Canon Cardijn Visits Germany

THE Young ChristianWorkers of Germany held their first national conference at Mannheim. Already before the conference, a number of informal contacts had been established with the Jocist movement in Belgium and France.

The visit of Canon Cardijn, founder of the Jocists Young Christian Workers, was undoubtedly an important factor in the work of re-education and reorganisation and gave German Catholic youth leaders a valuable opportunity of learning from experiences made in the outside world and of breaking through the isolation in which they have been living for many years.

Beginning his German tour at Cologne, Canon Cardijn, after a long conference with Cardinal Frings, addressed the Young Christian Workers of Cologne in St Michael’s parish hall He explained the nature and character of the Jocist movement which now exists in 52 countries throughout the world and described his impressions and experiences on hjs trip to Canada, the, United States,) Central and South America, which he undertook in 1946 at the express request of Pope Pius XII. ‘”


Accompanied by Fr. Sink, diocesan director of Catholic Youth, Fr. Cardijn visited the national headquarters of the Catholic Youth of Germany, at Altenberg near Cologne, the big industrial city of Essen where he addressed a large group of Young Christian Workers from Essen, Muehlheim-Ruhr and Oberhausen, Hardenhausen, Paderborn, and Aachen.

Everywhere his lectures were followed by a lively discussion in which the young Germans expressed their eagerness to cooperate with the Jocist movement. Fr. Cardijn was also told repeatedly about the great anxiety created among the young workers by the programme of deindustrialisation, whose full scope and consequences are not yet clearly realised everywhere.

The Y.C.W. of Germany have not yet been given their final organisational form. They will probably be established as a specialised section inside the Catholic Youth of Germany, whose headquarters are at Altenberg.


Canon Cardijn Visits Germany (Advocate, Wednesday 9 July 1947, page 21) (Trove)

Paul McGuire Revisits France and the J.O.C.

In a recent article in “Columbia/’ official organ of the Knights of Columbus (U.S.A.), Mr. Paul McGuire, who recently visited Europe, discusses the Catholic situation in France, with special reference to the jocist movement. It will be recalled that during the ‘thirties, Mr. McGuire studied the movement at first-hand and later publicised its mission and methods throughout the English-speaking world in magazine articles and on lecture tours. Mr. McGuire’s lectures on the subject in Australia had no small influence on the lines of Catholic Action development in this country.

IN his “Columbia” article (February, 1946), Mr. Paul McGuire says that “the view from the boulevards,” which is usually what itinerant journalists mostly see, might lead you to imagine that French Catholicism was dying on its feet. But as he moved around and met old friends, he began to learn better.

I began again, he writes, to meet men who were boys, six years ago—boys of the J.O.C. (the Young Christian Workers), of the J.I.C. (the middle-class movements), of the student groups. They have been through the fire that they had foreseen. Many are dead: some died in the Services, more in the German concentration camps, and the Maquis. There have been martyrs, unquestionably, among them: martyrs who until the last kept up their intense work as propagandists for God, not only amongst their own people in the prison-camps, but amongst the other peoples herded with them, even amongst the Germans about them, the guards and people for whom they were forced to slave. One girl said:, “I am to-day very happy. My husband has come home.”

“Where has he been?”

“He has,” she said proudly, “been the Jocist propagandist at Buchenwald.”


Jocists were very active in the Resistance. One effect of that is the political strength of M.R.P. (the Christian Democratic Party). Jocists, do not, of course, as Jocists, take any part in politics, and those who enter an active political career must resign all office in Catholic Action. But Catholic Action has always encouraged men to accept their responsibilities as citizens. It has worked to fit them for patriotic and public duties. The effect of its formation was seen in the Maquis, in the Resistance generally, and now in politics. Remember that all who have been Jocists are still young, for the movement is still young. But there are many ex-Jocists in the French Assembly to-day.

People will tell you that France is broken. I have had it from many Frenchmen: “Something in France has snapped.” It is again, I think, the view from the boulevards, where you will pay 1500 francs for a blackmarket meal if you are so foolish and so ready to contribute to the racket.

