As a young priest, Francois Houtart first visited the international secretariat of the International YCW in the aftermath of World War II. Soon after he accompanied a young Polish priest, Karol Wojtyla, who had come to Belgium to study the Catholic labor organisations, specifically the YCW.
When Cardijn later began to think of retiring in the late 1950s, he approached Fr Houtart to become his successor as chaplain of the IYCW. However, the suggestion was not accepted by the then archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Van Roey.
Like Cardijn, Francois Houtart later became an expert at Vatican II. A speech he gave outlining his views on the follow up to the Council is available online at the Catholic University of Leuven here.
Francois Houtart taught for many years as a professor of the sociology of religion at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve.
He was also a key inspiration in the development of the World Social Forum. It is for this reason particularly that many of his colleagues are now moving to have him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Inspired by his friends in the alternative world movement, we have taken the initiative of promoting the candidacy of François Houtart for the Nobel Peace Prize of 2011 because we feel that this distinction would serve as international recognition of his valuable contributions," write Eduardo Crivisqui and Leopold Havenith on behalf of the group coordinating the initiative.
"But also because we consider that the attribution of such a distinction to François Houtart would have a meaning and an impact beyond his own person: it would also recognize the broad current of the alternative world movement for which he has shown such solidarity: all those who have come together in our contemporary world and who fight for more justice, often at the price of their own freedom and even of their lives.
"We are sketching out here the many facets of what we consider to be the contribution of François Houtart to peace in the world, through his work and social commitment." the group says.
However, the group emphasises that its initiative is an unofficial proposal.
"Our initiative is aimed at informing world opinion of how important it is to recognize the alternative world movement and the crucial role that the attribution of a Nobel Prize can play to this end. It must not be confused with the official presentation of a candidature to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is the subject of another procedure," the group says.
It requests supporters and friends to support the appeal by signing an online appeal:
More information available here: www.francoishoutart.org