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Cardinal Michael Czerny poses for a photo with a monument to refugees in St. Peter's Square Cardinal Michael Czerny poses for a photo with a monument to refugees in St. Peter's Square 

Pope names Cardinal Czerny interim prefect of Development Dicastery

Pope Francis accepts the resignation of Cardinal Peter Turkson and appoints Cardinal Michael Czerny as interim Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with Sr. Alessandra Smerilli remaining as Secretary.

By Devin Watkins

On Thursday, the same day as his annual exchange of Christmas greetings with the Roman Curia, Pope Francis made a change in the management of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who has headed the Dicastery since its creation in 2016.

“At the expiration of the first five years of activity with experimental statutes and following the results of an evaluation visit carried out last summer, the superiors of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development placed their mandate in the hands of the Holy Father,” read a statement.

Supporting Pope in his ministry

Cardinal Turkson had made reference to his pending resignation on Tuesday during a press conference for the publication of the Pope’s message for the World Day of Peace. He said he had sent the Pope his resignation in accordance with the five-year custom, and added: “All of us come here to serve and support the Holy Father in his ministry.”

In accepting Cardinal Turkson’s resignation on Thursday, Pope Francis thanked him and his collaborators for their service.

Facing Dicastery’s numerous challenges together

The Pope also appointed Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, as the interim Prefect of the Dicastery, and confirmed Sister Alessandra Smerilli, SMA in her role as interim Secretary, “while awaiting the appointment of a new director,” read the Press Office statement.

Cardinal Czerny has served as Under-Secretary of the Dicastery—and head of the Migrants & Refugees Section—since January 2017.

The Dicastery later released a communique carrying statements on behalf of Cardinal Czerny and Sister Smerilli.

“I thank the Holy Father for the esteem and trust he has placed in me, again today, by temporarily entrusting me with the ordinary management” of the Dicastery, said Cardinal Czerny, adding that Sr. Smerilli’s “experience and sensitivity will be a decisive support in the task of management.”

The new interim Prefect said the Dicastery faces “numerous and pressing challenges” in our world that prioritizes the globalization of indifference over solidarity, while trampling on our common home and the universality of the human family.

Cardinal Czerny expressed his trust in God in accepting the new role, and thanked Cardinal Turkson for putting together an excellent team and “for the witness of faith and hope he has offered in these years at the head of the Dicastery”.

“The good experience carried out so far in the Migrants & Refugees Section of the Dicastery offers itself today as a fruitful approach to the aforementioned challenges,” he concluded.

Working in a spirit of communion

In the same statement, Sr. Smerilli also thanked the Holy Father for confirming her in her interim role as Secretary, to which she was appointed in August 2021.

She also thanked Cardinal Turkson for his guidance of the Dicastery since its creation.

“I know that I will be able—and that we will be able—to work together in a spirit of communion with the entire Dicastery, as well as with our many international partners, to promote the integral development of the person and the care of Creation, according to the principles of the Church’s social doctrine,” said Sr. Smerilli.

23 December 2021, 15:12