Cardinal Czerny calls for prayers and solidarity with Tonga
By Lisa Zengarini
On Monday evening Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J., the ad interim Prefect of the Dicastery for promoting Integral Human Development, presided over a special prayer service for the people of Tonga, which was devasted by the destructive volcano eruption and tsunami of January 15. Although only three people died, the natural disaster has caused massive and long term damage in the island nation which now depends on international aid for reconstruction.
Prayer breaks isolation
In his reflection following the prayer, which was held in the Roman Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Canadian Cardinal emphasized the importance of prayer, as well as solidarity in these tragic circumstances “to shorten distances and break isolation”.
Tonga is hardly known to most of us and is a remote island, he said. “However, those who suffer are never far from us, who in Jesus recognize ourselves as ‘children who have always been loved’ by our Father, and are called to share a common destiny with the human family, in the common home that is the Earth”.
Small and fragile in the face of nature
Cardinal Czerny went on to note how this natural calamity has shown how “small and fragile” we are in the face of the force of nature. Indeed, he said, like the COVID-19 pandemic, this new catastrophe has highlighted the flimsiness of two typical illusions of our time: the undaunted thinking of always remaining healthy in a sick world and that of being almost omnipotent over nature and the world.
The teachings of the story of Job
In this context, he remarked that the excerpts from the Book of Job, which were chosen for the prayer service, are revealing. Job's story - he said - tells us that by imposing on the upright and pious man a series of unexpected disasters, God forces him to recognize his powerlessness to control everything, as opposed to the divine wisdom and omnipotence. It shows that “suffering is not an accidental dimension in human life, but an aspect of the life of every man and woman. It is a reality that allows us to confront ourselves with the finitude of our being”, Cardinal Czerny added.
Moreover, he continued, “it offers an opportunity not only to abandon the convenient image we may have of God and of ourselves, but also to nourish compassion: by fighting against suffering alongside those who suffer, we experience the solidarity of gift-giving and communion”, he said.
Preventing natural disasters
Cardinal Czerny noted that this finitude of our being and the opportunity offered to show solidarity to the suffering, “has become very clear to us in this time of pandemic”. At the same time, he remarked that, while humanity now disposes of new powerful means to face natural disasters, “we must recognize and decry that hardly any resources have been devoted to preventing catastrophes, that is to the care of life and the Earth!”
Prayer and solidarity
After recalling the relief work conducted by Caritas with the help of the Navy of New Zeland, Cardinal Czerny finally called for prayers asking God to relieve the brothers and sisters in Tonga from “discouragement and despair” and "to make the violence of nature cease” so that Tongans may rebuild what has been detroyed. He also invited to implore God “to touch the hearts of men and women, so that they devote the resources of science to relieving peoples from natural disasters, climate change, disease, poverty, and exclusion”.”
“May our prayer overcome all distances, showing our belonging to the one family of God”, Cardinal Czerny concluded. “ Despite the differences and diversity, we share a common destiny, we are children of the one Father, we live in one common home, we are all brothers and sisters”.