Source: Gonzaga University
Cardinal Michael Czerny, Pope Francis' appointee to lead the Catholic Church's efforts to become a better caretaker of the planet and all its creatures, will be speaking at Gonzaga University in Washington, U.S., on 9 March. His topic will be 'Caring for Our Common Home, in This World and with This Climate'.
In 2015, Pope Francis authored an encyclical inviting people around the world to undergo an "ecological conversion." Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home inspired the 2021 Laudato Si Action Platform as a means to hear and respond to "the cries of the poor and the cries of the Earth." In 2021, Gonzaga became the first American university to commit to the Laudato Si Action Platform, aiming to advance such Laudato Si' goals as offering ecological education and adopting sustainability practices on campus.
Cardinal Czerny (72) is Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Human Development. Given how climate-related disasters - wildfires, hurricanes, floods, deadly heat in the summer - disproportionately affect the world's poorest citizens, his work involves not just the science of climate change, but migration patterns, social services, global economics and more. "As one of the Catholic Church's foremost leaders addressing urgent human and ecological challenges, Cardinal Czerny's visit demonstrates that Gonzaga University and its Centre for Climate, Society and the Environment are emerging global leaders in helping communities in our region and around the world understand and respond to the climate crisis," said Brian G. Henning, the centre's director.
Henning notes that the centre's activities - climate lecture series, faculty climate microgrants, Climate Literacy Project, extreme heat and climate resilience programs, and more - all "seek to connect the flight of vulnerable people and the destruction of our common home." Czerny's talk will address how care for the Earth and concern for its most vulnerable inhabitants are not distinct efforts, but "two parts of a single mission for social and environmental justice," he said.
Cardinal Czerny is a Gonzaga graduate and was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1973. Early in his career, he assumed the director's role of the University of Central America's Institute for Human Rights after his predecessor was one of six priests murdered in El Salvador. He later worked with the UN in mediating an end to that country's civil war. In 2002, he founded the African AIDS Network, leading the organisation for nine years in coordinating efforts in nearly 30 sub-Saharan African countries to provide health care, education and social services for victims of HIV/AIDS. In 2016, Pope Francis gave him a major role working with migrants and refugees around the world.
Ellen Maccarone, Gonzaga's acting vice president for Mission Integration said, "Cardinal Czerny's visit is significant because it allows us to highlight what is distinctive in the approach to caring for the environment from the Church's perspective - deep suffering of the world's poorest will continue if we do not better attend to the environment." Maccarone notes that the goals of Laudato Si connect directly to the Jesuits' Universal Apostolic Preferences, which include protecting the planet, working in solidarity with the marginalised and poor, and creating a hope-filled future for youth. Czerny's decision to speak on the Gonzaga campus emphasises the church's belief in youth, and education's vital role in pursuing the Laudato Si goals.
The visit is co-sponsored by Gonzaga University's Centre for Climate, Society and the Environment, the Office of Mission Integration, and the Jesuit Community.