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Michael Czerny

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Michael F. Czerny

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
Czerny standing in front of the sculpture Angels Unawares
Czerny in front of Angels Unawares, 2019.
ChurchLatin Church
Installed23 April 2022
PredecessorPeter Turkson
Other post(s)Cardinal Deacon of San Michele Arcangelo a Pietralata (2019–present)
Ordination9 June 1973
by Thomas Benjamin Fulton
Consecration4 October 2019
by Pope Francis
Created cardinal5 October 2019
by Pope Francis
Personal details
Michael F. Czerny

(1946-07-18) 18 July 1946 (age 77)
Previous post(s)
Alma mater
Ordination history of
Michael Czerny
Priestly ordination
Date9 June 1973
PlaceRegis College, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorPope Francis
Date4 October 2019
PlaceSt. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Elevated byPope Francis
Date5 October 2019
Styles of
Michael F. Czerny
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Michael F. Czerny SJ (born 18 July 1946) is a Czechoslovakian-born Canadian prelate of the Catholic Church who has been prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development since 23 April 2022, after serving as interim prefect for several months. He was under secretary of that dicastery's Migrants and Refugees Section from 2017 to 2022. Pope Francis made him a cardinal in 2019.

A member of the Jesuits, Czerny has worked to promote social justice in Canada, Latin America, Africa, and Rome.

Early years[edit]

Michael Czerny was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, on 18 July 1946.[1] His mother's family were Jewish converts to Catholicism. After the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, his maternal grandparents and two of his mother's brothers were interned in Terezín, where his grandfather died. The others were moved to Auschwitz and the brothers died in labor camps. Michael's mother, because she was Jewish, was forced into farm labor and then imprisoned for 20 months; his father was forced to farm labor for refusing to divorce her.[2] His parents immigrated to Canada by ship in 1948, bringing Michael and his brother.[1] Following his 1963 graduation from Loyola High School in Montreal, Czerny joined the Jesuits on 14 August 1964.[3] He did his novitiate in Guelph, Ontario, and then studied classics and philosophy at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, earning his bachelor's degree in classics and philosophy in 1968. He taught for a year at Gonzaga High School in St. John's, he pursued further studies in theology in Chicago and at Regis College in Toronto.[4]

On 9 June 1973 he was ordained a priest for the Upper Canadian Province (now the Jesuit Province of Canada) in Willowdale, Ontario. He obtained his doctorate in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Chicago in 1978.[3]

Jesuit initiatives[edit]

Czerny co-founded the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto in 1979, and he was the first director until 1989. In 1990–1991, following the murder of six Jesuits and others at the University of Central America in San Salvador, he assumed the director's role of the university's Institute for Human Rights (IDHUCA), a position that had been held by one of the murdered priests.[5] He was also Vice-Rector for Social Outreach.[citation needed]

From 1992 to 2002, Czerny worked in the Social Justice Secretariat at the Jesuit General Curia in Rome. In 2002 he founded the African Jesuit AIDS Network and directed it until 2010. During these nine years, he initiated and coordinated efforts by Jesuits and others in nearly 30 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa to provide pastoral care, education, health services, social and spiritual support, and to fight stigma for victims of HIV/AIDS, and channelled resources from foreign sources. During that time, he also taught at Hekima University College in Nairobi.[3] In 2009, he argued that condoms were ineffective in preventing the spread of HIV in Africa's general population, despite their success "outside Africa and amongst identifiable sub-groups (e.g. prostitutes, gay men)".[6][7]

Roman Curia[edit]

Czerny worked in Rome at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace[3] as the personal assistant to Cardinal Peter Turkson from 2010 to 2016.[8]

On 14 December 2016, Pope Francis appointed him under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, effective 1 January 2017, along with Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio.[3] Discussing his new responsibility, he called migration "one of the most important and urgent human phenomena of our times", adding: "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.”[8]

In 2016 he commissioned Timothy Schmalz to create the Angels Unawares sculpture that depicts a boat carrying migrants and refugees wearing clothes that identify them with a variety of cultures and time periods. It was inaugurated in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican in 2019.[9]

Francis named him a voting member of the October 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.[10]

In October 2018, he said the rhetoric used to describe migration and refugee movements was misleading. He said: "It's not a crisis. It's a series of mismanagements and poor policies and self-interested manipulations. The numbers that we're talking about, even on the total scale, are not at all that great."[11]

On 4 May 2019, Francis named him one of two Special Secretaries for the October 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region.[12] At the press conference introducing the Synod's concluding document, he said the Church needs to learn to respect cultural differences: "Not to assume that the way I am or the way we are is definitive, is the norm, is the way it has to be … differences have to be embraced". Asked to define what the synod's participants meant by "synodality", he said: "Everyone had a sense of what it meant because we were doing it. Could we explain that in words... does it matter?".[13] A few years before, in 2015, he wrote that there were "limitations and fragmentations" among the organizations of the Amazon before REPAM but the organization coordinated the work of the Catholic Church in the Amazon region and has worked to defend indigenous peoples and the environment.[14]

