The Pilgrims of St. Michael had the honor to receive His Eminence Cardinal Bernard Agre at their 2008 Congress in Rougemont, Canada. He participated in Rome, along with four other Cardinals and other members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to the realization of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Being knowledgeable on social issues he was likely to be interested in the Work of the Pilgrims of St. Michael, and that’s what happened indeed!
He was born on March 2, 1926 in Monga, Ivory Coast. Holder of a doctorate in canon law from the Urban Pontifical University, he was ordained on July 20, 1953 for the diocese of Abidjan. His religious ministry was shared between the parish pastoral and as a teacher before becoming the vicar-general of the diocese of Abidjan. Appointed bishop of Man on June 8, 1968 he was consecrated the following October 3rd by Cardinal Bernard Yago. He presided over the Episcopal Conference of the French-speaking bishops of West Africa (CERAO) from 1985 to 1991. On June 6, 1992 he was appointed bishop of Yamoussoukro before becoming the archbishop of Abidjan on December 19, 1994. He retired from this charge at 80 years old on May 2nd, 2006. He was appointed cardinal by John Paul II on February 21, 2001. He has been a great peace-maker for his people and a Good Shepherd for his flock. He is known throughout the world for preaching retreats.
Here are excerpts from the very comforting conference of Cardinal Agre at the International Congress of the Pilgrims of St. Michael on August 31, 2008:
Miss Tardif, dear directors, dear full-time of the Work of the Pilgrims of St. Michael, sympathizers, ladies and gentlemen: I begin by greeting you cordially as Jesus greeted his apostles: “shalom!” May peace be in your hearts! May you have no fear and believe in a better tomorrow!
This is my second contact with the Pilgrims of St. Michael. (The first contact was in June, see end of article.) When we received the invitation, I had read a while ago in your journal (May-June-July, 2004 issue in English) that we receive, the intervention that I made, rather unexpectedly, at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome to which I belong; I had spoken about the “blockage of development in Africa by the banks.”
I wanted to come, but I hesitated a bit. So I called someone in Canada and was told: “The Pilgrims of St. Michael? Beware! They are cranks!”
Then I said to myself: how can they be cranks and at the same defend an ideal like they do, it’s very surprising! So I came (last June), I saw, I really liked what I saw, and I came back!
You are a movement that is very Marial. When I first came last June, I wanted to see and hear, I learned a lot, and I saw the pedagogy of your lecturers. I went through your books, and found them not bad at all! I continue to observe and will see in a little while what we will do. As I said to Miss Tardif just a little while ago, we will start by making people aware of your message, and after we will see about a permanent centre. It was like this with the Focolari, I sent people there (in Italy) and after I went myself, and then they came (to Ivory Coast) and stayed.
What brings us here? It is the recurrent problem of poverty in the countries that are called “developing” or “poor” countries.
In Italy I spoke with directors of large enterprises in Milan, and they said to me: “Ivory Coast is not only a rich country, but an extremely rich country.”
So then they started to list all that my country produces — Ivory Coast is not very big, it covers an area about as large as Italy with 17 million inhabitants. You will find in this country: agriculture — it is the first producer of cocoa in the world; coffee, third producer in the world; wood, pineapples, fruits of all kinds, and many bananas. The French believed that grapevines or wheat would not grow in Ivory Coast. The grapevines grow very well and they produce good fruit. There is plenty of oil (about as much as in Kuwait) and natural gas, as well as gold and diamonds. What do you think of that?
The problem is that the people are poor in a rich country like this. We walk on gold and the people are poor.
In Switzerland — I went to visit northern and southern Switzerland, I went often to preach retreats there as I did in Canada — I noticed that Switzerland is a country poor in natural resources, there are only mountains and cows. But the inhabitants are rich. The country is poor, but the people are rich because they are clever, they have all the banks there, they are organized.
In my country, we look for the way and means to be free of this recurrent and paradoxical poverty.
|Mexican people offer Cardinal Agre a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.|
So there is hope; here while listening, seeing and reading, we cannot say that we are completely ignorant about the problem or its solution now. But we must educate the people amd make them aware of the solution; we must speak with them and teach them how to organize themselves. Alone, they cannot do anything, but together, they can achieve a lot; they can take action with lecturers and specialists who without a doubt will come to explain the solution to us, as it was explained here.
What has made me speak here? It is the atmosphere. You know, I was in the diocese of Man, organizing a new diocese full of pagans, Muslims and others; many times we had meetings. I did not speak of Heaven with the leaders who came to fraternize. However, they asked me questions about it.
There was a pagan leader wanted to become Catholic. He said to me: “You always speak of Heaven and Hell, but what is Hell? What is Heaven?” I could not give him a theological reply.
