Pontifical Council for the Pastoral
Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
XVI World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains
and Members of the airport Chaplaincies
(Rome-Italy, 10 to 13 June 2015)
We, the 94 Catholic chaplains and members of the airport chaplaincies, at the service of the civil aviation around the world, coming from 24 countries, from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania, and from 36 international airports, have accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People to reflect on the theme: Evangelii Gaudium: What support for the pastoral care of airport chaplaincy? We have thus responded to Pope Francis’ call to rethink evangelization in the joy of the Gospel to find new paths to walk on in the coming years (see EG, 1). In our study days, we heard some reflections of experts in various disciplines and shared our own experiences.
The seminar was an opportunity to review together what we are living now and to look to the future; together we talked about the challenges that our airport communities are facing.
The words of the Pope during a private audience reminded us that the airport, for various reasons, can be considered a city next to the big metropolises. Here we meet different types of people: children, youth, adults and seniors. It is also a reality in which you are faced up with insecurity, poverty, migration: situations that the Magisterium of the Church deals with along with national and international authorities.
This seminar has opened for us new perspectives urging us to look mercifully to the people we meet in airports and with whom we share our entire days. During these days we formulated some questions about the life of our chaplaincies. In particular, we asked ourselves how to live pastorally in our airport chaplaincies the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. We reaffirmed the importance of living this year with attention to God’s compassion, so that everybody can take advantage of it.
A few main guidelines emerged during the work sessions of this Seminar.
1. Chaplains and members of airport chaplaincies are strongly aware of the importance of their ministry. Especially in the context of human mobility, the airport is also a place touched by complex realities involving different categories of people. The Magisterium of the Church is especially attentive to these realities. We are referring to the airport workers, undocumented travellers, migrants and asylum seekers, who end up being held in some airport locations for short or long periods of time, sometimes without an adequate human and spiritual assistance.
2. Chaplains and members of the airport chaplaincies consider the airport chapel God’s place, where someone can experience the joy of the encounter, solidarity and friendship. Our presence here takes on all the aspects of the mission for those who work at the airport and for those who go through it. Here we show the concern of the Church, especially in human situations touched by suffering and confusion. Therefore, we believe it is necessary to work closely to defend the dignity of every person without making any distinction.
3. The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is an effective tool to address the challenges of our time with faith and hope. Chaplains and their collaborators are committed to continue the journey together with their communities to address these challenges. We want to be missionaries willing to listen to the Gospel, to be docile to the Holy Spirit while looking for answers to our quests about meaning, mercy and peace.
4. At the airports there are difficult situations asking for extra care. We are talking about the cases of plane crashes and assistance to victims, their families and friends, as well as security issues. Specifically when serious incidents happen, chaplains and members of the airport chaplaincies commit themselves to working even harder with a spirit of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, convinced that fraternal cooperation gets rid of the instinct of violence. Thus chapels and places of worship are also places of dialogue with everyone.
1. Chaplains and members of airport chaplaincies want to present with courage and joy the Church as a tender mother caring for the transit passengers like Christ himself, offering the opportunity of encountering God also to those who do not search for him. They share difficult situations, offering the good word of the Gospel, the liturgy and the sacraments, but also full support and, where possible, rescue and assistance, which comes from love.
2. We want to live out the “Holy Year of Mercy” as the year of kairos, in which the opportunity to experience God’s mercy is offered to all. God comes towards everyone with his forgiveness. Chaplaincies will create ways for God’s mercy to be experienced by all they serve. In this Holy Year every work of the chaplaincy will be placed under the emblem of mercy.
3. We strive to create healthy collaborations with all people of good will. Therefore, we do not want to be lonely missionaries, but witnesses of the joy that melts the hardness of hearts and opens to divine mercy. This should nurture in us mutual relations of help and support with the neighboring parishes, our dioceses and our local Episcopal Conferences.
4. We urge the Ordinaries of the areas where there are international airports to increase the pastoral care of civil aviation taking into account the steady increase in the flow of travellers, migrants, pilgrims and those who make their travels possible. Even at smaller airports it is desirable the presence of a minister (priest, deacon, consecrated or lay person) specially appointed for this position.
5. In dialogue with the airport authorities, we encourage fruitful collaboration and solidarity so that creation of a chapel, or at least a space for prayer would be possible. That should promote moments of joyful encounter with God and His mercy.