Archbishop Cardijn of Tusuros

It was exactly fifty years ago on 15 February 1965 that Paul VI named Cardijn as titular archbishop of Tusuros, a week prior to his elevation as cardinal. But where is Tusuros? Today, as Wikipedia informs us, it is a town in Tunisia known as Tozeur, but which was once an “important Roman outpost”:

Tozeur (Arabic: توزر‎, Berber: Tuzer / ⵜⵓⵣⴻⵔ) is an oasis and a city in south west Tunisia. The city is located North West of Chott el-Djerid, in between this Chott and the smaller Chott el-Gharsa. It is the capital of theTozeur Governorate.

With hundreds of thousands of palm trees, Tozeur is a large oasis. The dates that are exported from Tozeur are very well known. In ancient times, before the advent of motorized vehicles, the oasis was important for the transportation through the Sahara, which took place in caravans. The name of the city in antiquity was Tusuros, it was an important Roman outpost.

I’m virtually certain that Cardijn never visited Tozeur, although he did make several trips to North African countries. Nevertheless, he would surely have felt concerned by the situation now experienced by the people of Tozeur, as described by Wikipedia:

The overall region, not only Tozeur, is seeing a large influx of unemployed workers and their families (some of them native to the Tozeur area, but migrated in search of jobs decades earlier), that are migrating from the once rich Phosphate region of Metlaoui, Gafsa, Oum Lerrayess, etc… in hope of work in the Tourism sector. The phosphate mines are no longer productive and the government opted to sell them to European investors, who chose to let go of thousands of workers as the first step to rehabilitating them. Unfortunately this influx caused problems to Tozeur, where the unemployment rate and crimes skyrocketed. Overall the region, and Tozeur in particular, is going through a tough time.

I’m also sure that it would have pleased Cardijn that his diocese was located at the heart of the Arabic and Muslim world. One of his particular concerns at the time of Vatican II was precisely to work out how the JOC movement could reach out to all young workers, going beyond the old Christian world of Europe.

Cardijn was archbishop of Tusuros for only two and a half years before his death in July 1967. It also seems that he was the first modern prelate of Tusuros. Catholic Hierarchy has Cardijn first in its list of recent archbishops of the town.

Here is the list:

It is interesting to note that his successor was Archbishop later Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who is said to have come second in the voting at the 1978 conclave that elected Karol Wojtyla. Years before, Benelli had been secretary to Mgr Montini, the future Paul VI, at the Holy See Secretariat of State from 1947 to 1950. In this capacity, he had quite a lot of contact with Cardijn and the YCW.

Later Benelli was later secretary of the nunciature in France (1953-1960) and then auditor at the nunciature in Brazil (1960 – 1962). He certainly would have had much contact with the JOC in these countries, particularly since the Second World Council of the IYCW was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1961. I wonder if he attended?

Later, he returned to the Secretariat of State as Substitute from 1967 to 1977. Here again he was in close contact with the IYCW. Indeed, it was with Cardinal Benelli that the IYCW negotiated its new “Protocol” of recognition following the IYCW World Council of Linz in 1975.

This was the Council which adopted the controversial Declaration of Principles. It is worth noting that Benelli, with his diplomatic experience in France and Latin America, certainly understood the “liberation theology” context in which the Declaration of Principles (DOP) was drafted.

And it is significant that he accepted the DOP as the starting point of the new Protocol agreement under which the Holy See recognised the IYCW. As part of these negotiations, the International Team of the IYCW also adopted a follow up document The specifically Christian and ecclesial character of the YCW which clarified how the YCW understood its relationship with the Church.

Thus, it is false to claim (as was later done) that the Holy See never accepted the DOP of the IYCW. On the contrary, it was Cardinal Benelli, who, in the name of the Holy See, granted recognition to the IYCW as an International Catholic Organisation in 1977, only two years after the adoption of the DOP.

Benelli, in turn, was succeeded by Archbishop Thomas Cajetan Kelly OP, who later became archbishop of St Louis, Missouri, in the USA. I don’t know if he had any particular links, although as a Dominican, it is quite likely that he was familiar with Cardijn. In any event, he certainly had a broad concern for social issues, as reported by the Catholic News Service after his death in 2011:

Respect for life “embraces many issues,” he said in a 1999 article in The Record. “Poverty, malnutrition, hunger, war, sexual exploitation, the arms trade, abortion, racism, unchecked individualism and materialism, capital punishment and euthanasia all contribute to a ‘throw-away’ society and to tremendous suffering.”

In turn, Kelly was succeeded by Bishop Paul Lanneau, a retired auxiliary bishop of Mechelen-Brussels. Bishop Lanneau, who turns 90 this year, is certainly a Cardijn disciple as I remember myself from meeting him during the early 1990s when I worked for the IYCW.

Indeed, the “quasi-synod” for Brussels launched by Bishop Lanneau for the city of Brussels in 1999 specifically followed the Cardijn method:

Stefan Gigacz


Tozeur Avenue Habib Bourguiba“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –