Jesuit Cardinal Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, has warned that the challenge of migratory movements due to global warming will only become even more pronounced in the future.

“Some of our big mistakes… have to do with how we treat the Common Home. In our section we see this reflected in the climate-displaced people… who are going to pose a growing problem”, Czerny explained.

In addition, the cardinal insisted that for our home to truly be ‘common’ and belonging to all, “we cannot force people to live in a way that is inferior to the dignity of a brother or sister”.

He made these statements during an interview August 12 with AMDG: A Jesuit Podcast.

Over the course of half an hour, Czerny went over some of the most important points of his work in the area of migrants.

He himself, belonging to a family that migrated from Czechoslovakia to Canada, lived an experience of displacement as a child.

“This was not something that was talked about [in my family], but these memories now come back when I’m working with people who went through some of the things that we went through too”, he said.

– “Governments have not been vigorous, generous and creative enough” in meeting migrants’ needs

Cardinal Czerny stressed that one of the most pernicious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on migratory movements has been for migrants, refugees and other displaced people to be stuck along their journeys.

The coronavirus crisis “frustrated the movement of peoples”, while at the same time “it exacerbated the causes” behind migratory flows, the cardinal highlighted.

“There are more people who feel impelled to move now than six months ago because of the absolutely unimaginable job losses that have taken place”, Czerny warned.

He stressed that many migrants and refugees in many societies “have suddenly stopped doing what they were quietly or invisibly doing for the rest of society, and suddenly we discover that the way we live depends on them, even though they have been shabbily treated, even though they have little or no rights” and are exploited.

The cardinal referred to the many jobs that migrants and refugees work at: for example, toiling on farms.

Decrying the fact that migrants in irregular situations now have little access to food – much less healthcare or education – Czerny denounced that “that’s something governments have not been vigorous, generous and creative enough” in terms of meeting those needs.

– “Each and every one of us can do something” to help displaced people

In his interview with AMDG, The cardinal also stressed the importance of linking the local and the global.

Denouncing that “people are fleeing for their lives” due to causes including violence, climate change, corruption and human rights violations, Czerny said this “very dramatic human experience” of being forced to take flight is “very typical” of human history.

Underlining the commonalities of migratory experiences, the cardinal pointed out that “we human beings have been moving and fleeing since the beginning of time. We would not be the human family we are today if it had not been for movement and flight. Some of it was more voluntary, and some of it was more coerced”.

But those “common denominators” for migrants and refugees aside, Czerny explained that from the Vatican “we cannot be of support and service to a local Church if we are not taking the local situation and circumstances into account”.

Furthermore, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development pointed out that “each and every one of us can do something”.

He recalled that “so many parishes, so many charities, so many religious congregations all over the world are doing things and it is as easy as going there and saying: ‘What can I do to help?'”.

Thus, he explained the case of Canada, which he knows first hand: “There are parishes that welcome refugee families, and everyone can do something… teach languages, take them shopping… those practical gestures of charity and fraternity open the doors to that human encounter which I know the Holy Father believes is at the heart of all this”.

“It’s as simple and as complete as saying: ‘Live your faith’… You can’t love your neighbour and then say ‘these are my neighbours: I don’t need any more neighbours’. Our faith doesn’t work like that”, Czerny reflected.

(With reporting by Ecclesia)

More on Novena on the Church’s care for migrants:

Bishop proclaims from Fátima: “Migrants are a necessity and an asset for Portugal”

Cardinal Czerny backs German abbess prosecuted for sheltering refugees: “God bless her!”

Vatican official backs as possible “win-win situation” the “mass regularisation” of ‘illegal’ immigrants

“Not a crime, but a right; not a problem, but an opportunity”: On migration, cardinal calls for “change in mentality” among Catholics


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