“The Pope chooses the meeting rather than fear”

“The Pope chooses the meeting rather than fear”

Among the Jesuits working at the Vatican, Cardinal Czerny is the one who gives flesh to the social intuitions of Pope Francis. Starting with the call to universal fraternity.

For two years, you have been one of the sixteen “ministers” of Pope Francis. Your dicastery is at the service of “integral human development”. What does this title mean?

The word “development” retains negative connotations for many today, pitting so-called developed countries against others that are “developing”. A dicastery dedicated to “integral human development” makes it possible to move this line: everyone is concerned, whether in Paris or on the other side of the world. By baptizing it thus, Pope Francis wanted to remind us that we are at the service of each local Church. This is how the Gospel can be lived concretely, with particular attention to the poorest people.

Born in the former Czechoslovakia before growing up in Canada, you lived and worked, as a Jesuit, on several continents. Do you feel like you are part of the world of migrants?

Yes, in a way. In my personal history, it is linked firstly to the fact that my parents decided to flee their homeland at a time when the communist regime there was getting tougher. Thanks to a high school friend of my parents, already exiled in Canada, we were able to be welcomed across the Atlantic. But today, after living on different continents, I no longer feel linked to a particular homeland. A migrant has a strange experience: he loses the country of origin that he leaves, but without ever really reaching the land that welcomes him. He will always stay elsewhere.

Isn't this migratory phenomenon the big deal at the start of the 21st century?

Not for me in any case. This kind of phenomenon has existed since the dawn of time. And sometimes it has affected millions of people. The big difference is that this reality is now covered by our cell phones and social networks. An image can immediately alarm the whole world. There is a phenomenon of media distortion of this complex reality. A distortion sometimes maintained for ideological reasons. Just look at how easily the idea of ​​“invasion” spreads in certain discussions. What can create difficulties is not migration, but cultural difference and the encounter with this difference which makes certain people feel insecure. The integration process always proves difficult and complex, as the past has shown us time and time again.

Do you share these convictions with your Jesuit colleague Pope Francis?

What brings us together is not the fact that we both come from migrant families, but much more the fact of being Jesuits. We share a common understanding of the world. A lot of things don't even need to be said between us. After his election as pope, we worked together quite quickly.

However, the Pope seems to be animated by Franciscan intuitions when he speaks of ecology or interspiritual dialogue.

Between us, we sometimes nickname him “the Franciscan Jesuit”, it’s true. But Ignatius of Loyola himself had great devotion to the figures of holiness who had preceded him. Basically, what brings Franciscan and Jesuit intuitions together is the same sense of mission. And this translates, for Pope Francis, into the pastoral implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

After ten years of practice, was François able to complete his program?

Its main concern now is the synodal approach. It's like a great synthesis of everything he undertook. Because, in fact, it is a true putting into practice of the intuitions of Vatican II.

However, in the Catholic Church, not everyone sees it that way.

What do you want ? When a child wants to ride a bicycle, he must patiently take the time to learn how to ride it. Thus, the two sessions of the Synod on synodality are first and foremost a practical exercise. It will be fascinating to see how, from the smallest parish to continental structures, groupings of dioceses or countries for example, this synodality will be implemented step by step. This does not mean that this is all that matters! But it is a way of doing things that we must learn, to make others want to do the same. In this sense, this process is more important than the divisive issues that some would like to see addressed urgently. There can certainly be reluctance or fear. No wonder it “rubs”, in a world so fast and with immediate reactions.

Is this where the “signs of the times” come into play? You talk about it at length in your book. A notion, again, revived by the Second Vatican Council.

Look at what happened after the text published last December on the possibility of blessing various personal and marital situations. Some believed that this text ( Fiducia supplicans, Editor's note) wanted to impose a practice while pushing to invent new pastoral responses towards people rejected in our societies or our communities. Some African bishops have expressed their disagreement, but we feel that even these reactions are calming down. This invitation will little by little take its place in the life of the Church. And the Churches of Africa will find their own way to respond to this challenge. Will not the possibility of offering a blessing, for example, allow them, who are confronted with the cultural reality of polygamy, to join these people who are often far from the Gospel?

In France, where the number of Catholics is decreasing, it is sometimes a time of tension, faced with societal developments that move away from Christian values…

I completely agree with the recent declarations of the French bishops, for example on questions related to the end of life. But the Gospel has always taken time to be understood and lived. And the effects of its reception in a society are not always immediately perceptible. This doesn't worry me too much. When we claim to be Catholic, we understand that in this world everything is included, everything is linked. We cannot therefore allow ourselves to be trapped in rigidity. Of course, we must pastorally accompany what Christians feel, even in these sometimes rigid attitudes. They should not feel rejected, or told that they are not truly part of the Church. Only spaces for sincere dialogue will move us forward. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about inflicting defeats or claiming victories over anyone. We are not in political struggles of this kind.

Sixty years later, the Second Vatican Council is still not really received?

Let's say instead that we continue to reap the rewards. And that takes time. As they say in Italy: Pazienza! Pazienza! The notion of “signs of the times” invites us to ask ourselves what are the realities where the Gospel must be announced today. The reality of new digital practices where many younger generations are present is a good example. This is also the case for artificial intelligence or the question of renewed governance of institutions, etc. The signs of the times are not fashions but a call to live the Gospel in all places so that its testimony can be received by all.

Even if these places seem immoral or dangerous to us?

Remember: when Jesus heals someone, he frees them from their sin and then invites them to sin no more. Before sending him on a mission. We ourselves, who are going through difficult times in the Church with the revelation of many scandals, must also take on this necessary work of repentance. But let him not discourage us from letting ourselves be sent by Christ. Starting by constantly renewing our sensitivity to those who suffer and to all others.

Following Pope Francis, you insist on the word fraternity. It's a bit rehashed though, isn't it?

Pope Francis highlighted the spiritual importance of this theme during one of his most notable initiatives: his visit to Ahmad Al Tayeb, grand imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). It was the first visit of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula. There he experienced that shared fraternity takes us much further than we imagine. It is even the ultimate key that could resolve many difficulties in our world. In the manner of Francis of Assisi, eight centuries earlier, the Pope bet on encounter, on attentive dialogue rather than fear. It is long and decisive work. But it also took eight centuries to rediscover this prophetic intuition of Francis of Assisi when he went to visit the Egyptian sultan. And it also took twenty-one centuries for the Gospel to reach us. SO : Pazienza! Pazienza!

His bio

1946 Born in Brno (former Czechoslovakia).

1973 Ordained a Jesuit priest in Canada. He continued his studies in Chicago (United States).

1979 Founded the Jesuit Center for Faith and Social Justice, in Toronto (Canada).

1991 Becomes vice-rector of UCA, the Central American University, in San Salvador (El Salvador).

2005 Taught in Nairobi (Kenya) and founded the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).

2019 Created cardinal by Pope Francis.

2022 Appointed prefect of the Dicastery for the service of integral human development.

Similar Posts