On 1 September 2019, Pope Francis announced he would make him a cardinal on 5 October 2019. Czerny was surprised by the announcement, which he heard in Guararema, Brazil, meeting with representatives of the popular movements to prepare for the synod.[15] In accordance with the norm that all cardinals should be bishops, Francis consecrated Czerny a bishop on 4 October, the day before he was scheduled to become a cardinal, making him titular archbishop of Beneventum.[16] The co-consecrators were Cardinals Pietro Parolin and Peter Turkson.[17] On 5 October, Pope Francis made him a cardinal.[18][a]

Czerny was named a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on 21 February 2020[21] and a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on 8 July 2020.[22] Czerny was appointed a member of the jury of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity in June 2021.[citation needed]

In December 2021, in accepting the resignation of Cardinal Peter Turkson as prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis named Czerny as temporary prefect as of 1 January 2022.[23] His interim status was removed and he was appointed to a five-year term as prefect on 23 April 2022.[24]

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in March 2022, Czerny was sent by Pope Francis with humanitarian aid to Ukraine, along with the papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.[25] This mission, which involved several trips,[26][27] was considered a highly unusual move of Vatican diplomacy.[28]


  • Michael Czerny; Jamie Swift; Robert Ganton Clarke (1994). Getting Started on Social Analysis in Canada. Between The Lines. ISBN 9780921284857.
  • Michael Czerny; Bénézet Bujo (2007). Aids in Africa: Theological Reflections. Paulines Publications Africa. ISBN 978-9966-081-87-2.
  • Michael Czerny; Christian Barone (2021). Fraternità segno dei tempi. Il magistero sociale di Papa Francesco. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. ISBN 978-88-266-0663-7.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ His coat of arms is composed of a green field evocative of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si', a gold boat carrying a family of four refugees, the seal of the Society of Jesus, and the word "suscipe", the word that opens the prayer in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola: Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem (“Take, Lord, all my liberty") and also evokes the Gospel command to "receive" the stranger. Czerny's pectoral cross, made by the Italian artist Domenico Pellegrino, is fashioned from the remains of a boat used by migrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.[19][20]


  1. ^ a b Swan, Michael (October 10, 2019). "Czerny family's experience as refugees helped shape future cardinal". Canadian Catholic News. Retrieved Jan 26, 2020.
  2. ^ Winfield, Nicole (9 August 2022). "Vatican cardinal honors Jewish convert, tells his own story". National Catholic Reporter. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 10 August 2022. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Rinunce e Nomine, 14.12.2016" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Pope Names 13 New Cardinals, Including Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny". Jesuits of Canada. 1 September 2019. Archived from the original on 5 November 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  5. ^ Conlon, Mickey (Nov 3, 2019). "Cardinal Czerny's courageous past in El Salvador remembered". Crux. Retrieved Jan 25, 2020.
  6. ^ Reidy, Tim (25 March 2009). "Africa, AIDS & Condoms". America. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  7. ^ Czerny, Michael (29 November 2010). "An African View of Church and HIV" (Interview). Catholic Radio and Television Network. Retrieved 4 May 2019 – via Zenit.
  8. ^ a b O'Connell, Gerard (14 December 2016). "Pope Francis appoints Jesuit and Scalabrini priests to new Vatican department for refugees". America. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ Williams, Megan (29 September 2019). "Canadian artist's bronze statue depicting plight of refugees in boat unveiled at St. Peter's Square in Rome". CBC. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  10. ^ Wooden, Cindy (17 September 2018). "Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees". America. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  11. ^ O'Loughlin, Michael J. (24 October 2018). "Vatican expert: Tone down the crisis rhetoric on human migration". America. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 04.05.2019" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 4 May 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  13. ^ Mares, Courtney (27 October 2019). "Church must convert from cultural, ecological sins, Amazon synod concludes". Catholic Herald. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Vatican Presents Initiative to Protect Amazon". Zenit. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Pope to create cardinals from 13 countries in October". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  16. ^ "Ordinazione Episcopale conferita dal Santo Padre Francesco, 04.10.2019" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Il Papa ordina quattro nuovi vescovi: non rinnegate il popolo di Dio". Vatican News (in Italian). 4 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Concistoro Ordinario Pubblico: Assegnazione dei Titoli, 05.10.2019" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Cardinal Czerny: My family during World War II". Vatican News. 2019-12-07. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  20. ^ "A migrant's cross for a new Jesuit cardinal". America. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 21.02.2020" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 21 February 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 08.07.2020". Bolletino Sala Stampa della Santa Sede. 8 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Comunicato della Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, 23.12.2021" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 23 December 2021. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  24. ^ "Pope Francis names Cardinal Czerny head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development". Catholic News Agency. 23 April 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  25. ^ Pullella, Philip; Balmer, Crispian (6 March 2022). "Pope Francis says 'rivers of blood' flowing in Ukraine war". Reuters. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  26. ^ "Pope sends cardinal to Ukraine to show solidarity with refugees". CNN. 14 March 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  27. ^ "Pope Francis blessed an ambulance that the Vatican sent to Ukraine". infobae. 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  28. ^ Associated Press (6 March 2022). "Pope Francis dispatches 2 cardinals to Ukraine". POLITICO. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
Additional sources

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by — TITULAR —
Archbishop of Beneventum
Succeeded by
New office Under Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Deacon of San Michele Arcangelo a Pietralata
Preceded by Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development