People will tell you that France is slow to recover. It is true. France was stripped for years of much of her resources and a large part of her active manpower. The men from forced labour in Germany or the prison camps came back slowly, and many were worn out. Malnutrition and ill-treatment had exhausted their energies. The tuberculosis rate amongst them was frightful. The wonder is not that France recovers slowly but that she recovers at all. And France must not be judged from Paris. The most notorious features of Paris (and the ones in which too many visitors find most attractions) have in all my memory been much the business of cosmopolitan aliens largely catering for aliens, tourists and the like. But for the first time in many decades the “maisons de tolerance” were slammed shut the other day by the de Gaulle Government. There are some Frenchmen, now in power, determined that their, capital will not be chiefly known as an international bawdy-house and peepshow. This represents not only reviving moral conscience, but a new pride in France. One ex-Jocist politician said to me: “Half the moral rot in France, the black-marketing, the fifthcolumnism, the political corruption, came from the vice-rings. The underworld of Paris became an underworld of all France. We are going to break it.”

The black-market is widespread. Who casts the first stone? There is actually much more reason and excuse for black-markets in the confused, desperate, poverty-stricken conditions of France than there can be in happier countries.


I went to dine with my friend, G., who is an able, prosperous business man. He is also one of the leaders of a new movement for the Family. To it he gives half of his time. It is a movement typical of much of our effort now in France. It is inspired by Catholic life -and thought, but it embraces Catholics and non-Catholics alike, all who will recognise the natural law and the vital need to restore in modern society the family ideal. G. himself has seven children, six exquisite, charming, vivacious small girls; one solemn, intelligent boy. The eldest is ten. I asked (knowing the French concern for hospitality) that I should share their normal dinner. “Nothing special, you know.” We ate spinach and a tomato salad and a little macaroni, all delightfully prepared and served. We had each two slices of bread with no butter (do you ^remember how the French loved their good bread and butter?) We drank a little wine mixed with much water.

After dinner, I said: “Look, G., is that really your usual dinner?”

“Yes,” he said. He smiled. “You know, I still have a very good income. I could afford to buy for my family any food that sells in Paris. I have talked with the doctor. Once a week do go on the black-market. I buy a god meal of meat and potatoes and’ so on for the children. The doctor thinks that necessary for their health. But or^e a week serves. For the rest . . . well, I do not wish my children to grow up remembering that they lived well from the black-market while France went hungry.”

G. is, I believe, representative of much in France that itinerant journalists often miss.


There is another Catholic movement of the Family sprung from the pre-war League of Christian Workers. It is doing remarkable work amongst the poor. Associated with it are the Missionaries of Paris: small cells “parachute,” as they say, into the poorest districts, the “red belts.” The missionaries are priests who work in factories and with the poor. They live in the cheapest lodgings. Before work and often in their own rooms and lodging houses they say Mass. Their lay fellows join with them each morning. They .are treating the modern situation as it must be treated, as a field for missionary activity, for penetration. The other day Cardinal von Preysing said to me in Berlin: “I consider our Christian position excellent. We are precisely in the state of the early Christians. We have nothing. We have everything to do.” That is the mind of the Missionaries of Paris. I do not know how many Jocists and the like there are now in France. No one is much interested in numbers. Quality is the thing. The active, intelligent Christian is obviously still in a small minority, as he is everywhere. But I believe that his influence is stronger to-day in France than it has been for centuries, including some reputedly Christian. For the Catholic to-day in France knows why he is a Catholic; what it means to be a Catholic. He is active; he has impact on his world. I don’t attach too much importance to political phenomenon except as symptoms of the deeper moral movements of society, and I think that all “Christian” or “Catholic” parties should be regarded with salutary scepticism. But the rise of the M.R.P. is (in part at least) an interesting political evidence of what I believe a moral movement deep in the soul of France.


