ACI Newsletter – April 2020

Dear Friends,

This edition comes to you amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

Sad to say, the Cardijn movements have not been immune to this disease with the deaths of at least one YCW chaplain, Fr Yves Wecxsteen from Lille in northern France, and of the well known French journalist and former YCS leader, Henri Tincq. We remember their contributions and send our condolences to their loved ones.

Meanwhile, here is a selection of reading to tide you over the coming weeks.

Stefan Gigacz


Consider Universal Basic Wage: Pope Francis

In an Easter letter to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis has called for consideration of a “universal basic wage” as a means to provide for people’s needs in response to problems such as Covid-19.

“Many of you live from day to day, without any type of legal guarantee to protect you. Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable.

“This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights,” Pope Francis wrote.


Consider “universal basic wage”: Pope (Australian Cardijn Institute)

World Meeting of Popular Movements 

Future of Work Project

ACI has been considering the possibility of researching Future of Work issues, including a universal basic wage, the need for which is particularly evident in poorer countries and in the gig economy within all countries, in conjunction with the Vatican-based Future of Work: Labour After Laudato Si’ project.

Last month (and before the Pope’s message), we contacted the project with a view to participating in a project that falls short of a Universal Basic Income, but which may achieve the same objects, at least in some economic systems (such as Australia’s). Proving that universal wage and welfare safety nets can work in wealthier economies could provide a way forward for emerging economies.


Future of Work project (Australian Cardijn Institute) 

Cardijn’s proposal to John XXIII

Sixty years ago this month, Cardijn wrote to Pope John XXIII enclosing a 5000 word note entitled “The Church and the world of work/labour.”

These were the notes that the pontiff had requested to assist in the drafting of an encyclical to mark the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo’s own defining 1891 encyclical on the condition of the working masses. The outcome a year later was the publication of Pope John’s encyclical, Mater et Magistra, which in turn had a great impact at Vatican II.

As well as a tour de force of sociological analysis of the world of labour, Cardijn’s paper offered an insightful theology of work that is perhaps yet to be fully appreciated, as well as presenting a series of proposals for action by the Church, all of which remain relevant and many of which are yet to be fully implemented.


Cardijn’s proposal to John XXIII (Cardijn Research)

RIP Rev. Paul Nicolson, an Anglican Cardijn priest

Anglican worker priest, Rev. Paul Nicolson, died at the age of 87 on March 5. A married man with five children, who once worked in the champagne trade, he read about the French worker priest movement while studying at Cuddesdon Theological College from 1966-8, The Tablet reports.

In 1982, he “discovered” Liberation Theology, which became his guiding light in trying “to apply the gratuitous love that we learn from the example of Jesus. [And t]hat gratuitous love is both personal and structural.” Archbishop Oscar Romero became one of his heroes.

From the beginning, he was also committed to the Cardijn “see-judge-act” method. He helped established the “Taxpayers against Poverty” movement and founded the “Zaccheus 2000 Trust.” His family have established a fundraiser to continue his work through the trust.


Farewell to an Anglican worker priest ( and The Tablet) 

A Brazilian ‘bishop for the workers’: Dom Tavora

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the premature death of another remarkable Cardijn bishop, José Vicente Tavora, who liked to consider himself as and in fact became known as a “bishop of the workers.”

Born in 1910 in the poor north-eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Nazaré da Mata in 1934. From the beginning, he showed a special concern for workers and worker issues, becoming the first JOC national chaplain in 1950. During Vatican II, he worked closely with Cardijn, who in fact drafted one of his speeches for the Council.

Dom Tavora also worked closely with Dom Helder Camara to organise two masses at the end of Vatican II, one for the poor and one for the workers, resulting in two important documents, the Pact of the Catacombs, which was inspired by Cardijn’s consecration of his life to the working class, and the Pietralata Message, which focused on the role of lay apostolate movements.


Dom Tavora, a Brazilian ‘bishop of the workers’ (Cardijn Research) 

Seeking archival treasure with Trove

If you haven’t done so, I recommend that you visit the National Library’s Trove website at, writes Brian Lawrence.

Its principal interest for me is its digitised newspapers stretching back to the earliest newspapers across Australia, but there are many other kinds of documents, printed, sound and film. It is a great resource for family history, but that is only a small part of its value.

The digitisation of newspapers has opened a new world for those who are interested political, social and economic aspects of Australian history. However, there is, at this point in time, little use of the data.


Finding archival treasure with Trove (Australian Cardijn Institute) 

Towards a Christian Worker movement

Adelaide writer, Paul McGuire, one of the earliest promoters of the YCW in Australia, also helped spark the launch of a Christian Worker movement during the 1940s.

In 1944, the new National Christian Workers Movement and the League of St Thomas More co-sponsored a “Joint Conference of Workers and Employers.” The report was introduced by the following:

“A remarkable and unusual conference took place in St. Ignatius’ Hall, Richmond, on Sunday evening, November 26, when two Catholic organisations—one of employers, business and professional men; the other of workers—met in a combined session to affirm their loyalty to the Church’s programme of Social Justice, and their belief in the possibility of reconstruction through the collaboration of labour and management in Industry and Commerce.”


Towards a Christian Worker Movement? (Australian Cardijn Institute) 

Remembering Mike Bowden

Former Richmond footballer and recent PhD graduate from Yarra Theological Union and the University of Divinity, Mike Bowden, died on Holy Saturday, 11 April, this year, after a long battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Bowden’s doctoral thesis, entitled Searching Altyerre to Reveal the Cosmic Christ: A contribution to the dialogue between the ancient Arrernte imaginary and Christianity, is now being prepared for publication.


Remembering Mike Bowden (Australian Cardijn Institute) 


Finally, we share the following reflection from ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans)

Opening Prayer: On April 24, 2013 the eight-storey Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,134 garment workers and injuring more than 2,500 others. In the rubble of the building rescuers found labels for brands of clothing destined for Australia and other countries all around the world.

At the time Pope Francis denounced as “slave labor” the conditions of the workers caught in this deadly collapse.

Loving God, as we remember the anniversary of this event, we are mindful of these workers and the millions of workers who continue to work in toxic or dangerous conditions today to provide cheap clothing and other goods for us and other consumers.

Response: God of Justice, we remember.


Remembering Workers at Rana Plaza, Bangladesh (ACRATH)