Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ on January 19, 2020, became the titular pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, located in Pietralata on the outskirts of Rome. Pope Francis granted him this title when he was created Cardinal in early October 2019.
The solemn ceremony at the parish began with an entrance procession involving many local parishioners. The pastor, Br. Gianmarco Merlo, presented the Cardinal officially to all present. This was followed asperges (the rite of sprinkling the congregation with holy water) and a period of adoration at the altar. Then the title decree was read. Later, after the Mass, it was signed by the Cardinal and the pastor in the sacristy with parishioners as witnesses.
In the homily of the inaugural Mass which followed the ceremony, the new titular pastor of St. Michael the Archangel said:
In his letter to the new cardinals, Pope Francis wished that “This new stage in your life may enable you to imitate Jesus more closely (Mt 9:36; 14:14; Lk 7:13) and increase your capacity for compassion for all those men and women who, victimized and enslaved by so many evils, look with hope for a gesture of tender love on the part of those who believe in the Lord. “I hope to live out this mission also among you here at St. Michael the Archangel Parish.
Father Merlo said: “The appointment of the Cardinal is a sign for us of Pope Francis’s continuing attention to this parish that he visited 5 years ago. It is also a gift of the Holy Spirit who ‘descends and remains’ (as said in today’s Gospel) with us to prompt our fraternal communion and attention to the special needs of the universal church that our Cardinal’s ecclesial duties represent so well. ”
In Catholic tradition, the Pope customarily appoints each Cardinal to one of the parishes in Rome, even though their service to the Church extends beyond the parish territory. Thus the Cardinal can be regarded as one of the Pope’s diocesan pastors, participating in the Pontiff’s pastoral care for the people of Rome. Moreover, it is a sign of the special close link of the Church in Rome with the Apostolic See.
The Cardinal was moved during the day and the inauguration ceremony by two special connections with the parish. He shares the church’s name. Further, the neighborhood of Pietralata stands out for being the home of many migrants, a circumstance that links to his role as Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. In fact, the Cardinal said, “everything fits together” and he was very happy upon learning of this appointment at St. Michael the Archangel, as when he learned of being created a Cardinal while on the outskirts of São Paulo (Brazil).
Cardinal Czerny expressed his gratitude for this new title granted by Pope Francis, and he also thanked Fr. Gianmarco Merlo deeply and all the parishioners who came to welcome him. After the Mass, there was a joyful reception in the parish.