December 16, 2016 — Pope Francis has appointed Jesuit Father Michael Czerny and Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio as undersecretaries to the “Section for Refugees and Migrants” in the new Vatican department for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. The Vatican said Pope Francis appointed them as his “direct collaborators” in all matters concerning refugees and migrants.
Frs. Czerny and Baggio both have broad experience and deep commitment in the social justice field; their appointments will begin on Jan. 1.
Speaking to America magazine, Fr. Czerny emphasized that the department will work directly under the pope on what has become “one of the most important and urgent human phenomena of our times,” the movement of people across the globe. “There’s hardly a place on the planet which is not touched by this phenomenon. Indeed, though many are not aware of it, there are more people moving in Russia and China today than in any other part of the world,” he stated.
He described the role of the Section for Refugees and Migrants as that of accompanying people on the move from war zones, poverty, economically depressed areas and ethnic zones, as well as addressing xenophobia that is spreading in many countries. This new office “touches all the dimensions of human experience” of people who are on the move for whatever reason, Fr. Czerny said.
He underscored the fact that the section will also “seek to be of help to the important groups of Catholic organizations and agencies across the globe, a great many of whom have been committed and doing magnificent work in this whole field for many years.”
Born in the former Czechoslovakia and raised in Canada, Fr. Czerny has served as an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2010. His long career in the field of social justice includes having served as the Canadian director and executive director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network, which he founded, and spending two years in El Salvador to carry out the work of his fellow Jesuits who were murdered in 1989 during the civil war there. He also served as Secretary for Social Justice at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome for 10 years. [Sources: America, CNS]