IYCW History: Rome 1957, the IYCW bursts onto the scene

Plan St PetersConfiguration of the I.C. official opening at Saint Peter's Square in Rome

After the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019, the IYCW has postponed the celebration of the XVth International Council. However unusual the current situation is, the postponing of an important event is no first in the history of the IYCW. This article takes a look at the preparations for the World Assembly and International Council in Rome 64 years ago, events that could have taken place earlier if it wasn’t for a global crisis: the Second World War.

1957 is a year engraved in IYCW (International Young Christian Workers) memory, and for good reason. The official recognition of the statutes by Pope Pius XII in Rome marked the beginning of an independent and autonomous IYCW. At the same time, the Italian capital was buzzing with life as some 30 000 young workers from across the globe gathered for the World Assembly. Many eyes were fixed on Rome; the IYCW was about to show itself to the world.

The archives reveal that the preparations for the big occasion began years in advance. As early as 1954, the members of the International Bureau set out on a first draft project of the statutes. Early in 1956 the statutes were sent to the Vatican for approval. Without doubt nervous for an official response, Cardijn contacted Felice Pirrozzi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to UNESCO, for news. So it happened that in February 1956 – still more than one year before the gathering in Rome- it was Pirrozzi who informed Cardijn that the statutes had been approved, offering his felicitations on a work of many years.

At the same time, preparations for the World Assembly were made: invitations were sent, stays were booked and programs were drawn up. It was a huge operation, but the concept was not invented from scratch. A note found in the archives shows that Cardijn had studied the plans for the World Assembly of 1939. He hoped that the pilgrimage in 1957 would erase the sadness and disappointment from the World Assembly of 1939 that was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

The preparations bore their fruit and both the World Assembly and the International Council were a great success. During the course of 1957 inscription forms in three languages had been sent to all national YCW’s to affiliate themselves to the newly founded IYCW. In doing so, the various YCW’s subscribed to the internal regulations and pledged to work towards ‘the salvation of the working youth in the world’. The IYCW was born.

Do you still have documents or pictures concerning the gathering in Rome 1957? Feel free to share them with us via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and be sure to conserve them properly to keep the IYCW heritage alive for future generations!


StatutesStatutes of the IYCW, 1957


PirrozziLetter of the Apostolic Nuntio at the UNESCO to Joseph Cardijn


IndiaRequest of admission to IYCW by India YCW


 CubaRequest for admission in the IYCW by Cuba YCW

HaitiRequest for admission in the IYCW by Haiti YCW

Related Articles