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The exhibition "Volti al Futuro" organized by the Astalli Centre (JRS) The exhibition "Volti al Futuro" organized by the Astalli Centre (JRS) 

Cardinal Czerny: inclusion of migrants is key for the future

The Vatican Undersecretary for Migrants and Refugees speaks at the inauguration of the exhibition “Volti al Futuro” which was launched Tuesday by the Rome-based Astalli Centre for refugees on the occasion of its 40th anniversary

By Lisa Zengarini

The future of humanity passes through the social inclusion of migrants, building peace and social dialogue, Cardinal Michael Czerny said on Tuesday on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Rome-based Astalli Centre, the seat of the Italian Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

The Undersecretary for Migrants and Refugees for the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development was speaking at the inauguration of the exhibition “Volti al futuro” (“Faces toward the Future”) at the Church of St. Andrew on the Quirinal Hill in Rome.

In his remarks, the Vatican Prelate recalled how the then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Pedro Arrupe, was spurred to found JRS and the Centro Astalli in 1980-1981 by the plight of Vietnamese boat-people.

He noted how his far-sighted idea was a concrete response to the crisis inspired by the Holy Spirit through discernment. The same discernment, Cardinal Czerny pointed out, is needed in today’s challenging times of COVID-19 in which humanity is offered a unique opportunity to change.

We cannot remain indifferent

“The pandemic,” he said, “has made us more aware of the concrete impact that our choices, decisions and actions have on the life of those who live miles away from us often causing them more suffering, rather than well-being and progress”. However, “for awareness to produce change, a clear and decisive assumption of responsibility is necessary.”

“We cannot remain indifferent” in the face of the pain and the wounds of the present world, Cardinal Czerny said. “We must allow ourselves to be questioned by the Holy Spirit”, which over the last 40 years “has continued to speak, even to shout, through the lives of wounded women and men fleeing conflict, climate change and poverty.”

Accompanying, serving, defending

The response suggested by Father Arrupe in 1981 is “accompanying, serving and defending” and this has been done by “so many women and so many men who, even at the Centro Astalli, have stood by people in the existential peripheries of history,” Cardinal Czerny further noted.

Approaching refugees as people

Echoing Pope Francis’ introductory remarks at the inauguration, the Cardinal said this work is a concrete “sign of hope” for our wounded world, which needs action, rather than “theoretical recipes”.

“We need to plan and walk together. However to do this,” he remarked, “we must truly approach refugees as people, learn about their life and understand their points of view.”

The challenge awaiting humanity in the future is therefore that of promoting "a culture of encounter which encourages more inclusive and supportive communities, walking toward an ever greater we," Cardinal Czerny concluded.

Building open and supportive communities

The inauguration of the exhibition was also attended by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Vicar of Pope Francis for the Diocese of Rome and local authorities. 

Featuring in the exhibit, which runs until 28 November, are twenty portraits of refugees hosted in the Centre by Italian photographer Francesco Malavolta.

The President of Astalli, Father Camillo Ripamonti, SJ, said that, forty years later, the Centre is committed to continue its efforts toward “building open and supportive communities in which migrants are perceived as a gift”, noting that its volunteers are “credible witnesses of the beauty of meeting refugees.”

16 November 2021, 15:22