On Jan. 19, Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, left, took possession of his Rome parish, St. Michael the Archangel Parish. Antonie Mekary

Czerny takes over Rome parish

By 
  • January 23, 2020

Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, son of migrants to Canada and head of the Vatican department that works on behalf of migrants and refugees, took possession of his parish in a heavily immigrant neighbourhood of Rome Jan. 19.

Created a cardinal last October, Czerny has been assigned to be the titular pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Pietralata, on the outskirts of Rome. All cardinals are assigned a parish in Rome, making each cardinal formally a pastor under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome.

In his homily for the regular Sunday Mass at St. Michael’s, Czerny pointed to his unusual, wooden pectoral cross. It was made from a piece of a ship that brought African migrants to Europe from Africa.

“The cracks in the red paint and in the wood recall the wounds, the suffering, the blood shed in the crucifixion of Christ, who renews Himself whenever the world forgets compassion and justice,” Czerny said.

He added that the wood is a reminder of his Jesuit vow of poverty and “the desire for a humble and committed Church.”

Czerny has been a life-long advocate for the poor and oppressed and he touched on his personal immigration story, recounting how, in 1948, “my family of four fled from post-war Czechoslovakia.” His cardinal coat of arms includes a boat with a family of four, representing, he said, “the many refugees and migrants who now travel by boat.”

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