Helder Camara: An oath inspired by Cardijn

Yesterday, we remembered Cardijn’s vow beside the deathbed of his father, Henry; to dedicate his life to the working class and especially young workers

Today, we recall how Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara was so inspired by Cardijn’s vow to propose that he proposed that Vatican II bishops follow his example.

The outcome of this was what is today known as the Pact of the Catacombs eventually signed by up to 500 conciliar bishops.

Here is Camara’s original letter to Cardijn proposing to follow his example.

Read the whole story at the Pact of the Catacombs website:


Rome, 17 September1965

Dear Mgr. Cardijn,

May I make a suggestion to you.

It is very important to ensure that the Council reaches workers and to bring workers closer to our brothers, the bishops.

Let us imagine the following:

– One Sunday in October or November (when there is not other canonisation or beatification ceremony)

– In your Cardinal’s parish church here in Rome,

– A concelebrated Mass with about 20 bishops gathered around the Workers’ cardinal,

– Specially devoted to Workers (and there would be adequate publicity in Rome and we will also host representatives from neighbouring countries, particularly France and Belgium),

– A concelebrated Mass in the presence of the largest possible number of Council Fathers and in which the concelebrants would take an oath prepared by yourself similar to the vow that you took at the deathbed of your father…

– A very concrete vow appropriate to the present time and appropriate to the understanding of workers…

After the Mass, there would be a fraternal meeting between workers and bishops.

If the idea seems worthwhile to you, we would need your blessing.

As far as everything else goes, your friends are here and ready to act.

Filially yours in Jesus Christ

+Helder Camara

D 28

Domus Mariae

Via Aurelia, 481

Domus Mariae

Via Aurelia, 481


AGR, Archives Cardijn, N° 1625


Helder Camara – Cardijn 17 09 1965 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)