Father Wresinski, a story shared with the poorest

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♦ The poor are our masters! Learn from those who resist poverty: the Wresinski paradox,

by David Jousset, Bruno Tardieu and Jean T Tab, preface by Isabelle Autissier

Hermann, 204 p., € 18

♦ At the school of the poorest. Joseph Wresinski’s theological project

under the direction of Etienne Grieu, Laure Blanchon and Jean-Claude Caillaux

Lessius, coll. “Practical theologies”, 216 p., 25 €

In 2017, the centenary of the birth of the founder of ATD Fourth World, a symposium bringing together academics and people committed to the fight against extreme poverty made it possible to debate the news of Father Joseph Wresinski’s arrests. The acts were published in 2018 (1). The poor are our masters! somehow offers a three-voice synthesis of these exchanges to access the core of “Wresinski thought”. A thought that was built in contact with the poor, since the time of his permanent settlement in 1956 in the homeless camp of Noisy-le-Grand, commissioned by his bishop.

Father Joseph realizes that soup kitchens and charities help out but keep the population dependent. It introduces, not without difficulty and at the cost of confrontations with the inhabitants as with the public authorities, “Another way of being and acting”, to destroy misery. “Instead of distributing clothing, he prefers to set up a cloakroom shop where he can buy, even for a nominal price, the garment of his choice. At soup kitchens, creating economic activities that allow women to earn some money so they can buy food for their families. ”, writes Jean T Tab.

Faced with misery, it is urgent to think

At the same time, Wresinski sets up scientific conferences and training courses. He is indeed convinced that in the face of misery, it is urgent to think, but by associating the poor with thinking and producing solutions: to think of the world without them is to keep them on the margins. In addition, the violence of exclusion is such “That you have to put yourself in a group to look it in the face” and “Cross our life experiences and our knowledge” to make it thinkable, analyzes David Jousset.

The philosopher also points out that there is a theology in Wresinski, “Because he himself discovered a theology among the poorest”, a theology comprising several fundamental affirmations “Who can inspire humanist thought” : “A dynamic of sending on mission, inseparable from a requirement of absolute solidarity, from a concern to commune with the world of misery” ; “The essential experience of the cross, inseparable from a requirement of dispossession” ; “A thought of the community, where the notion of the Church is inseparable from the fight against misery”knowing that this fight “Does not belong to the Catholic Church or to Christians” : it is universal.

At the poorest school, resulting from a research seminar conducted at the Center Sèvres, specifically aims to explore Joseph Wresinski’s theological project. This penny was not theologian and never claimed to be, but he opened “An unusual way of thinking” by asking “How to listen to the poor before any project”. “Our perspective is to show what can arise from a story shared with those we turn away from”, explain Laure Blanchon, Étienne Grieu and Jean-Claude Caillaux in the introduction. A shared history from which we can expect a renewal of theology “Down to its most central and traditional themes” : anthropology, christology, ecclesiology, the doctrine of salvation, social ethics … The contributions put together here, even if they are not all successful, clearly show that the theology that welcomes the voice of the poor s ‘finds it shaken up in its ways of doing things: it becomes more listening, more dialogical.

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