Church Needs Militant Lay Missionaries

Pope Pius XI Astounded at Workers Ignorance of Catholic Social Teaching, Says Canon Cardijn

DURING his six days in England on his return trip from the United States, Canon Cardijn Belgian founder of the world wide Young Christian Workers, told audiences in the north and south of England of the direct commission he received from Pope Pius XI to start his movement and of the Holy-Father’s consternation when he was told that the working classes knew nothing of the Church’s social teaching.

Canon Cardijn said that he was trembling when he sought his first interview with Pope Pius XI to put before him his great desire—to win the working-class masses for the Church.

“While I was speaking,” said the Canon, “the Pope stopped me and said: ‘This is the first time that anyone has come to me and said that he wanted to win the masses. Everyone says: “I will form an elite; I will form a little group of good Christians.” It is not an elite that the Church needs, not a small group, but the masses of the working classes.’


“Then the Pope said to me the words you have heard repeated so often: ‘The greatest scandal of the 19th century is that the Church lost the masses of the working class. The greatest service you can do to the Church is to win them back. The masses of the working class need the Church, but the Church needs the masses of the working class’.”

Canon Cardijn then quoted the following words uttered to him by the Holy Father during the same interview: “I can write Encyclicals, I can write about social doctrine, I can speak on the radio, but I cannot go into the factories, into the shops, into the offices, into the mines, and I cannot spread the doctrines of the Church. Nor can the Bishops^ nor the priests do this, for these places are closed to them. Therefore, the Church needs thousands upon thousands of militant, lay missionaries, young working boys and girls who are the representatives of the Church in their working environment. Everywhere there is a burning desire for the re-conquest of the masses of the people, the masses of the working classes of the world.”

Canon Cardijn went on to recall an audience which the Archbishop of Toulouse, Cardinal Saliege, had with the late Pope, in which he told his Holiness that the working class knew nothing of the Church’s social teaching. “Is that possible!” exclaimed the Pope. “Fifty-five years after ‘Rerum Novarum,’ 15 years after ‘Quadragesimo Anno,’ a Cardinal comes to tell me that the people know nothing about the Encyclicals, know nothing about the social doctrine of the Church. Is that possible? In the dilferent countries of the world there are people .who do not know the social doctrine of the Gospels, of Jesus Christ, of the Popes, that I myself have repeated so often by Encyclical, by letter and by the wireless!”

Canon Cardijn declared that the present Holy Father has told him: “I want for the future of the Church a very strong international organisation of Young Christian Workers in every country.”

During his short stay in England, Canon Cardijn addressed two meetings in London, in the presence of Cardinal Griffin and Archbishop Amigo of Southwark, one in Manchester and, finally, a national rally in Liverpool. He told the Y.C.W. members that the British Empire and the United States looked to the English Y.C.W. for leadership in the apostolate for the restoration of the working classes to Christ, and he added: “From what I have seen, that leadership will be forthcoming.” Soon he is to go to Rome to tell the Pope the results of his tour.

“I shall tell him,” he said, “that I have found the movement strong and virile in spirit in England and with immense possibilities in the Americas.”


Church Needs Militant Lay Missionaries (Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), Wednesday 25 September 1946, page 3) (Trove)

Catholic Social Action During 1936-1937


In the Year Book for 1936-1937, published by the International Labour Office, there is a full summary of Catholic activity in social matters throughout the world (pp. 28-35). The International Labour Office was established in Geneva on January 10, 1920, with the benediction of the League of Nations. Fifty-six States have joined the organisation, whose object is to improve world labour conditions.

THE following is a “summary of the summary,” which gives some idea of the Church’s social activity throughout the world, as seen by the I.L.O.


The Bishops’ collective pastoral condemning social injustice. . . . The work of the Catholic Workers’ College. . . . The C.S.G. Summer School at Oxford. . . The beginnings of the Young Christian Workers’ movement. Their work for the young unemployed in Bristol.


The Belgian Episcopate protests against the falsities of modern life, and calls for justice and truth and love and true freedom among the workers. . . . Belgian Catholics assemble at Malines to discuss social, economic and moral problems arising out of modern conditions. They agree on the need for reform of limited companies and the banks. . . . At Louvain there is a fortnight’s congress, at which the importance of curbing financial dictatorships was emphasised. . . . New centres for the unemployed set up by Jocistes.


Messages from nearly all the dioceses calling for goodwill in attempting to solve the social problems. . . . The repeated attacks on social and economic injustices by Mgr. Salieges, Archbishop of Toulouse, by Cardinal Lienart, and by Cardinal Verdier. . . . The efforts of the Jocistes to obtain better wages and working conditions for young workers, and their ceaseless attempts to improve the lot of the unemployed.


The celebration by 5000 Jocistes of their first national congress. , . . The establishment of social centres for the unemployed.


Cardinal Innitzer’s vigorous attacks on those who destroy social justice, and those” commercial firms who make profit out of the distress of the people. . . . The establishing of Christliche Arbeiter Jugend, which corresponds to J.O.C. and Y.C.W., in four dioceses.


The second International Congress of Catholic Journalists at Rome. Cardinal Pacelli, in addressing these journalists of 28 countries, asked them to fight the anti-Christian ideas in the world, among which he included:— “The maxims and practices of plutocratic Liberalism which, ignoring or despising the intrinsic dignity of labour, and considering the worker as a tool for profit rather than a subject for justice, persevere in shackling, or at least hampering, the organised and progressive redemption of the proletariat.”


A feminine branch of the J.O.C. is established, and there are now 46 branches of J.O.C. in the country.


Mgr. Teodorowicz and Mgr. Twardowski call upon Catholics to interfere in social and economic spheres in order to alleviate the miseries of the working-class.


Cardinal Pacelli’s interview with President Roosevelt, at which reference was made to the President’s high regard for “Quadragesimo Anno.” The great celebrations in May, under the patronage of all the Bishops and Archbishops, on the anniversary of the social Encyclicals of Leo XIII. and Pius XI., when the social teaching of the Church was discussed and explained all over the continent, through pulpit, press and radio. The National Catholic Welfare Conference tries strenuously to obtain relief for rural landowners and to develop distributive co-operative societies and mutual credit societies. The Catholic Conference of Industrial Problems holds sessions in Chicago, Schenectady, Philadelphia, Washington and San Francisco, The Jociste movement is started among Portuguese workers.


The Jocistes, under the guidance of the religious authorities, organise relief for young, unemployed persons, and plan means by which their spare time may be used.


A first and most successful social week is held at Rio de Janeiro (June 8-12). There is considerable increase in the general interest on social subjects, and courses and lectures are instituted. The Jociste movement develops strongly in all the Brazilian States.


The activities of the Economic and Social Secretariat, set up barely three years ago, now cover the whole country. The organisation institutes a vast enquiry, in 22 dioceses, into the conditions of urban and rural workers. Under its auspices, a culture week, which deals exclusively with social problems, is held at Santiago-del-Estero.


Catholic Social Action During 1936-1937 (Advocate, Thursday 20 January 1938, page 27) (Trove)