Marcel Callo: The JOC at World Youth Day

As Pope Francis celebrates World Youth Day 2023 in Portugal with some 450,000 young people from some 200 countries, it’s great to learn that the martyred French jocist leader, Marcel Callo, is being remembered with a special exposition in Lisbon.

Born in Rennes on 6 December 1921, Marcel was a member of the Eucharistic Youth Movement and the Scouts before joining and becoming a leader of the JOC in his home parish.

After leaving school at the age of thirteen, he undertook an apprenticeship as a printer. At the age of 20, he fell in love with another young jocist leader, Marguerite Derniaux. A year later they became engaged.

But France was now occupied by Nazi German forces. Before Marcel and Marguerite could marry, however, he was called up in 1943 for compulsory (forced) labour in Germany. If he had refused and fled, his family would have risked reprisals. Hence, he took up the challenge and committed himself to leaving as a “missionary” to his fellow forced labourers.

Over the next two years, while living in terrible conditions, he organised jocist teams among his co-workers, leading eventually to his arrest and his deportation to the Gotha concentration camp and later to Mauthausen in Austria, where he contracted a series of debilitating illnesses.

He died on 19 March 1945 – the feast of St Joseph the Worker – two years to the day after he had left France and his young fiancée, Marguerite.

It’s a great thing that Pope Francis has chosen Marcel Callo, whom he beatified in 2021, as patron of French pilgrims to this year’s World Youth Day.

Let us also remember Marguerite, who never married, and who thus suffered from his absence for the rest of her long life.

Let us also remember so many other jocist martyrs of World War II of whom there are least 50 more from France and many from Belgium, including two of the movement’s founders, Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet.

Perhaps, it’s time to look again at reviving the proposal to open the canonisation causes for Tonnet and Garcet, which Cardijn himself had called for in 1965.

Stefan Gigacz



Marcel Callo (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Blessed Marcel Callo 1921-1945 (Salt – Light Media)

Fernand Tonnet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Paul Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Joseph Cardijn, The holiness of Tonnet and Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Jocist saints in the making (Canonise Cardijn)


Cyprien Viet, Marcel Callo, superstar inattendue des JMJ de Lisbonne (Aleteia)

Youna Rivallain, « Le Trésor de Marcel », le spectacle sur Marcel Callo qui cartonne aux Journées mondiales de la jeunesse (La Vie)

Marcel Callo Official (Twitter)


Marcel Callo, une empreinte indélébile (Le jour du Seigneur) (French and German)