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Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


XI International Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members

Rome, 22 - 26 April 2002

1. Introduction

The XI International Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Team Members, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, was held at “Maria SS. Bambina” Institute in Rome from 22 to 26 April 2002, with the theme Fidelity of the Chaplain to His Commitment and Mission. Seminars for the Catholic airport Chaplains are usually organised every second year, but this time it was held after a lapse of five years due to the celebrations of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 that came in between. With seventy participants representing some forty-six of the world’s most important airports, this was the most well attended Seminar ever. They came from the continents of Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Only Australia was absent.

2. Papal Audience

The participants, led by Their Excellencies the Archbishops Stephen Fumio Hamao and Agostino Marchetto, President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council respectively, were happy to be received by the Holy Father during the Public Audience of in the morning of Wednesday 24 April and to hear his words of comfort and encouragement. He greeted them saying: “The airports constitute significant crossroads of human mobility; they are meeting places of people belonging to various cultures. May your presence and your mission inside these structures offer to those whom you meet a tangible experience of the love of Christ.” The Holy Father was available to have a photo taken with the whole group, showing his solidarity and support of the catholic airport chaplaincy.

3. Liturgy and Spirituality

As is the custom, the Seminar began with a day of spiritual recollection, guided by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone SDB, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. During the Eucharistic Concelebration, with the participation of Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao, at the Altar of the Chair of Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, Msgr. Bertone spoke on the theme: “Eucharist, Source of Fidelity and Communion”. His second meditation was held later in the conference hall of “Maria SS.Bambina” Institute on the theme: “Fidelity of the Chaplain to his Commitment and Mission in the Airport context”. The Eucharistic Concelebration had a different President each day: Their Excellencies Archbishops Stephen Fumio Hamao, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Giovanni Cheli. Morning and Evening Prayers were sung in common in the Chapel of the Institute. During the morning of the spiritual recollection, the participants spent an hour in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The possibility given to pray, meditate and worship together was deeply appreciated by all the Chaplains.

4. Interventions

The Seminar was officially opened with an address given by Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao, President of the Pontifical Council. Following this, Msgr. Anthony Chirayath, Official of the same Pontifical Council, presented the work of the Seminar to the participants. One of the main speakers was Fr. Velasio De Paolis, C.S., Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. He spoke on “The identity of the Airport Chaplain” and discussed the role of the Airport Chaplain from the perspective of the Code of Canon Law. He said that according to the Code of Canon Law of 1983, a Chaplain should be an ordained priest who can provide for the spiritual needs of the faithful including sacramental celebrations. Though the Chaplain may be assisted by lay persons or religious in his ministry, these do no hold the office of Chaplain.

5. Catholic Civil Aviation Pastoral Directives

Special attention was given to the procedure of revision of the Catholic Civil Aviation Pastoral Directives, published by the Pontifical Council n 1995, with the whole afternoon of May 23 set aside for this purpose. After the presentation of the subject by Msgr. Anthony Chirayath, Fr. Slawomir Kawecki (General Secretary of the European Secretariat of Catholic Civil Chaplains) and Fr. John Jamnicky (Co-ordinator for Human Mobility Apostolates of the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, USCCB), all the participants took part in five “Workshops”, which discussed the various aspects of the civil aviation ministry. The general conclusions were that the “Directives” should be more practical and less theoretical; that the primary focus should be toward the Bishops and the Airport Authorities and secondly to Airport Chaplains; that the Directives should very seriously address the involvement of the laity.

6. Chaplains’ Role in Crisis Response

Since this was the first meeting of the Chaplains after the disasters of September 11, 2001 in the United States and the airline crashes in Zurich and Milano-Linato, naturally one of the important matters discussed during the Seminar was the role of the airport Chaplain in crisis response. Fr. James Devine of New York JFK International Airport and Fr. Richard Uftring of Boston Logan International Airport spoke about their experiences during the crises and Deacon Claudio Cimaschi of Zurich International Airport and Fr. Giovanni Tremolada of Milano-Linate Airport told the assembly what they did when disasters struck their airports. They said that it was the Chaplain who brought together the airport community and family members so that their faith could be a source of strength, hope and comfort at a time of crisis.

7. Reports of Women working in Chaplaincy Teams

Since there were several women members of the chaplaincy team present at the Seminar, the programme included listening to their voice. In the afternoon of April 25, Sr. Teresa Brogan from Paris-CDG Airport, Sr. Bernard Nkando of Lusaka Airport, Helen Mulli of Nairobi Airport and Sr. Ewa Grzegorczyn of Warsaw Airport spoke of their experiences in their airport ministry. They said that it was important for women to be part of the airport ministry, especially since they could understand and share the sentiments of people in difficulty and in grief.

8. Solidarity with brother Chaplains

The airport Chaplains expressed their willingness to assist financially needy airport Chaplains from Asia and Africa to make it possible for them to participate in future Seminars. They said that this should be done through the office of the Pontifical Council.

9. Celebration at Rome-Fiumicino Airport

On April 25, the participants of the Seminar were invited by Fr. Giorgio Rizzieri, Rome-Fiumicino Airport Chaplain, for a visit to the airport. On the occasion, Cardinal Giovanni Cheli, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council, presided over a solemn Eucharistic Concelebration in the beautifully decorated airport parish church of “Our Lady of the Angels”. Their Excellencies the Archbishops Stephen Fumio Hamao and Agostino Marchetto, President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council respectively, were also among the concelebrants. Several representatives of the Airport Authorities, Service and Security staff took part in the celebration. Later the guests were welcomed to the new airport terminal and to the airport chapel. The Airport Authorities, in collaboration with the management of “Hilton Rome Airport”, offered a luncheon to the visiting Chaplains.

10. Press

The Media, both religious and secular, showed great interest in the Seminar. TV, radio and press published news, interviews and photos of the events of the Seminar on a large scale. It is hoped that the vast echoes in the media will have positive effects in sensitising and promoting this modern ministry, which is not easy as it is in the frontier of modernity.