Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., under-secretary of the Section for Migrants of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was born on 18 July in Brno, in the former Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. Two years later his family moved to Montréal in Canada. There he attended the Loyola High School and in 1963, after obtaining his diploma, he entered the English-speaking Canadian province of the Society of Jesus. He was ordained a priest on 9 June 1973, and was awarded a doctorate in human sciences, social thought and theology, an interdisciplinary study programme, from the University of Chicago in 1978.
The following year, in Toronto, he founded the Centre (now the Forum) of Jesuits for faith and social justice, and was its first director until 1989, when following the assassination of six confreres on the night of 16 November in the Central American University of San Salvador (UCA), he volunteered to substitute them. In the meantime he lived for several months in Czechoslovakia and in France, at the Community of the Ark founded by Jean Vanier in Trosly-Breuil (1987 to 1988).
After transferring to El Salvador, from 1990 to 1991 he served as director of the Institute for Human Rights of the UCA and in 1991, he held the role of vice rector of the University. He also offered his contribution to the United Nations as mediator in the negotiations that led to the end of the civil war in El Salvador, which continued from 1980 to 1992.
For ten years, until 2002, he then served as secretary of the Secretariat for Social Justice at the General Curia of the Jesuits in Rome. In 1995 he participated in the 34th General Congregation of the Society founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and was a member of a commission of inquiry sent by the United Nations to Haiti during the crisis following the military coup d'état of the elected president.
From Central America Father Czerny then moved to Africa (2002-2010) where he founded and directed the African Jesuit Aids Network (Ajan), a support network for African Jesuits engaged in finding solutions to the HIV pandemic. During this period he taught at Hekima College, at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, collaborating with the Episcopal Conference of Kenya.
In 2009 he was appointed by Benedict XVI as an expert at the second special assembly for the continent of Africa of the Synod of Bishops, and in 2010 he was definitively recalled to Rome as consultant to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, chaired by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson.
In 2016, as part of the process of merging various Pontifical Councils, including “Iustitia et pax” itself, which had merged into the Department for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis, in his exercise of direct leadership of the Section dealing specifically with the question of refugees and migrants, appointed Fr. Czerny as his collaborator, with the title of under-secretary, with effect from 1 January 2017.
In October 2018 Father Czerny participated in the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Youth, faith and vocational discernment” and on 4 May last he was appointed as special secretary of the Synodal Assembly for the Amazon, which took place in the Vatican from 6 to 27 October.
He also contributed to the book of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (Pcal) entitled L’irruzione dei Movimenti Popolari. “Rerum novarum” del nostro tempo, edited by Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour and Gianni La Bella.
On the eve of the Consistory, on Friday 4 October, he received episcopal ordination, together with three apostolic nuncios, from Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Basilica. He was assigned the titular see of Benevento, with the personal title of archbishop.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 5 October 2019, of the Deacony of San Michele Arcangelo.
- Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.