Cardijn and Congar

Young Fr Yves Congar with YCW leaders from Mouscron, Belgium 1934 (Archives du Saulchoir)
According to Yves Congar, he first met Cardijn during the early 1930s while he (Congar) was living and working at the Dominican centre, Le Saulchoir, which was then located near Tournai in Belgium.

Following in the footsteps of his Dominican counterpart and friend, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Congar became a regular collaborator with the Young Christian Workers teams in the Mouscron region of Belgium and also in the Lille region of France, just across the border.

In fact, Congar preached regular retreats for YCW leaders during those years.

In 1975, he described those early contacts with the YCW and with Cardijn as "decisive" in his orientation as a theologian.

After World War II, Congar remained close to the YCW in France, writing in the publication Masses Ouvrières, and was also sought after as a speaker by many other lay movements including the YCS (JEC), JAC (Rural YCW), the ACO (Workers Catholic Action) and Catholic intellectual groups.

In 1949, Cardijn invited Congar and Chenu along with other Belgian theologians and philosophers to a meeting at Tourneppe to discuss various controversial issues then facing the emerging International YCW.

During this period, Congar was also close to the worker priests in France, many of whom were also Dominicans. Indeed, this was undoubtedly one of the key reasons that Congar was eventually sent to England, to Cambridge University for a year "to cool his heels" in the midst of the crisis that led to the closing down of the worker priest experience by the Holy See.

None of this, however, affected the relationship between Congar and Cardijn.

Upon becoming cardinal, Cardijn sought Congar's assistance in the drafting of his eventual speeches at Vatican II.

Here is some of the documentation and letters that shed light on their collaboration.

Stefan Gigacz