December 14, 2016 – Moving quickly to strengthen the “Section for Refugees and Migrants” in the new Vatican department for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, Pope Francis has appointed as under-secretaries the well-known Canadian Jesuit Michael Czerny, SJ, and an Italian Scalabrini, Fr. Fabio Baggio.
In choosing them, Francis has opted for men with broad experience and deep commitment in the social-justice field, thereby ensuring that this office “will have teeth” in an area that he has designated as a top priority for his pontificate. The Vatican announced the appointments on Dec. 14 and stated that Pope Francis has appointed them as his “direct collaborators” in all matters that concern refugees and migrants. Their appointments will start on Jan. 1, 2017.
Speaking to America magazine, a clearly energized and delighted Father Czerny emphasized that the department will work directly under the pope on what has become “one of the most important and urgent human phenomena of our times,” the movement of people across the globe. “There’s hardly a place in the planet which is not touched by this phenomenon. Indeed, though many are not aware of it, there are more people moving in Russia and China today than in any other part of the world,” he stated.
Called to Rome in 1992, Fr. Czerny served as Secretary for Social Justice at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome for the next 10 years. In 2002, he moved to Africa as founder and director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN), a support network for African Jesuits working to respond to the H.I.V./AIDS pandemic. From 2005-2010, he taught at Hekima College, at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi and also collaborated with the bishops’ conference of Kenya. He was recalled to Rome again in 2010 and since then has served as consultant to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, whom Francis has appointed as prefect of the new Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development. His appointment may also be seen as a recognition and strong affirmation of the great contribution he has made in the pontifical council for Justice and Peace.