So I said to him: “Hell is a place where I would not want you to go, because there each one keeps his problems for himself and cannot communicate with the others because the walls are closed. So you see, when we go in the villages, the old do not speak with the young, and vise versa. They are alone; this is hell because Heaven and Hell start on the earth. Each one keeps his problems to himself.
On the contrary, I would like to you to be the first one in Heaven, and myself second. In Heaven we communicate, we speak and our joys are shared; there is no pain at all. It is the same as if in your village everyone communicated and made decisions together; it would be already a bit of Heaven. And in Heaven it is not like the Tower of Babel in which everyone talks at the same time and nobody hears anything, but it is like Pentecost! If you speak in Portuguese, Spanish, or English we understand; that is very important: fraternal communion.
We have lived through a bit of Heaven here in total communication and in communion we searched for the ways and means to create a better world. I wanted to stress this because we cannot have traveled so many kilometers to come live together without developing much friendship. You have exchanged much peace, have you not? Together, we can search for ways to make a good presentation.
What is it that is blocking us? A small group of people who take refuge in a system, a system in which they stick together in evil... they know very well that they are heading for a dead end, they create wars, they create chaos...
When I went to the United States, they gave me a chauffeur and we transported things; he was a young American and I asked him: “What is it that you do?” He said to me: “My job is to create chaos here and there in the world in order to sell weapons.”
Here is what he did for his main job, with a “liaison agent” job to cover-up. In fact, he sells weapons. And in order to sell them wars must be created. So when we see in history that wars were fomented for money, it is true.
You call money: iniquity, Mammon, etc. What are young people told today? Value is money. Money is not a value that is absolute. It is a means of work, it cannot be the master. We must use this money to do good, this money is good as a servant but not as a master. Many times the dollar has become an absolute in the heads of people. Money comes first and people after.
Now in the Gospel we have a modification. When you speak of Social Credit it is based on the Gospel. When they speak of love in the Focolari Movement, their founder Chiara Lubich, with whom we spoke many times, used to say: “It is the living Gospel, applied in everyday life.”
When you take the ten lessons on Social Credit, they directly orginate from the thought that was condensed in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; you can fully sense the content of the Social Doctrine and the application of the Gospel in these ten lessons. I believe that we must pay much attention to this. The Gospel is there and we explain, we teach from the Gospel and we take something from it.
There was a great believer and researcher who came to see me to discuss and he asked me: “Suppose everything is destroyed, including all the Bibles; what are the one or two phrases that couyld summarize it all?” We do not need to search very long, for it is Christ who has already given the answer: “You will love God with all of your heart, with all your strength; you will love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 29-30). It is the law of the prophets, it is the holy Scripture condensed.
When we, the five Cardinals, were given the first draft of the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” it was a big book, we re-edited (to reduce the number of pages) and effectively when you read it you see each moment a reference to the New Testament and Old Testament. This means that everything which had been revised and corrected was from this fundamental text of the Gospel.
When I saw you here, living this way, I noticed that you live the Gospel and you pray to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and it goes together.
For example, if you read the Compendium; it is full of Bible quotations. There are Bible quotations and there is the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium. Today you should have, for your Christian and permanent formation, four manuals: 1. The Bible, 2. the decrees of the Council, 3. the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (I suppose you have all read it, and that you have it in your library) 4. You have a goldmine in the Compendium that assembles all what the great Popes spoke and said about society, starting with those who spoke most: Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI who also wrote a lot, and John Paul II. It is all of this together that makes the Social Doctrine of the Church. We must remember this.
Money is not to be rejected, but earned honestly, and one must be careful. I leave you with this phrase: “We must dishonor money earned through evil.” This means that today all the banks create money, but there is clean money and dirty money. Dirty money creates nothing, dirty money of prostitution, of all kinds of evils that we cannot name. It exists, the banks create money. All money that the banks receive is money that is clean and earned, but the money that banks create out of nothing is dirty money.
I come back to what the Church has done from the social point of view. There is the Social Doctrine of the Church. But also there is also the social action of the Church. Starting from all that we have learned, we have seen this action bear fruit.
In the history of humanity, that is long and odious, the Catholic Church has instilled the Gospel, little by little. While looking at the misery of man, she said as her Master said: “I have pity for this crowd.” (Mt 9:36.) When there was slavery, what did the Church do? She did everything so that the owners did not keep all of the slaves or servants at work. She instituted what? She instituted feast days. The feast days were multiplied and the Church then demanded that they observe Sundays. There was a long battle so that Sunday would be institutionalized as a day of rest for all people. It was to give relief to the workers; it was to give relief to the slaves.
And the Church started to build schools and universities that are issued in direct line from the Church, from the modern part of our history. The universities and schools, you have them everywhere, plus hospitals and leper-houses, so that we can gather the poor. “Give them something to eat,” says Jesus Christ; give them something to eat and do not content yourselves only with speaking, but give them something to eat.
