Michael Czerny, subsecretary of the Vatican section for migrants and refugees – directly under the supervision of Pope Francis – has insisted that the Church’s defence of migrants and refugees is “evangelical”, not political.

Driving the news

Czerny was in Madrid July 19 and 20 for a forum on “discourses of fear” around migration organised by the Spanish Episcopal Conference and the Comillas Pontifical University.

The Jesuit denounced in the forum that “the 2008 economic crisis has gone unpunished”.

“Those responsible for the crisis are today richer than ever, and the rest of us are poorer, and we have fewer motives for hope in the future than before”, said Czerny.

There has been “a very serious trampling of the common good”, continued Czerny, camouflaged with “lies against migrants”, turned into “scapegoats”, while “our politicians are unable to demand responsibility” from the real culprits.

In short, “migrants do not matter”. Xenophobia is only instrumental, said Czerny. “What matters is the cover-up of the crime that has been committed”, the Jesuit denounced.

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One level deeper

Czerny explained his thinking in an interview with the Spanish Church weekly Alfa y Omega.

“The Holy See wanted (and wants) the recognition of all migrants’ access, regardless of their immigration status, to basic services such as health, education, housing”, said Czerny.

For that reason, he continued, the Vatican backed the UN’s Global Compact for Migration, adopted in 2018 by 164 States.

“One of our most compelling proposals was that the provisions be applied in same or similar to newly arrived migrants as to already resident”, explained Czerny.

Click here for more of Novena’s coverage of the European migrant crisis

For the record

But it’s not as if with its support for the Compact the Church has become just another political player, added Czerny.

“It is not that the Church has to become a political actor. The answers we are looking for are evangelical, but they have social repercussions and political implications. Just like doing nothing also has social and political implications”, Czerny clarified.

The Jesuit said the role of the Church and its parishes is to challenge alarmist narratives in the media around the migration crisis and present “a different reading of the reality”.

“If we manage to present reality with transparency, the facts will speak for themselves, and people will have a different view of what is happening”, Czerny explained.

“The most important thing is to let migrants and refugees speak for themselves: to let them enter into dialogue with host societies and express their own voice. This will help to clear away the prejudices others are taking advantage of to justify unfair measures against them. This is one of the priorities that we set in our section in the Vatican: to generate an alternative discourse”, the Jesuit affirmed.

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