Cardinal Czerny: When Pope Francis incorporated four former pontifical councils into the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, he included his concern for migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons and survivors of human trafficking and arranged for this work to be carried forward as an important priority. So, our Migrants and Refugees Section, under his personal direction, is headed by two under-secretaries, a Scalabrinian Father and myself.
ACI Africa: You worked in Africa for a number of years. What did you accomplish on the continent?
Cardinal Czerny: The work of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) that I initiated has continued in very capable new hands. They are using the same structures and developing the skills for making the African Church an effective presence in this area of continuing great need. A sense of empowerment and liberation, a spirituality of compassion, allow persons filled with faith to bring healing and joy to each other.
The Church in Africa, like on all continents, is called to follow the teachings of Jesus as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Pope Francis has spelled out the four-fold mission of a Samaritan Church towards all vulnerable people on the move: to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them in our midst.
ACI Africa: What memories do you have about your ministry in Africa?
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Cardinal Czerny: During my 8 years in Africa, I learned about Ubuntu, which comprises many virtues that are entirely consistent with the ideals that Jesus expressed in the Beatitudes and that have become the tradition of works of mercy. I also learned about the living links between ourselves, our ancestors and those who are still waiting to be born. I witnessed the power of these and other remarkable traits like sense of humour, a more relaxed attitude to time, the resourcefulness and stamina in the face of suffering, that sustain families and groups in the face of enormous challenges. So, my message is that Africans have abundant capacity to meet their challenges.
ACI Africa: As Cardinal, what is your ministry going forward?
Cardinal Czerny: As my work regarding the Special Synod on the Amazon is drawing to a close, I shall be resuming my role as under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section. In his letter of nomination, Pope Francis expressed his own priority as compassion. He explained, “May this new stage in your life, increase your capacity for compassion and enable you to imitate Jesus more closely (Mt 9:36; 14:14; Lk 7:13). Compassion for all those men and women who, victimized and enslaved by so many evils, look with hope for a gesture of tender love on the part of those who believe in the Lord.”