I went from France into Belgium, to Canon Cardijn, the founder of the J.O.C. He was arrested as a young priest by the Germans in the last war. During his years in jug, he thought out the principles of his Christian Workers’ movement. This time he was, of course, arrested again. But he bothered the Gestapo. He does not say so himself, but I have heard in Brussels that the Gestapo feared to hold him, just as they feared to hold von Preysing or Faulhaber. Cardijn was released after five months. They came for him again towards the end. He tells with great glee how he escaped them by climbing and sliding over roofs and walls where the plump policemen could not follow. He is now grizzled, a man in his sixties, but merrier than ever. He talks of risks and escapes as if he had been up to skittish games. My chief difficulty with him is that he now will talk English. He insists that he learned English during the war.

Most of the leaders of the Belgian J.O.C. were arrested. Many are dead. Boys I remember working with passionate enthusiasm in the Centrale at Brussels (can it be six years ago?) are amongst the piled corpses or the scattered ashes of the murder-camps.


Belgian Jocists again had a great part in the Resistance. The extraordinary recovery and the political steadiness of Belgium (the J.O.C. has refused to take sides in the Leopold issue) are largely due to the new sense of social responsibility, which is in turn largely the creation of the J.O.C. So, at least, a Communist told me in Brussels, and I cannot think why he should lie. The association with the Resistance both in France and Belgium has unquestionably knitted the new Christian movements closely into the national life. Before the war, they seemed to be attacking from outside. Now they are recognised as powerful elements within the -social body. This will have its dangers. But it is a necessary stage in the regrowth of Christian life and order. The important thing is that those years of formation and preparation before the war are now’ being justified in the action of Christian men throughout the social system.

In Brussels, in September, there was a conference of the international J.O.C. The war in Europe was only four months ended. But at the meeting there were French, French-Canadians,

English, Americans, Australians . . . and Germans. German Jocists were torn, suppressed, murdered; but German Jocism has survived. These German boys (I am told) like the grgat Bishop of Berlin, were notable for what you can only call their cheerfulness: they have nothing-, but they have everything to do.

In Paris, in one transept of Notre Dame, I saw the other day a tall cross, thirty feet high, perhaps. It was of bare unvarnished wood, oddly naked and plain amongst the Gothic grandeurs. At its feet draped a tri-colour, and there were wreaths set about in mourning. It seems to me a most apt symbol. We have lost the grandeurs of the Gothic age, of the rich centuries of faith. We must begin again at the plain cross, decked as this was decked with the draped flag and wreaths of sorrow. Each day, in thousands, French men and women come to stand by that plain cross, to bow their heads. The cross is to stand at the centre of the Weimar-Buchenwald complex of prison camps, where 51,000 Frenchmen died It commemorates those “qui n’auront pas de tombes mais auxquels le Seigneur a donne la vraie paix”: those who have no graves but to whom God had given the true peace.

Their blood, perhaps, is the seed.



Paul McGuire Revisits France and the J.O.C. (Advocate, Wednesday 8 May 1946, page 17) (Trove)

Germans Shoot Young Christian Workers

More than 100 Belgian Leaders Executed

LONDON (by Air Mail), November 24.

From Our London Correspondent

SOME details of the German persecution of the Young Christian Workers’ Movement in France and Belgium have been learnt by Mr. Harry Tolfree, first president of the Y.C.W. in England, who is serving with the British forces in Northern Europe. These have been published in the current issue of the “Catholic Worker” in a message which Tolfree has sent from Brussels.

At Jocist headquarters in Brussels—one of the first buildings in the town to be seized by the Germans in 1940—Tolfree met M. Jacques Meert, Director of the Centrale, and several other leaders. He was told that more than one. hundred Y.C.W. leaders had been shot by the Germans and many others deported to Germany, since when nothing had been heard of them. Both Canon Cardijn, the founder of the movement, and his assistant, Fr. Kothen, had been subjected to inquisition by the Gestapo and the former had been imprisoned. The Jocistes took a leading part in effecting the repatriation of the 100,000 young Belgian men who had, on Government orders, fled to France in 1940 to prevent the Germans from being able to press them into service in their labour corps. Later, the Y.C.W. members took a prominent part in the resistance movement.


