The holiness of Fernand Tonnet & Paul Garcet

Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet were two of the lay founders of the Belgian male JOC.

They both perished in a Nazi concentration camp in early 1945.

Twenty years later on the anniversary of their deaths in 1965, a journalist asked Cardijn what he thought about their potential canonisation.

As this extract from the interview, Cardijn was wholly in favour of such an initiative, which sadly does not seem to have ever been launched.

It will be the 80th anniversary of their deaths in 2025, which will also be the centenary of the “official” foundation of the Belgian YCW in 1925.

Perhaps it’s time to look into the possibilities of opening a process for their beatification again?

Stefan Gigacz

Four questions to Cardinal Cardijn regarding the holiness of F. Tonnet et P. Garcet

Friends of Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet believe that you may wish to see them both beatified?

I was asked what I thought of introducing a request to beatify the two founders of the JOC, Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet, both of whom died in the Dachau concentration camp.

They asked me this after I expressed this wish during my homily at the mass commemorating our friends’ 20th (death) anniversary at St Michael’s Cathedral in Brussels. On that occasion, I simply wanted to echo the ardent desire expressed by several of their closest collaborators.

At the time of the (Second Vatican) Council, which addressed the great issue of the apostolate of the laity, several Fathers, including several of the most eminent, emphasised that lay people in the Church should and could achieve the highest levels of holiness.

And a number of them did not hesitate to express their desire for heroic lay saints to be raised to the altars as magnificant exampes of holiness lived in the world.

Could Fernand and Paul be nominated for this honour? I firmly believe so. They were indissolubly united in life as in death. They were not just examples of holy and apostolic friendship. As a result of their fidelity to this friendship, not wanting one to be the cause of the other’s arrest, they became freely and voluntarily united in sacrifice at the concentration camp.

Friends of Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet believe that your intention was to see them beatified? Do you think that these two lay people could be beatified by the Church and offered as models?

It was not primarily their arrest, stay and martyrdom in the Dachau camp that set them apart for the heroism of holiness. Many others have displayed a similar sublime heroism.

No, their whole adolescence and youth was marked by the faith and an apostolic mission, by daily recourse to the most authentic sources of holiness and apostolate, by an unparallelled charity and renouncement, by goodness, gentleness and perseverance in the service of the humblest and most abandoned.

It is evidently not my role to decide on the issue of their beatification. We know what a long and demanding process it is. However, there is pressing reason for those, who, like Paul and Fernand, took part in apostolic action throughout the whole of their lives, to provide their testimony without delay. Those who knew and frequented them must not refrain from expressing themselves in soul and conscience.

The outcome of the cause will depend on all of these testimonies. We can and must pray for this with the sole intention of serving the glory of God, which manifests itself in his saints. And let us hope that it will be displayed more and more in the heroism of lay saints.

Cardinal Joseph CARDIJN, Founder – chaplain of the YCW.


Joseph Cardijn, The holiness of Tonnet et Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

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Fernand Tonnet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Paul Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)