Cardinal Czerny: Human fraternity makes it possible for all to live with hope
By Francesca Merlo
The designation of 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity is the result of a UN General Assembly resolution that highlights the importance of a landmark Document signed on that same day in 2019, in Abu Dhabi, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
The Document upholds the value of interreligious dialogue as a means of fostering freedom of religion and belief. In times of growing polarization, the two leaders affirm that dialogue is one of the most effective means to build trust among people, and help communities counter violence committed in the name of religion.
It provides a framework, mechanism and inspiration for action to ensure men and women across the world find ways to live and thrive together in fraternity and peace.
Ahead of the annual event, Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke to Vatican News' Francesca Merlo.
The Cardinal looked ahead to the significance of the 2nd International Day of Human Fraternity on Friday, noting that it is “a day to give thanks, and to ask God to bless all our brothers and sisters with hope and with courage for living our human vocation together.”
Below is a transcript of the interview:
Q: Your Eminence, the Document on Human Fraternity touches on many themes that are at the heart of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’s mission. It includes a strong appeal against injustice and the lack of fair distribution of natural resources, for an end to conflict, environmental degradation and cultural and moral decline. What is the Dicastery doing to promote human Fraternity and to put this document into practice?
The document touches on many, if not all, of the principal topics that the Dicastery has been busy with since it was created five years ago. You could say that the Dicastery’s mission and the Document’s message really overlap; they are just two different ways of looking at the same challenge.
In our case we call that challenge “Integral Human Development” because we think it's an excellent expression – a kind of umbrella expression - for everything that we would want for ourselves, for each one of us, and for all of humanity: the basic conditions which allow us to live our human vocation, to flourish, to live with dignity, and I would say most importantly, to live with hope. That's what human development is about: making it possible for us all to live with hope.
That is indeed what the Document on Human Fraternity is calling for. As you suggested in your question, the elements that you mentioned are all things that are necessary, and if they're missing they undermine life, they undermine society and community, and finally, they bring people to despair. This is a tragedy when our human vocation is to live life to the full.
Q: The Document calls for full citizenship for all persons and for an end to the discriminatory use of the term ‘minorities’. It also mentions the importance of assisting refugees. These issues are particularly relevant to you in your role at the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery...
Yes, another way to translate human fraternity would be to say full citizenship. And it would be good to pause and ask yourself, “Why shouldn't everybody have full citizenship?” and “What do we gain by treating some people as non-citizens, or un-citizens, or ex-citizens or unworthy-to-be-citizens?”
In fact, we are just demeaning ourselves; we are showing that we don't understand or appreciate what it means to be human. It's a pity that citizenship, instead of being an enhancement of our life together, has become a kind of a “category of exclusion” that generates an “us/them” mentality and gives a very, very, very false illusion that if we protect and defend ourselves, somehow we will be secure. In a world that is clearly globalised and interconnected, there are no gated communities left for that kind of behaviour.
So, I very much hope that the occasion of this Day of Human Fraternity, on 4 February, will be a day for opening our eyes and for giving thanks to God for making us brothers and sisters, and for asking Him to help us to live as the brothers and sisters we are since He is our common Father.
Q: You are a member of the International Commission that chooses the winner of the 2022 edition of the "Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity" at the end of the month in Abu Dhabi. What can you tell us about the nominations submitted and the importance of this edition, still in the midst of the Covid -19 pandemic? Did you find strong candidates filling the description "beacon of hope for humanity"?
Yes! The surprising thing is that when you start looking for examples of people who live and promote human fraternity, you find so many! This shows us that unfortunately our media don't give us a very good picture of reality and prefer the bad stories and the sad stories and the violent stories, whereas the stories of human fraternity are maybe not considered so interesting, but in fact, they are the more interesting ones.
There are so many of them and the Prize is very new, so it'll be a while before people know about it. But with patience, I think it will become a sign of hope that people who give themselves to generate and protect and to promote human fraternity, deserve recognition. And hopefully, it will contribute to a greater human fraternity throughout the world.
One of the things we will learn is that human fraternity is not the exclusive prerogative of some group, some minority, some élite, some race, some culture: it’s a common vocation, and God knows, we need to recognise that and we need to live that. It’s what Jesus came to teach us, gave his life for us.
So, the Day for Human Fraternity is a day to give thanks and to ask God to bless all our brothers and sisters with hope and with courage for living our human vocation together.