The church’s current social teaching is profoundly rooted in the Second Vatican Council and oriented to the urgent needs of today said Cardinal Michael Czerny in an annual lecture for the Australian Cardijn Institute on 15 November.
Cardinal Czerny is the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. In March Pope Francis sent him with humanitarian aid to Ukraine, along with the papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
In the Cardijn lecture which the cardinal delivered online from Rome, he discussed his book, co-authored with Fr Christian Barone, Siblings All, Sign of the Times: The Social Teaching of St Francis, which is a guide to Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti.
“The cardinal said that ‘sign of the times’ was key to understanding the Council including its ‘rediscovery of the synodal nature of the Church’.”
“Pope Francis teaches us to interpret, embrace and implement the most important sign of the times and that is the urgent vocation to behave like the siblings that we really are… to develop the social friendship necessary to care for one another and to care for our common home,” Cardinal Czerny said.
The cardinal said that ‘sign of the times’ was key to understanding the Council including its “rediscovery of the synodal nature of the Church” and “probably the most memorable expression that came to us from Vatican II” but added that the phrase was also misunderstood. Rather than a purely secular understanding of the ‘sign of the times’ as precursors of future social, economic and cultural realities, the Church is called to a different view, he said.
“The Council doesn’t see the sign of the times sociologically but in relationship to our life as followers of Jesus, as the Church, as the living people of God.
“And so the sign of the times doesn’t name a trend promising investment but rather it names a need of poverty, and empty space, somewhere where Christ seems to be absent but wants and needs to be present.
“It is an invitation, an opportunity to help Christ become incarnate and rise again in those absences and places of need where he wants to be our incarnate Saviour.”
Responding to the lecture, Susan Pascoe, chair of Catholic Emergency Relief Australia and one of the drafters of the Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality said that part of the “genius” of Pope Francis’s communication is his constant invitation to all of the people of God, not only the hierarchy.
“The “massive outpouring” of responses to the global discernment process as part of the next year’s Synod … “tapped into a deep yearning that Catholics have to communicate” those needs.”
“For those of us who were still deeply wounded by the scars of sexual abuse … the Letter [of His Holiness] to the People of God published in 2018 was another moment when Pope Francis invited ‘every one of the baptised [to] feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need’,” Ms Pascoe said.
The “massive outpouring” of responses to the global discernment process as part of the next year’s Synod which was completed in August “tapped into a deep yearning that Catholics have to communicate” those needs, while the Uluru Statement from the Heart was another moment of “deep spiritual discernment” in this country giving voice to its Indigenous people, she added. Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, for whom the lecture is named, was a Belgian cardinal and founder of the Young Christian Workers.
He was best known for his lifelong dedication to social activism based on promotion of the Church’s relatively new body of social teaching and his advocacy for the improvement of working conditions all over the world.