Young people & the developing world

Intervention by Joseph Cardijn, 23 September 1965 

Venerable Fathers, 

In this Pastoral Constitution, which is worthy of the greatest praise, our Council wishes to bring light to all people of our time. This is why it is extremely important that it considers people, not merely in a general manner but as they live concretely in the world today. 

There are principally three categories of people who are truly concerned by these difficult problems: young people, workers and the peoples of the Third World. They expect the Council to speak to them as Christ did when he said: “The Father sent me to bring good news to the poor.” 

This is why I greatly desire: 

that the introduction to the first part of the document should be entitled “the human condition in the world today” and

that there be added three sections, or alternatively one section with three paragraphs, to be devoted respectively to young people, to workers and to the peoples of the Third World. These sections or paragraphs would give a concrete and dynamic character to the whole introduction.

Today, if you do not mind, I will speak only about young people and the Third World, reserving the worker problem for another occasion. 

The responsibility of young people in the construction of a better world 

The demographic situation of the world is such that today young people constitute around half of the whole population of the world. 

The Council must absolutely not forget this half of humanity, if only for the simple reason that it is the most dynamic, that it is called to exercise the greatest influence on the future and that the lives of young people now are very different from those of young people in the past. 

As a result of their studies, their work and their leisure, they live further and further away from their parents, from their families, and even from their homeland. 

They are much more united among themselves and they increasingly live in groups. They are at the age when they must decide their vocation or their service in life. 

The world in which they enter and begin to work faces new and serious problems. It is up to young people whether this new world will become better or worse. 

If we abandon these young people, if we leave them alone, they will be unable to resolve the problems of their age and of the modern world as they must. 

This is why, by this constitution, the Council must address a special message to young people today in which it will express its confidence and encourage them in their respective milieux to become conscious of their responsibilities with respect to our era and that of tomorrow. 

Rather than addressing young people with paternal exhortations, the Council must give them a virile consciousness of their responsibilities. 

The world of today will be what they themselves make it through the choices that they freely make. 

Certainly, their weaknesses as well as the reprehensible activities to which greed may tempt them must not distract them from the great and beautiful vocation and responsibility that they have today. 

All the authorities, civil as well as private authorities, must honestly and courageously help the young people of the world to respond generously and joyfully to this vocation in order that the whole world should be renewed and made better. 

Our Holy Mother Church expects much from young people today – young people who are certainly loved by Our Lord Jesus Christ, He who loved young people so much during His terrestrial life. 

The Church expects that young people in these new times of today today should become effective artisans of the divine mission in the world for the greater glory of God today and tomorrow. 

The great international injustice 

In its solicitude for the condition of people today, the Church must have the greatest consideration for the general aspiration of the people of the Third World to equality with the old countries in every domain of human life. 

Both by its concrete understanding of human problems as well as by the divine love in which it participates and by its missionary action, the Church must do everything in its power to help these young peoples effectively, while simultaneously deeply respecting their own character. 

The faithful of the old Christian nations must, by all means, help relieve the suffering, the present misery and anguish of the Third World. Their help must not be limited merely to finance or to technology and equipment. 

What these young nations require more than anything is fraternal education that will enable them to take in hand themselves the cause of their human and divine development. 

It will certainly cause a historic scandal if the present state of affairs were to continue whereby ‘Christian’ countries maintain the possession and use of the greater part of the riches of the world. 

This Council must show its Christian concern very clearly. 

It must solemnly implore the old rich nations to combine – in a truly universal and sincerely human spirit – all the scientific, technical, economic and political resources at their disposal which, provided they have the will, would enable them to relieve and suppress all the great sufferings, all the great anguishes of the Third World. 

If as a result of egoism, racism or nationalism, they refuse to obey this evident precept of Divine Providence, we can be sure that God’s judgement of today’s great international injustice will be severe and immediate. 

If you will allow me to do so, I will speak of workers on another occasion. I have finished. 

Joseph Card. Cardijn 


Young people and the developing world (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)