Cardinal Czerny in the Amazon 

By Father Modino – CELAM

Aug 9 2023

Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Cardinal Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, participates in the CEAMA Assembly, and brings his closeness and messages of respect and love for those on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Manaus in the heart of the Amazon.

Pope Francis’ Church is one that goes to different places to listen, to learn, to discern. Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, has embodied this way of being Church. He arrived in Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, to take part in the Assembly of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA) from 8 to 11 August, but before the Assembly began, just hours after landing in the middle of the Amazon jungle, he wanted to get to know the local reality.

Cecilia Vargas works in the Dialogue and Listening Section of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development and accompanies CEAMA and the Territorial Ecclesial Networks, including the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), currently based in Manaus, which pioneered an ecclesial experience that has spread to all continents.

The advisor says that she arrived in Manaus together with the prefect of the Dicastery “to learn how integral human development and the Vatican can provide better accompaniment, in addition to bringing a word of hope from the Holy Father, Pope Francis.”

Need to respect human dignity

Her first contact with the local reality was a meeting with the Archbishop, Cardinal Leonardo Steiner; the auxiliary bishop, Dom Tadeu Canavarros; and members of Caritas, the Catholic Faculty of Amazonas, the Pastoral Coordination and other pastoral agents. A meeting in which, according to Vargas, they wanted to listen, and, in which, she says, she learnt “fundamental things, what their hopes are, for example, to work on the issue of human dignity, of all, migrants, indigenous people, women, children, and at the same time to attend to their suffering, which unfortunately today is marked by sexual exploitation and the negligence of the authorities.”

Among the lessons learnt, she highlighted that “we can work in alliance, in a network, with the local government, with the state government, working a lot on human rights training and adequate attention to cases so that justice is done, but also working strongly on preventing the abuse of minors or vulnerable people. We learnt a lot and established ways of communication so that we can continue to work together.”

In this first meeting, according to Msgr Leonardo, “we were able to present a little the reality of our Archdiocese, its dynamism, its missionary spirit,” something expressed by the leaders present. Along with this, he said, “we were also able to express our tensions, our difficulties”, thus showing “what we as a Church have to face” in the social reality.

Pope’s love for the Amazon

Cardinal Steiner highlighted the importance of dialogue and “the very good awareness of our presence as a Church, our Catholic Church present seeking to meet the people most in need, taking into account the hermeneutics that Pope Francis makes in Querida Amazônia, not leaving anything aside, thinking about social issues, cultural issues, environmental issues and our life as a Church that takes into account all this reality”, insisting that “it was a very fruitful, very good moment.”

Cardinal Czerny wanted to know the reality of the communities on the outskirts of Manaus, and he did so in the company of the Archbishop, meeting with the members of the St John Paul II Missionary Area, formed by the urban communities of Cristo Rei, Santa Clara, Santa Luzia, Santíssima Trindade and São Paulo Apóstolo, and together with them the communities of São Francisco, Santa Júlia, Sagrada Família, in the rural area, and Nossa Senhora Aparecida and Nossa Senhora do Carmo, which are squatter communities.

Cardinal Steiner recalled that the Church of Manaus is a Church led by women, insisting that they are “women who make a great contribution to our communities,” also highlighting the presence of permanent deacons and Religious Life, with 49 religious working directly in the pastoral care of communities, emphasising “the availability of all to work for the Kingdom of God.”

According to the Archbishop, this makes “the communities feel encouraged to see that the sisters, the priests, the deacons are close and all working to serve.”

Cardinal Czerny’s closeness

At the end of the meeting with these communities, Cardinal Czerny said he was very happy because “I learnt how they are facing the challenges as a people and walking with hope, with faith in Jesus and with the desire to share life in abundance with those in need”.

In his remarks, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development insisted that in these meetings, which he usually holds during his visits to different countries, the first thing to do is to listen, something he considers “fundamental, especially for the person who is in difficulty, who is suffering,” something that helps “to face the great problems, the obstacles to development, the obstacles to life in abundance,” emphasising that this “is not to lament, it is not to live sadly, but to listen to those who suffer and to seek how to walk together with those who suffer.”

Cardinal Czerny emphasised the diversity of the participants, from the elderly to children and young people.

Love of neighbour

The Prefect of the Dicastery highlighted among the things learned at the meeting “not to be afraid to listen, and after having listened, to walk together and not to have any problem in helping each other”, thanking the exchange that took place and the good example of the communities present “in what Jesus asks of us, which is to love our neighbour.”

A meeting that Cardinal Steiner defined as very beautiful, emphasising that “the Cardinal was amazed at the presence of all, but the lucidity in the placements, diverse communities that form a Missionary Area with a very great awareness of the importance of the presence of the Church, of the presence of the Gospel”. The Archbishop of Manaus highlighted the fact that “many people spoke, many people exposed the reality”, something in which “we can realise how attentive our communities are, how missionary our communities are”. Mgr Leonardo referred to Cardinal Czerny’s emphasis on missionary spirit in the speeches and the need for each one to be missionary. Something that shows the commitment to formation present in these communities, many of which are led by women. – Vatican News