Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Interim Prefect Cardinal Michael Czerny recounted encountering angels during a visit to Ukrainian refugees sheltered by the Slovak Republic early this month.

In an article originally published by the "Aggiornamenti Sociali" and republished by Vatican News, Cardinal Czerny reflected on his journey in Slovakia from March 16 to 18. The visit to the Ukrainian refugees was part of the cardinal's itinerary of joining the 3rd European Catholic Social Days in Bratislava and meeting with Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova and Prime Minister Eduard Heger. The cardinal particularly visited the Ukrainian refugees in the town of Uzhorod.

Czerny said he met so many angels during his short trip. Czerny explained he actually encountered two kinds of angels. One, the cardinal defined, as the people who do their best to help strangers in difficult situations such as the Ukrainian refugees. While the other, he defined by citing Hebrews 13:2, are the very people who need help themselves.

"I witnessed these angels on my journey: you could see it in how they change those who welcome them," Czerny revealed, pertaining to the latter.

The cardinal shared a visit he had to a student residence that has been turned into a reception center for refugees. He met the local bishop and priests along with the heads of the Jewish community, other Christian communities, and even the highest civil servant. A similar circumstance, he stressed, happened in Uzhorod where seminarians, leaders of the other Christian denominations, and the Jewish community gathered for a Lenten liturgy in a Greek-Catholic Cathedral and sat down for dinner together.

"This really impressed me, because in those regions relations between the different religious groups are often problematic, burdened by a history of conflict and prejudice. All of a sudden, the need to welcome refugees enables, and even demands, the concrete ecumenism of solidarity: encountering one another and working together to respond to those in need," Czerny said.

The cardinal pointed out that being close to the vulnerable and the poor creates a bond among those who welcome them. The plight of the Ukrainians from the Russian invasion has brought each other closer as brothers and sisters who help others. He said this brings people to inevitably discover the self-evident brotherhood of man, which is often forgotten in practice.

"Ukrainian refugees announce good news - as angels without knowing it - to those who welcome them: not with words, nor even with actions, but by simply being who they are and their need for help, bringing everyone back to the essential," Czerny emphasized.

"This not only happens within western Ukraine, but also across the border, in the countries that refugees finally reach," he added.

According to the Cardinal, the nations who welcomed the refugees from Ukraine answered the call to be open and to rise above the divide brought by the Soviet era's lasting legacy. He called it a profound, sudden change that these societies are forced to face due to circumstances brought by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It is a lesson on something they did know and sense but never put into practice.

The interim prefect shared that his experience in Slovakia reminded him of what Pope Francis said regarding the poor in "Evangelii Gaudium," which speaks of the new evangelization as an invitation to acknowledge the saving power working in a person's life. It beckons one to find Christ in the vulnerable and poor, from whose encounter one can derive the mysterious wisdom of God.

Czerny stressed the need to respect the poor and vulnerable by not judging them for their past decisions but by authentically welcoming them. This, he said, would strengthen and shape their future differently. The cardinal said the present situation of the refugees not only calls everyone to pray and do everything they can to stop the horrendous war in Ukraine but also to prevent possible conflicts in the future.