Ten years since the launch of Cardijn’s canonisation cause

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the official process to investigate the cause for the canonisation of Cardijn.

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, then archbishop of Malines-Brussels formally established the commission to undertake this task on 16 January 2014.

Archbishop Léonard signs the papers officially launching the commission with Mgr Van Calster to his left

Postulator for the cause was Belgian trade union leader, Guy Tordeur, and vice-postulator was Fr Felix Van Meerbergen, parish priest of Diest.

The president of the commission was Mgr Stefaan Van Calster, who was chosen for the role because of his experience of having worked on other canonisation causes.

The commission divided its work between two sub-commissions.

The first commission was on theology. Its job was to verify that Cardijn’s writings were were fully in line with the teaching of the Church.

Although not a member of this sub-commission, I was pleased to be able to contribute to its work with the documents written by Cardijn that I had collected and published on what is now the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library.

The second commission was the historical commission whose role was to document Cardijn’s life and work, especially through collecting testimonies from those who had known him.

I belonged to this sub-commission along with Fr Luc Roussel, a historian and former national chaplain of the Belgian JOC, along with other historians from Belgian universities and seminaries.

Luc Roussel takes the oath of office of member of the Commission
I also had to take the oath

Over the next two years, Mgr Stefaan did an incredible amount of work himself personally and also with the two subcommissions, compiling a vast documentation on Cardijn’s life and work.

Sadly, Mgr Stefaan died while at a conference in Poland on 28 April 2016. Several other commission members also died along the way, including Luc Roussel, who died far too young in 2019 at the age of 68.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Léonard reached the aged of 75 on 6 November 2015 and his resignation was immediately accepted by Pope Francis.

Since then the commission’s work has gone into recess. Who knows when it will be revived with new members?

Perhaps a committee or association needs to be created to work towards this task, as has been done in France with the Association Les amis du Père Guérin (Friends of Father Guérin Association), which works to promote the cause of the founder of the French JOC.

In any case, as many former YCWs insisted at the time, Cardijn personally would never have wanted to be canonised. This is undoubtedly true.

On other hand, the Church doesn’t canonise people for their own sake. Rather it does so to make their lives and work known to future generations.

Nevertheless, Cardijn would certainly have never wanted to be baptised alone. On the contrary, he emphasised the contribution of others.

Thus, in 1965 he proposed the opening of the canonisation causes for co-founders of the movement, Fernand Tonnet, and Paul Garcet.

Meanwhile, many other causes for canonisation of other YCW leaders and chaplains have opened in other countries around the world, including Blessed Enrique AngelelliMaria Felicia de Jesús Sacramentado and many more.

Read some of their stories here:


With the centenary of the movement coming up over the next year, perhaps it’s time to look again into the causes of all those – Cardijn, the founder trio, the women who worked with him at Laeken, including Victoire Cappe, Madeleine De Roo and so many others who came later, who contributed to the birth and development of the YCW.

Stefan Gigacz