Development and Peace and the Church must be on peripheries, cardinal tells delegates

Cardinal Czerny addresses the orientation gathering of Development and Peace/Caritas Canada, as D&P Executive Director Carl Hétu looks on. (Photo courtesy of Development and Peace - Catholic Register, CCN)

That’s where to find ‘logic of the incarnation,’ says Czerny

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Halifax – Canadian Catholic News] – Development and Peace has new marching orders — new orders that are older than the Church.

In a 50-minute speech to 150 delegates at the Development and Peace / Caritas Canada 2022 orientation assembly in Halifax, Cardinal Michael Czerny urged the movement to embrace “the disconcerting logic of the incarnation.”

The truth about Christ’s incarnation lies at the base of Catholic claims since the Second Vatican Council to have a “preferential option for the poor,” Czerny said.

“The preferential option for the poor actually represents what we can only call the disconcerting logic of the incarnation,” the Canadian cardinal said. “Which is that God, who has everything and is everything, revealed His very self, He showed His face, by taking on our human fragility and frailty.”

The benefit of truly embracing the incarnation and the preferential option for the poor is that it brings Christians into closer contact with reality, or “the realism of effective charity,” said Czerny.

“It’s not ideas about the poor, or ideas about the environment, or ideas about social justice that are at stake here,” he said. “It is to be real — to be real and to be involved in the real.”

The guarantor of this realism is close, genuine contact with the poor.

“We’re not only in solidarity with them. We’re not only in service to them. We’re not only trying to walk with them. But we are really in contact with them,” he said. “This offers us an encounter with, an experience of, God’s own saving action in the world, among the poor, among those who suffer.”

To really take on Czerny’s vision, it’s important that Development and Peace remain a member-driven, popular movement, the general secretary of Caritas Internationalis told The Catholic Register. “It can’t just be a program implementer. That’s not the mission of Caritas,” said Aloysius John, who was in Halifax for the once-every-five-years gathering of Development and Peace members.

The assembly met under the theme of “Creating Hope.” Hope requires more than just a professional and competent delivery of development projects, said John.

“This mission is receiving, serving, accompanying and defending the poor, building solidarity,” John said. “If that is the mission, then it is exactly what the Church also is doing.”

As wars in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Myanmar and elsewhere rage, the clear focus for Caritas organizations around the world, including Development and Peace in Canada, must be on war and refugees, said John. In a sense, the peace in Development and Peace’s name has to come first.

“In this context, it is absolutely impossible to think of development. It’s absolutely impossible to think of emergency actions without taking into consideration peace, and eventually peace and reconciliation,” said John. “There is no sustainable development without a condition of peace, without creating the conditions for peace.”

While the Caritas movement is better known and more visible in many developing countries than it is in Canada, the Canadians have a place in the global network, said John.

“Is Caritas needed in a developed country? Yes. Caritas is a spirit of creating solidarity, building solidarity and building communities where people can live in harmony,” he said. “Even in developed countries there are poverties.”

While a convention is not exactly synodality in its fullest sense, the way Development and Peace gathered in Halifax to think about its future is important, Czerny told The Catholic Register.

“There’s a kind of equanimity, a feeling that by the grace of God we’ve come here, and now that we’re here let’s really listen, and let’s take on board the many different aspects or dimensions of this undertaking which is called Development and Peace,” he said.

The work of Development and Peace is the work of the Church, the cardinal said.

“The Church will fully discover and realize her mission by going out to the peripheries,” he said. “She’s not going to fulfill the mission Jesus gave her by staying at home and taking care of the house, but by getting out there where the needs are greatest. Those are not the greatest needs in some abstract sense, but the greatest needs that we run into by moving to the peripheries of our situation.”

Czerny had questions for Development and Peace members in Halifax.

“How can we preach? How can we speak? How can we share the good news of life with people who live so miserably?” Czerny asked. “Part of the reason they live so miserably is because we live as we do.”

Video of keynote with Cardinal Czerny:

Video of youth panel: