The Priest and the Proletariat

Fr Robert Kothen was one of Cardijn’s earliest collaborators from 1919 when he was recruited by Jacques Meert.

Indeed, it is likely that Fr Kothen was also one of the first, if not the first priestly vocation to emerge from the new JOC movement.

After ordination, he assisted Cardijn in making contact with other countries, particularly English-speaking countries.

He wrote many books and pamphlets including The Priest and the Proletariat published in 1948, an insightful reflection on the role of priests with the working class.

Read it here:

Robert Kothen, The Priest and the Proletariat

Biography

Robert Kothen (Cardijn Priests)

WMCW focuses on land, lodging and labour

At its General Assembly in Avila, Spain from 15-21 July, the World Movement of Christian Workers (WMCW) focused on the theme “Land, Housing and Work for a decent life”.

In the final statement from the assembly, the movement committed itself to “offering our work and our struggles to all the workers of the world, at local, regional and global level.”

“This is how we will realize our evangelization mission. We intend to adapt the organization of the WMCW to better respond to this challenge,” the assembly concluded.

The final statement continued:

We are committed to :

1. Strengthen our militant lifestyle, our formation and our revision of life in accordance with our faith in Jesus Christ, with the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church.

2. Promote the relationship between movements and the workers pastoral: we need to be a voice in the Church and a voice in the world of work, with particular attention to the most excluded and precarious people.

3. Analyze the regional situation of workers in order to create dynamics that denounce situations of vulnerability of rights and protect the dignity of the person. Promote equal opportunities for men and women in all areas, also within our organizations. Contribute to the training of young Christian workers.

4. Encourage alliances with other major actors at local and regional level who share our approach to decent work and the construction of the common good.

5. To promote solidarity and common action with popular movements, during World Meetings, in a dialogue with the Pope, and at specific meetings by zone or region.

6. Continue to invite all Christian Workers movements to take part to the International Day of Decent Work (7 October), together with the world trade union movement and the International Labour Organization.

7. Propose at local and regional level a confluence of Catholic-inspired organizations, and in doing so try to launch an international initiative of the Church in favour of decent work.

8. Demand decent work for all.

9. Urge states to guarantee a social wage or citizen’s income that will help avoid the rejection of millions of people if access to decent work is not guaranteed.

The General Assembly also elected a new International Bureau to lead its work for the next four years.

SOURCE

Final Statement of the International Seminar and General Assembly of WMCW – Ávila (Spain) 2017 (WMCW)

From Catholic Action to Liberation Theology in Latin America

Ana Maria Bidegain

In this article, Florida International University Professor Ana Maria Bidegain, a former leader of the JUC movement in Uruguay, traces the development of liberation theology in Latin America from its roots in the Young Christian Workers movement. We also present a more recent video in which she explains the relationship of Pope Francis and the Church in Latin America.

According to the summary, the paper “presents the historic process of the Latin American laity in this century, taking the case of Catholic Action, especially among the university youth.

“The author attempts to demonstrate the role played by these movements in the process of pastoral and theological renewal in recent years in Latin America.

The study consists of three parts:

1. The birth of Catholic Action as papal policy, signifying a break in the history of the Church through the participation of the laity in the apostolic hierarchy.

2. The implanting of Catholic Action in Latin America in the face of the development of social and political movements inspired by anarchism, socialism, and communism.

3. The transformation of Catholic Action and the birth of Liberation Theology.

READ THE ARTICLE HERE

Ana Maria Bidegain, From Catholic Action to Liberation Theology: The historical process of the laity in Latin America in the 20th century (Kellogg Institute, University of Notre Dame)

PHOTO

Ana Maria Bidegain / Florida International University / YouTube

Workers and the Church

Former IYCW president, Romeo Maione, delivered this talk in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985.

As the village breaks down, it rebuilds. As the seed dies so will it bear bruit. In death there is life. As the village dies, so does the city find life. The city is the village reborn. The village does not die in the village rather the village moves to the city to die and gives the city new life.

As the village dies in a city, it gives birth to a universal citizen who is neither Greek or Roman, Italian or French etc. He becomes a citizen of the city. The village in the city becomes the mechanism to change the person from a member of village into a citizen of the world. The essential part of this process happens in the work place.

While the workers may live in their separate villages in the city, they all work together in the workplace of the city. It is in the factory that the villager is called for the first time to work side by side with workers coming from various languages, cultures and faiths. It is in the workplace that a new solidarity is built up far and away from the frontiers once that held them together.

The first step towards universal solidarity is the worker movement. This movement was not planned rather it came out of the urge of justice. This forced the workers to organize so as to protect their jobs and wages and conditions of work. This was the first step from barbarism where the strong loads it over the weak and impose their will on uneducated workers. The village community cannot protect them in the factory. So a new type of organization starts to develop along with the living community.

Although the Church in America encouraged the organization of unions for the good of workers, the basic organization of the Church was still the geographical parish, even today, the Church has still to discover the various new communities that have no geographical, racial, cultural or even religious boundaries. When once the village was the only organization, now a whole new set of organizations was starting to develop yet the sap of life according to the experience of the Church was to circulate in only the dying villages in the city.

It was in this new community that social justice was the real glue of a new community. It is interesting to see how the village culture played a role in this new community. My dad told me the story of how he joined a union. He was a member of a “minority tribe” in an Italian village. As there was an incredible pull to help your own, the minority was always in danger of being replaced by another worker.

The majority tribe knew how to grease the hand of the foreman who was in charge of hiring. So my father always felt the danger of being let go to make room for one of the majority tribe. So my father joined a union to protect him from the majority. It was fear that led him in joining the union.

This new type of organization did not drop out of heaven rather it was founded on the fears and secondly the hopes of workers to better working conditions. This new worker movement in time replaced the dying villages. The drive of these new communities were to become “the historic class of making history”.

The distance between the worker movement and the Church is the measure of the distance of the Church from the modern world. Industrial power can only be civilized and made human by social power. This thinking even with the social teachings is far away from the essential thinking and praying of the Church. We camouflage our betrayal by insisting that power is not our mission.

Love is our mission, we say but never even think that love may be the greatest power to humanize and civilize the beast that lies in every person and culture. Love is the only power that can ever hope to exorcise the power and the power that absolutely corrupts. Love is the power of god that must struggle with the power of Satan. The latter is close to victory when love becomes detached from justice.

It is the masses that make history contrary to much Church thinking that it is the elites who construct societies and culture. New cultures must be built on the foundation of the masses. Those who do not know the history of the masses, of the villager becoming a worker are forever doomed to build castles in the sky.

Culture grows from the roots of the masses. Its first growth is as barbaric as an infant who must learn how to walk before it can run. The worker movement is an irreplaceable part of the building up of a new culture out of the membership of various village cultures coming together in the industrial plants.

It was the communist intellectuals that preached the workers were the historic class but who used their power to build up a society dominated by intellectuals. And we all know the results of this effort of using the masses for them to gain power over the masses.

The Church thinks that it does not have to dirty her hands in the cave of history. We will wait till sometime in the future to meet the workers..TOO Late|.

Romeo Maione
Nairobi
March 23.1982

Cardijn on religious freedom

It is 52 years to the day since Cardinal Joseph Cardijn delivered his first speech on the Council floor at Vatican II. His theme was religious freedom, an issue that is perhaps even more on the world’s agenda today than it was during the 1960s.

As always, Cardijn refuses to adopt a “defensive” approach to religious freedom where the Church seeks to defend its own freedoms or status. On the contrary, Cardijn sees religious freedom as the whole basis of his approach to the Gospel message. Indeed, for Cardijn religious freedom lies at the very heart of his see-judge-act method.