To-day the movement is doing conspicuous work for the rehabilitation* of Belgium. One week after the liberation of Brussels its newspaper, “La Jeunesse Ouvriere,” was on sale again, with an initial printing of 700,000 copies—240,000 in French and 450,000 in Flemish. At its headquarters an organisation has been at work for weeks helping escaped Belgian prisoners to find and reunite •with their families.


The unsavoury methods of the Gestapo in their interrogation of prisoners were revealed by Fr. Kothen, who, because of his contacts with Britain before the war, was kept under surveillance and summoned six or seven times to Gestapo headquarters for questioning.

“On arrival,” says Tolfree, “he was shown into a very large room, where his statement was taken down by a stenographer. Immediately he , had finished, he was told to repeat everything again. During the whole of the interview a wireless set blared forth Wagner music and numerous officials walked in and out continuously —obviously to make it as difficult as possible to concentrate.

Six or seven times during the next two years he was called to the Gestapo H.Q. and went through the same performance each time. It is not known how long this game would have continued had the Allies not arrived.”

Canon Cardijn was arrested and spent some time in prison, and though eventually released, was kept under observation. By the margin of a minute or so he escaped , deportation when the Germans pulled out of Brussels in a hurry.

Relating that one of the last things that the evacuating Germans did was to take with them as many prominent Belgians as they could lay hands on, Tolfree says: “Canon Cardjin had just finished Mass when a party of Germans came to arrest him,

Fortunately, one of the leaders of the J.O.C. was on guard at the door and managed to warn him of the Germans’ approach. He escaped by jumping over the wall at the back of the house and hiding for a few hours in a neighbouring house until the Allies entered Belgium. I believe he surprised himself at the speed with which he got over the wall—especially as he has just turned his sixtieth year.”

During the years of German occupation of Europe reports from Belgium and: France which were smuggled to England told of the strong influence exerted by the J.O.C. on the maintenance of the national morale. The Germans disbanded the movement, but the good work went on in secret and the deaths of more than one hundred leaders is testimony of the success with which it waged its war against Nazism.


A Community of nuns are among the victims of the outrage which has given the small Dutch town of Heusden, on the River Maas, the poignant title o? the “Dutch Lidice.” There, on the night of November 5, the Germans herded ,200 of the population into the town hall and blew up the building. The bodies of 135 men, women and children have been recovered from the ruins, and 65 people, more or less seriously injured, were taken out alive, with the assistance of British troops.

A despatch from Holland says that the Germans went to the local convent and told the nuns, who were sheltering in the cellars, that they, too, should go to the Town Hall.

It is also reported that the Germans blew up the Catholic and Protestant churches. Incendiary bombs were also used to destroy the Catholic church, the Germans having planted them the previous day when they entered the church on the pretext of viewing and admiring the organ.


Christmas Midnight Mass is to return to Britain again after a five years’ absence. With the liberation of all but the southern part of the country from bombing and the relaxation of black-out regulations, the Bishops are giving permission for the service to return to the public churches. During the war Midnight Mass has been allowed only in the abbey and collegiate churches, and in some convents, and from these the public were excluded. The Midnight Mass will automatically end the afternoon Mass on Christmas Eve, which the Holy Father granted as a special concession to the countries subject to black-out.

The latest reports on the condition of Archbishop Downey are that he is making such good progress that his doctors are hopeful of his being able to leave the nursing home in two or three weeks. An improvement, it is stated, set in during the closing days of last week, and has been steadily maintained.


Germans Shoot Young Christian Workers, Wednesday 20 December 1944, page 11)(Trove)

Canon Cardijn Free Again

Belgian Jocists Resume Activity

After having for years been held by the Germans as a hostage, Canon Cardijn, founder and director of the Belgian Jocistes, is free again, states our London correspondent. National Belgian Radio, announcing the news, said that he had “escaped at the last minute,” and had now reassumed his office.

The Belgian Radio announced also that the J.O.C., which had been suppressed by the Germans, has reorganised, and is at work again. The formal resumption took place on Sunday, September 10. Already the J.O.C., together with its sister organisation, the K.A.J., has published a paper under the title, “Bevrijd,” which is selling more than one million copies.


Canon Cardijn Free Again (Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), Wednesday 11 October 1944, page 3) (Trove)