The Holy See
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El Escorial (Madrid), 10-26 October 2000

Madam President,

1. I am pleased to convey the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to all the Young Christian Workers who, as the representatives of the International Coordinating Committee of Y.C.W. in the different countries and continents, are assembled at El Escorial (Madrid) for the Fifth International Council of the organization.

You follow the great Y.C.W. tradition, rooted in the apostolic vision of Father Joseph Cardijn, whose goal was to help young workers to be witnesses to Christian hope in their workplaces. In the first decades of the twentieth century, this zealous Belgian priest showed a clear understanding of the situation of young workers, who were not only subjected to deplorable conditions in factories, but also exposed to powerful influences which made them feel alienated from the life of the Church. He was particularly moved by a missionary concern the future of the young workers for whom he founded Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne. So quickly did this specialized movement of Catholic Action spread, from its beginnings in France and Belgium, that it became a vibrant movement involving young workers from very different countries, a crucible of Christian activists in the world of labour and a source of enrichment for the mission of the Church in urban and industrialized areas. In its growth Y.C.W. enjoyed the unfailing support and encouragement of the Holy See. Father Joseph Cardijn was appointed an expert at the Second Vatican Council by the recently beatified Pope John XXIII, and later, in 1964, he was created a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI.

2. Today this Y.C.W. tradition continues to be very much alive, thanks also to the International Coordinating Committee of Young Christian Workers. After the far-reaching crisis of the 1970s, the Committee has provided young workers throughout the world with a movement faithful to the vision of its founder and to the Church. In this regard, the Holy Father wishes also to express his appreciation to the ecclesiastical assistants for their valuable help in bringing about the essential goal of the organization: to make young workers apostles and evangelizers of other young people. It is also a source of satisfaction that since 1986, the year in which the Holy See recognized the International Coordinating Committee, there has been an increasing confidence in the Committee, which through its work of formation, helps young workers to recognize and accept their responsibilities as citizens and Christians, both in the workplace and in the life of the Church.

3. The International Coordinating Committee is presently faced with a formidable challenge. Great numbers of young people, caught up in the accelerated and complex changes taking place in the varied sectors of the world of labour, are in need of a renewed presentation of the Christian message. Often it is young people with little schooling or professional training who are most affected by tragic situations of joblessness and marginalization, who are unable to find steady employment and even, at times, are the victims of unjust exploitation. Young people often feel unwelcome and unassisted by traditional union organizations. Trapped in decaying urban areas, they are tempted to violence and involvement in crime. Despite the dechristianized environments from which they come, these young people are still looking for meaning in life and are yearning for truth and happiness, for justice and dignity. This is why they have such need of the witness and friendship of those who can set before them an attractive ideal capable of inspiring them to take their place responsibly in society. For this reason the Holy Father strongly encourages them to promote the development of Y.C.W. groups, in order to provide for the formation of young workers at every level, a formation which will help them to encounter Christ as the primary and superabundant response to all their yearnings. In this way each young person will be able to act as a true militant in the workplace, as a lay person fully committed to the cause of the Gospel.

4. The Holy Father is confident that this International Council, meeting in the year of the Great Jubilee, will be an auspicious occasion for the International Coordinating Committee of Y.C.W. to renew its fundamental commitments and goals. He therefore hopes that all the affiliated movements and their members will put their trust in God so that they may obtain the grace of conversion and thus be open to a newness of life motivated by charity, the wellspring of authentic solidarity. May the Lord be for all Y.C.W. members the Holy Door through which their pilgrim steps will advance in the way of peace. An encounter with Jesus Christ will help them to experience fully the communion of his Church, through the hearing of the Word of life and through the saving work of the Sacraments. Such fidelity and devotion to the Church on the part of the International Coordinating Committee will always prove to be a firm foundation and, at the same time, a constant inspiration to bear witness to young workers everywhere, especially in the many situations which still cry out for this renewal and for the spread of that Y.C.W. experience which the International Coordinating Committee is called to promote.

5. His Holiness prays that the deliberations of this Fifth International Council will help all taking part to labour tirelessly on behalf of young workers, for the good of society as a whole. With this lively hope, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.

I take this occasion to express to you my own good wishes and esteem in Christ.

From the Vatican, 2 October 2000

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State