The legacy of Father Joseph Wresinski, founder of ATD Fourth World

The legacy of Father Joseph Wresinski, founder of ATD Fourth World

“Where men are condemned to live in poverty, human rights are violated. Uniting to enforce them is a sacred duty. » Sealed on October 17, 1987, on the Trocadéro esplanade by Father Joseph Wresinski (1917-1988) in front of a crowd of 100,000 people, the slab bearing this sentence sums up all the commitment of one who, born into poverty , wanted to “destroy” her.

“The Fourth World is a people who live the same experience in France, Bolivia or Haiti”

The poor, Father Wresinski was one of them. This son of a Pole and a Spanish woman, born in 1917, grew up between homes and makeshift accommodation in Angers, before meeting the Young Christian Workers (JOC) and being ordained a priest in Soissons, in 1946. After ten years of ministry in working-class and rural parishes, he was sent, in 1956, by his bishop, to a homeless camp in Noisy-le-Grand. It was there that he founded the Aid to All Distress movement, ATD Fourth World. With time and media success, the expression ended up referring only to the poor in rich countries. Which amounts to seriously truncating the approach of its inventor. “The Fourth World is not a pejorative sociological designation applied to individual situations,” reestablishes Jean-Claude Caillaux (1). They are a people who have their letters of nobility and who live the same experience in France, in Bolivia or in Haiti: contempt, humiliation and the fear that their children will be taken away from them. »

“I didn’t come for your money, but for your commitment. »

For Father Wresinski, all those who commit themselves to helping these people are, in a certain way, also part of the Fourth World. Building caretaker or political leader, these “volunteers” give priority to the poorest where they live. “This is the whole message contained in his report written in 1987 on extreme poverty,” underlines Jean-Claude Caillaux. This does not only call for technical solutions, it calls for a change in our outlook on man. » President of the Association of Friends of Father Joseph Wresinski, Bernard Jeanteur remembers his first meeting with the priest in the 1970s. This sentence, in particular: “I did not come to look for your money, but for your commitment. » (1) Author of Little Life of Joseph Wresinski, Ed. Artège pocket, 150 p. ; €10.10.

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