Cardinal Czerny: “Meeting the refugees brings the war to our hearts"
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Prefect ad interim of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has spent the last few days in Hungary, bringing the Holy Father’s closeness to the thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have fled across the borders in search of safety.
During these days, the Cardinal has met with volunteer aid workers, Church and civil authorities, and has been in concrete, personal contact with the traumatic experience of many Ukrainians who have left their homeland amid the war.
He also visited the Ukrainian city of Berehove, a city close to the border with Hungary and spared by the bombings, which is a gathering point for thousands of refugees on the move.
Seeing vs feeling the war
Speaking to Vatican News, Cardinal Czerny reflects on his experience and makes a distinction between reports about the war and the actual experience of meeting people affected by it.
“It is striking me more and more that to encounter the refugees is in fact to encounter the war,” he says.
He notes that the images that we see on social media and on television only bring home the war “in one sense” – to our eyes.
But “to meet the refugees brings the war to our hearts, to our feelings,” he continues, “because we feel their distress, their uprooting, their anxiety and the terrible loss of their lives, in the sense of the lives they knew - the home they knew, the work they knew.”
The closeness of the Holy Father
Cardinal Czerny’s trip comes in the wake of Pope Francis’ words during the Angelus on 6 March when he appealed for peace and for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine. On that occasion the Pope also said that “the Holy See is ready to do everything, to put itself at the service of this peace.” It is on that note, that the Holy Father sent Cardinal Czerny to Hungary and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, to Poland as his envoys.
Cardinal Krajewski left for Poland on 7 March while Cardinal Czerny left for Hungary the next day.
As the mission comes to its close, Cardinal Czerny says he is positive that even without going to the front, he has “met the war” and has been able “to bring the prayer and the solidarity of the Holy Father so close to where the suffering is actually taking place.”