(Source: CD/Vatican News)

Cardinal Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is urging church actors to collaborate in responding to the pastoral challenge of internal displacement.

“Your closeness can promote listening that is more attentive to what internally displaced people (IDPs) need, hope and aspire to,” he said. “It can also stimulate the participation of internally displaced persons of all backgrounds and capacities in decisions that affect them and in languages and formats they understand.”

Cardinal Czerny was speaking during an event jointly organised by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in collaboration with the Migrants and Refugees Section on Wednesday.

World Day of Migrants and Refugees

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is a day dedicated to raise awareness of the plight of vulnerable people on the move, to pray for them as they face many challenges, and to highlight the opportunities that migration offers. 

“Displaced people offer us an opportunity to discover hidden parts of humanity and deepen our understanding of the complexities of this world,” said the cardinal. It is through them that we are invited to meet the Lord “even though our eyes find it hard to recognise Him.”

Traditionally, the annual day is observed on the last Sunday of September. This year’s festivities fall on 27 September. The theme for the 106th World Day is Like Jesus Christ, forced to flee. Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating internally displaced persons.

Pope Francis’s message

Earlier this year on 13 May, Pope Francis released a message dedicated to the theme.

Cardinal Czerny explained that due to the challenges caused by the ongoing pandemic, the Pope broadened the scope of his message to embrace not only internally displaced persons, but also all who are experiencing “situations of precariousness, abandonment, marginalisation and rejection as a result of COVID-19.”

Six pairs of verbs linked to practical action

Cardinal Czerny recalled that in the Pope’s message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he called on everyone to respond to this pastoral challenge with four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

Building on these in this year’s message, the cardinal pointed out that Pope Francis has augmented those four verbs with six pairs of verbs that are linked to practical actions – each of them linked together in challenging ways.

  • You have to know in order to understand.
  • It is necessary to be close in order to serve.
  • In order to be reconciled, we need to listen.
  • In order to grow, it is necessary to share.
  • We need to be involved in order to promote.
  • It is necessary to cooperate in order to build.

In each pair, noted the cardinal, Pope Francis presents a “basic attitude or skill for achieving deeply important objectives such as reconciliation and growth” and “wishes us the courage to create spaces… to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.”

Collaboration between Church actors

Inspired by Pope Francis and the experience of internally displaced people, Cardinal Czerny shared two considerations.

First, Czerny emphasised the importance of shared common objectives among Church actors in relation to providing support for IDPs.

Noting that their protection is the primary responsibility of national authorities, he pointed out that responding to internal displacement requires a “system-wide” approach to raise its profile as a global issue.

In this regard, he explained that the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section has developed Pastoral Orientations on Internal Displacement with the support of JRS and other organisations, which can be of support in the work of collaboration.

He encouraged the involvement of internally displaced persons in the design, delivery of protection and assistance responses for them, as well as in the development of laws and policies related to internal displacement.

IDPs: “A positive force of change”

Cardinal Czerny also pointed out that the determination, skills and capacities with which internally displaced persons rebuild their lives can contribute to enhancing societies that become their new homes.

Noting that “IDPs can be a positive force of change” and that they “demonstrate a remarkable degree of hope, resilience and strength,” he said that supporting their interaction with local communities will help foster “social cohesion, peace, security and development”.

“Because we are close to our IDP brothers and sisters, we are called to reveal the beauty and capacities they have,” he noted.

Cardinal Czerny concluded by recalling the Pope’s message inspired by Matthew 25:31-46, which encourages us to recognise Jesus in the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, strangers and prisoners.


On Novena, more stories on internally displaced people ahead of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this Sunday September 27:

Cardinal Czerny denounces COVID-19 has revealed world’s dependence on “shabbily treated” migrants

Pope, in message for Day of Migrants: “God did not want the resources of our planet to benefit only a few. This was not the Lord’s will!”

Vatican cardinal urges Catholics to “open eyes” to “invisible” internally displaced people

Vatican calls for world’s 50 million internal migrants to be given same rights as refugees


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.