Intervention by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, 20 September 1965

The schema on liberty pleases me greatly. Allow me to humbly share with you the experience of nearly 60 years of priestly apostolate exercised in every country at the service of young workers today.

It seems to me that a solemn and clear proclamation of the juridical religious freedom of all people in every country of the world is an urgent need.

First Reason: Peaceful unification of a pluralist world

The world today is tending increasingly towards unity and conflicts between nations and cultures must disappear progressively.

As John XXIII stated so admirably in Pacem in Terris, our great task is to unite ourselves with all men of good will to build a more human world together based on “truth, justice, liberty and love”. And the fundamental condition for people to live together peacefully and to collaborate fruitfully is sincere respect for religious freedom.

The fact of not respecting the philosophical and religious convictions of others is increasingly felt by them as a sign of mistrust in a matter considered as sacred and personal to the highest degree. Such an attitude makes mutual confidence impossible and without this there can be no true community life and no effective collaboration.

On the other hand, if mutual confidence reigns, it creates an opportunity for very joyful collaboration, not only on the scientific and technical planes but also on the social, cultural, pedagogical and moral levels.

If the Church can pronounce itself unambiguously in favour of religious freedom, people everywhere will gain confidence and recognise that the Church wishes to participate in building a more human and more united world. If on the other hand, this declaration should be rejected, great hopes will disappear, particularly among young people.

Second Reason: Efficacity of apostolic, missionary and ecumenical action

In a world heading towards unification, the presence of the Church among the people must necessarily take a new form, which could be compared to the dispersion of the people of Israel after the captivity of Babylon.

In the greater part of the world Christians are a small minority. In order to fulfil its mission, the Church cannot base itself on temporal, political, economic or cultural power as it did in the Middle Ages or under colonial regimes. It can only count on the power of the word of God, evangelical poverty, the purity of its witness, manifested in the authentically Christian life of lay people, and also on the esteem of the peoples among whom the Church wishes to live and witness to its faith. And this esteem of the people is nothing other than what we have described as religious liberty. But how can the Church hope to benefit from religious liberty in countries where it is a minority if the Church itself fails to loudly proclaim or to practise religious liberty in the countries where it is in the majority?

This proclamation of religious liberty is important not only for the efficacity of apostolic and missionary action in general but it is also the condition sine qua non of the ecumenical movement.

We know that all our non-Catholic brothers consider this declaration as a step which must be taken in order to arrive at a sincere and effective ecumenism.

Third Reason: The educational and pedagogic value of religious freedom

The schema speaks of the right of the person and of communities to religious freedom. This juridical freedom is not an end in itself. It is a necessary means for education in liberty in its fullest sense, which leads to interior liberty, or liberty of the soul by which a man becomes an autonomous being, responsible before society and God, ready if necessary to obey God rather than men.

This interior freedom, even if it exists in germ as a natural gift in every human creature, requires a long education which can be summarised in three words: see, judge and act.

If, thanks be to God, my sixty years of apostolate have not been in vain, it is because I have never wanted young people to live in shelter from dangers, cut off from the milieu of their life and work.

Rather I have shown confidence in their freedom in order to better educate that freedom. I helped them to see, judge and act by themselves, by undertaking social and cultural action themselves, freely obeying authorities in order to become adult witnesses of Christ and the Gospel, conscious of being responsible for their sisters and brothers in the whole world.

In our world moving towards unification, it is not possible to educate young people in glass houses, cutting them off from the real world. Many people lose the faith because they have been given a childish education.

It is only by means of a sound education in interior freedom that our young people will be able to become adult Christians.

Objections

Some will object that freedom involves a number of dangers: indifferentism, diffusion of errors, abuse of the ignorance of the masses and of the passions.

Here is my answer:

I am conscious of these dangers. Some certainly will abuse religious freedom; but these risks are less serious that those which arise from the suppression or the oppression of religious freedom. “Absolutist regimes” – even those which claim to serve the Church – where social pressure is substituted for personal formation, favour anti-clericalism and in fact incite the masses to revolt against the faith and the Church.