Very often people were waiting. In certain regions they waited for the priests who are really the benefactors of all. In a certain village that was very poor, the people did not eat every day and so when Lent came the priest explained to all the people that they had to fast, they had to eat only once a day. When he finished his homily one of the faithful came to tell him: “Ah, Father, you said that we could only eat once a day, but do you have a granary where we can find rice to eat at least once a day?“ They had no need to fast, because they fasted all the time since they could not even afford one meal per day.
Dishonor money that is ill-gained and ill-employed as well, because money that is ill-employed becomes noxious. That is what you read in the ten lessons on Social Credit and other teachings.
|Cardinal Agre with the editors of our edition in Polish: Jacek Morawa (left) and Janusz Lewicki (right).|
Like everyone else, I came looking for hope. My hope is that no matter what, by dint of talking, educating, creating study circles, we will finally manage to break this law of iron and fire of money, of a international financial house that controls all of us; we will succeed, it is certain.
But it takes what exactly? It takes apostles, prophets, hardheads, we must have a hardheaded love, a hardheaded love.
It is a bit like that with mothers, they have a hardheaded love. Look at St. Augustine, leaving for adventure in Rome to a very infamous circle of people and St. Monica was crying; she cried and finally someone said to her: “The child who cost so many tears cannot be lost.“ And Augustine was not lost.
So blows you will receive; incomprehension, it is certain; even threats, threats of death; you will have them. But in the end the Holy Spirit will act, the Virgin Mary and St. Michael as well.
I read recently 33 proposals that are the orders given by the power of darkness. I mean the Freemasons who want to destroy, take away what is sacred from the Mass. Inside (these proposals) it is written that everything must be done so that at the Mass, we do not pronounce the name of St. Michael because in years past, after the Mass, there was a prayer to St. Michael to prevent the demons from attacking. The people must know that St. Michael has a great importance.
So when you founded your Movement, you have started to call your journal Vers Demain (Towards tomorrow), towards tomorrow and accompanied by St. Michael who covers you with his wings and prepares the ground before you. When I say “you,“ I should really say “we“ because I believe that we have the same cause. I will never be a Full-Time because I am retired. I finished my official apostolate; I pray, I have friends and contacts, but I think that what we are doing will bear fruit. All of the people will not put themselves under the guidance of St. Michael and his sword right away, but little by little, the leaders, the priests and the faithful will be more numerous with you in your initiatives,to carry high the flag of the Gospel that passes through the Compendium and Social Credit with the ten lessons.
I say to you a big, big thank you for everything and for the love that we have for each other. Once again, thank you. May Almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Cardinal Agre came for the first time to Rougemont last June to see the Pilgrims of St. Michael for three weeks, on the occasion of the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City. He had already attended the week of study about the Social Credit proposals explained in 10 lessons, viewed in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Here are some extracts of a speech he gave during his first visit:
I found in you brothers and sisters, who teach with simple words. We went through a beautiful book: “Social Credit explained in ten lessons.” You have taught us well in a language that is simple and clear. This is what I’ve found. The teaching is limpid, profound and nourishing. You are people who make us reflect. I reflected much. It has given me a hope, a great hope ... That which you call “Social Credit” is not impossible, it is not at all impossible; it is in the possible of God.
Yes, we can change and we should change. We should change and it will come from us, from each one of us. Before my brother who was speaking was saying: I gave a trilogy, and this trilogy is something very serious. We should be prophets. What does a prophet do? The prophet denounces, but from whom does he have the authority to denounce? He must denounce; and when he has renounced and denounced, after he must announce. It is a trilogy, it goes together. If he does not renounce the situation that he denounces, if he himself is in the system and is comfortable in it, he has privileges; he takes away all the authorization to denounce to others what he cannot see himself. If his family eats the golden calf or if at work he eats the golden calf that we all have in our plates, and continues to do so; he can never say: “here is the new Jerusalem“, it is not possible because he is in (the system) himself ...
Come to see us, why not send Pilgrims to Acfrica, and we can arrange that they give courses, because these courses must be given. Our people who are in parliament and finance must hear another speech then the one they are used to hearing.
I also want to do something, I do not want to remain silent, although I do not promise anything because I am old... but I also want to contribute to make Social Credit a little more known.
You adocate the Social Credit proposals in the name of the Trinity, these are technical strategies that we are putting into action, but he who sends us is Jesus Christ. So I believe in your proposals, I believe because today... you know that we are prophets, and I was saying today to a brother, “I did not waste my time because I learned many things, I saw my brothers act. This gave me a great hope. These people (the Pilgrims of St. Michael) have found a great light like their founder, and I found a great light on my path; I want to carry this light with love in ‘Trinitarian charity’.” Thank you.
Bernard Cardinal Agré, Archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: