/ ; Gerald P. Fogarty, “The Council Gets under Way,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 91.

2JOCI to Pope John XXIII, 05/10/1963: AJ 6.3.1

3Achille Glorieux to Streiff, 29/09/1962, Archives Streiff, St11, 464.

4Daybook, Sessions 1-2, 24: https://vaticaniiat50.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/council-daybook-vol-1-opening-general-congregation/

5Achille Liénart, “Vatican II” in Mélanges de Science Religieuse, 33, Numéro Supplémentaire (1963):63.

6Ibid., 64.

7Liénart, “Vatican II,” 65.

8Andrea Riccardi, “The Tumultuous Opening Days of the Council,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 33.

9Ibid., 32.

10Philippe Denis, “Archbishop Hurley’s Contribution” in L’evento et le decisioni, Studi sulle dinamiche del concilio Vaticano II, editors, Maria Teresa Fattori and Alberto Melloni (Bologna: Il Mulion, 1999), 240.

11Quoted by André Duval, “Le message au monde” in Fouilloux, “The Ante-Preparatory Phase,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, I, 110.

12Duval, in Fouilloux, “The Ante-Preparatory Phase,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, I, 115.

13Ibid., II, 117.

14Ibid., II, 115.

15Riccardi, “The Opening Days,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 50-51.

16Ibid., II, 52.

17Ibid., II, 52.

18Riccardi, “The Opening Days,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 44.

19Mathijs Lamberigts and Leo Declerck, “The Role of Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens at Vatican II,” in Donnelly, The Belgian contribution, 212.

20Congar, My Journal, 124.

21Fogarty, “The Council Gets under Way,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 69.

22Although Congar quotes Larrain as saying Caggiano’s conception of Catholic Action, like Civardi’s, was as “a kind of replica of Fascism”: Congar, My Journal, 37.

23Henri Fesquet, Le journal du Concile (Paris: Salvator, 2012), 44.

24Ibid., 45.

25Ibid., 45.

26Hilari Raguer, “An Initial Profile of the Assembly,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 194-221.

27Wiltgen, The Rhine, 128-130.

28Paul Gauthier, Jésus, l’Eglise et les pauvres (Paris: Editions universitaires, 1963).

29Cardijn to Paul Gauthier, 24/06/1966, AC757.

30Raguer, “An Initial Profile,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 200.

31 Stefan Gigacz, “Participants in the Vatican II group, ‘Jésus, L’Eglise et les pauvres’.”

32Church of the Poor Group, “Réunion Générale, 22/11/1963”: Archives Huyghe, 3A3/94 Pauvreté.

33Mathijs Lamberigts, “The Liturgy Debate,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 107.

34Antoine Wenger, Vatican II, Chronique, Vol. I (Paris: Centurion, 1963), 81.

35Gerald P. Fogarty, “The Council Gets Underway,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 62.

36Fesquet, Journal, 63-64.

37Fesquet, Journal, 102-103.

38Ibid., 103.

39Wiltgen, The Rhine, 47.

40Wenger, Chronique, I:107.

41Fesquet, Journal, 108.

42Ibid., 50.

43Wenger, Chronique, I, 112.

44Mathijs Lamberigts, “The Discussion on the Modern Media,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 268.

45Bishop René Stourm, Documentation Catholique, LIX N° 1390, col.1596 (1962).

46Lamberigts, “Modern Media,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 273.

47Giuseppe Ruggieri, “Beyond an Ecclesiology of Polemics: The Debate on the Church,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 328.

48Giuseppe Ruggieri, “The First Doctrinal Clash,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 246.

49Wenger, Chronique, I, 152.

50Aemilius De Smedt, Triumphalismus, clericalismus, iuridismus in Acta Synodalia, Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Vol. I, Periodus Prima, Pars IV Congregationes Generales XXXI – XXXVI, 142-144.

51Wenger, Chronique, I, 153.

52Fesquet, Journal, 135.

53Ruggieri, “Beyond Polemics,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, II, 343.

54Suenens, Souvenirs et espérances, 66-80.

55John XXIII, Radiomessage, 11/09/1962: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-xxiii/it/messages/pont_messages/1962/documents/hf_j-xxiii_mes_19620911_ecumenical-council.html

56Achille Liénart, Un plan pour les travaux du Concile,” Archives Liénart: 44.

57Guerry to Liénart, 28/06/1962, Archives Liénart 161.

58Suenens, L’Eglise en état de mission, 11.

59Ibid., 345.

60 AC1300.

61Camara, Lettres, I, 130-131.

62Camara, Lettres, I, 130-131.

63Cardijn to Suenens, 29/10/1962, AC1300.

64 AC1300.


66 The other seven were: N. Edelby, Lawrence Satoshi Nagai, Philip Nguyen-Kim-Dien, Alessandro Olalia, Raphael G. Moralejo and George Mercier.

67 The other four were Michael Gomez, Darius Miranda, Angel Fernandes and A. Ngo-Dinh-Thuc.

68Rodhain to Liénart, 04/12/1962, Archives Streiff, St13, 588.

69Archives Streiff, St11, 467.

70Achille Glorieux to Cardijn, 26/02/1963, AC1607.

71Email correspondence with Eric Mahieu, 26/10/2015.

72Klostermann, “Decree,” 283.

73Emile Blanchet, Journal conciliaire de Monseigneur Emile Blanchet, Première Session in Transversalités, N° 121 (2012/1): 98.

74Claude Troisfontaines, “Introduction, Le rôle d’Albert Prignon durant le Concile Vatican II,” in Albert Prignon, Journal conciliaire de la 4ème Session, editors, Leo Declerck and A. Haquin, in Cahiers de la Revue Théologique de Louvain, 35 (Louvain-la-Neuve: Faculté de théologie de Louvain, 2003), 8.

75Archives Suenens, 589.

76Fiévez-Meert, Cardijn, 219-220.

77Belgian bishops to Cardijn, in Un message libérateur, 17-20.

78Robert Kaiser, Pope, Council and world (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 204.