The dangers inherent in a regime of freedom must be faced in a positive manner, for example by a frank and sincere international agreement between civil and religious authorities; but above all by the formation and human, moral and religious education thanks to which young people and adults become conscious of their own responsibilities.

Conclusion

To conclude, I would like to propose the following:

This Vatican Council must conclude with a solemn and magnificent act by Pope Paul VI in union with all the Fathers.

This act should solemnly proclaim religious freedom. It should request all confessions, all ideologies, all authorities and institutions to unanimously maintain and protect religious freedom, defining the requirements of public order in a correct and honest manner as well as seeking to implement the means for effectively protecting religious freedom.

I have finished. Thank you.

Joseph Card. Cardijn

SOURCE

Joseph Cardijn, Religious liberty (www.josephcardijn.com)

Question

Why is religious freedom so important for achieving “peaceful unification of the world” in Cardijn’s view?

How does Cardijn define “religious liberty”? What is the significance of his definition?

What is the connection between “religious liberty” and the see-judge-act method?

Former IYCW leader turns 90

Former IYCW vice-president, Betty Villa, of the Philippines reached her 90th birthday milestone on 14 September. She celebrated the occasion with friends, including present day YCW members.

Betty was elected to the IYCW International Executive Committee in 1957 and she became vice-president in 1961.

She also accompanied Cardijn to Rome on several visits during Vatican II, lobbying on behalf of the lay apostolate.

Here is the video she made in 2012 presenting her memories of Cardijn’s role at the Council.

 

Philippines YCW/YCS leaders warn Duterte

Filipino youth organisations, including local YCW and YCS leaders, have warned President Rodrigo Duterte not to sabotage the anti-martial law protests or use them as a “pretext” to declare nationwide martial law, GMA Network News reports.

In a statement, the groups led by Anakbayan said that doing so would hasten his “fascist” regime’s downfall.

“By churning out ridiculous gags – from declaring September 21 a ‘national day of protest’ to challenging protesters to ‘occupy EDSA’, Duterte hopes to sabotage protests and discourage people from joining. The Filipino youth and people will prove him wrong,” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.

“Mr. Duterte, if you think declaring nationwide martial law will make you escape accountability for all your accumulated crimes against the Filipino people and continue your tyranny, then you are dead wrong. It is better if you just step down,” he added.

“Mr. Duterte, we are warning you. Your current rush towards outright fascist rule and threats of using the full force of the police and military apparatus to quell dissent is only bound to fuel more resistance and hasten your downfall.”

Students and youth groups from the country’s biggest universities will participate in the massive collective action set on September 21, the 45th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972.

Anakbayan said protesters in Metro Manila on Wednesday will march towards the gates of Malacañang Palace and stage a program at 1:00 p.m.

Signatories included Student Catholic Action (Philippines YCS) and Errol Alonzo on behalf of the YCW.

Youth groups to Duterte: Don’t use Sept. 21 protests as excuse to impose martial law (GMA Network News)

PHOTO

Presidential Communications Operations Office / Wikipedia

Young people share views on Synod

Last week, the Vatican has hosted a seminar on today’s youth in preparation for next year’s Synod of Bishops’ gathering on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment,” La Croix International reports

A group of 21 teens and young adults took part in last week’s invitation-only even, where they joined in discussions and made concrete proposals for the Synod.

Stepping through the doors of the conference room, visitors may have been surprised to find that gray hairs were in the minority at a seminar organized by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops last week.

Participants did not hesitate to challenge the academic presenters at the event or to raise the stakes by freely expressing their views during the debates.

In fact, they even protested when the presentations of the experts exceeded the time limit and ate into their precious discussion time.They also criticized the Vatican survey addressed to young people which was considered to be too long or poorly translated.

“The pope asked us to ‘make chaos,’ that’s precisely what we’re doing,” said Lucas Barboza with a smile.

“You have galvanized us,” said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, in his concluding remarks.

He graciously welcomed the young people’s critiques, including on the content of the seminar, which failed to address subjects such as personal relationships and sexuality, or the lack of non-European representation among the young people invited (only one representative was from Africa).

FULL STORY

Young people make waves at Synod meeting (La Croix International)

Catholic youth have something to say – and the Church is listening (Catholic News Agency)

 

IYCS leader Richard Apeh (left) with other delegates

Parramatta YCW recruits

The Parramatta YCW) is looking to employ a Youth Engagement Officer (YEO) whose work “will focus on engaging and forming young people in individual and collective actions that will transform their lives and the communities they live and work in.”

The role is a 2 year fixed contract position for 38 hours a week Monday – Sunday, according to an advertisement placed on Ethical Jobs.

The ideal candidate will:

  • Be experienced in recruiting and working with young people in short and long term projects, develop strategic plans of action and coordinate events.
  • Understand the issues facing young workers and be able to engage young adults in community based activities and actions addressing these social and workplace issues.
  • Establish teams of leaders for the ongoing development and growth of YCW’s activities and actions
  • Facilitate the growth of faith-values among young adults through a process of action-reflection in small groups and complementary training
  • Have some experience planning and writing grant applications.
  • Have an understanding of how to coordinate social media campaigns
  • The YEO will work closely with and report to the PYCW Leaders Team.

Essential criteria:

  • Demonstrated ability to recruit and engage young adults (18 – 30) in community activities and action.
  • Demonstrated ability to establish and develop teams of volunteers, including individual leadership skills and commitment to social change.
  • Demonstrated commitment to working with vulnerable young people and a belief in social justice principles.
  • An ability and commitment to working within a Christian faith based organisation while being inclusive of those from other beliefs.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, including an ability to work across diverse cultures and backgrounds.
    NSW Driver’s Licence.

SOURCE

Youth Engagement Officer (Parramatta YCW/Ethical Jobs)

Call for Sri Lanka to become secular state

Fr Reid Shelton Fernando / asianews.it

One of the sticking points in a proposed new Constitution for Sri Lanka centers on the degree of prominence to be given to Buddhism as the state religion, writes former YCW and Cardijn Community chaplain, Fr Reid Shelton Fernando.

Over the years, there have been 19 amendments to the 1978 Constitution, some enacted in haste. A number of measures perceived to be “draconian” were dropped and independent “commissions” established under a Constitutional Council.

Government coalition parties promised changes to the electoral process, but they did not eventuate before the dissolution of parliament in July, 2015, pending elections.

Why the need for a change?

The most recent amendment that got through was criticized as detrimental to democratic principles. Checks and balances such as the independent commissions were watered down. And the executive role of ‘president’ was given almost absolute power.

In 1977 parliamentary elections, the ruling United National Party (UNP) had a more than two-thirds majority, allowing pursuance of its own agenda. Then Prime Minister J.R. Jayawardene later became the country’s first executive president under an amended Constitution.

This authoritarian template benefited the rich rather than poor workers. The situation was aggravated in 1983 with the outbreak of ethnic conflict with Tamil insurgents that lasted for almost 30 years.

The victors of the presidential elections in January 2015, took the first step towards a new Constitution, appointing a committee of 20 persons to seek a wide range of views.

In the meantime, all members of parliament became members of a Constituent Assembly. A steering committee was also established. One vexed issue centers on Article 9 of the 1978 constitution and the amount of prominence to be given in future to Buddhism. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has taken up this matter up.

After years of ethnic conflict, expectations are high that such strife can be avoided in future and Sri Lanka can become a model of religious amity. In January 2015, during a visit to Sri Lanka, Pope Francis reminded people of the need to work towards unity and justice. He spoke of the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace.

FULL ARTICLE

Sri Lanka’s clarion call to become a secular state (ucanews.com)