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Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e Itineranti

First European Meeting of National Directors for the Apostleship of the Road

 Opening Address

 Archbishop Stephen Fumio HAMAO
President of the Pontifical Council

Your Excellencies, Reverend Monsignors and Fathers,

Welcome to the First European Meeting for the Directors of the Apostolate of the Road. During this meeting, our reflection will be directed at examining the pastoral issues and needs of people whose professions and lives center on the road. We want to take a look at the challenges that emerge from the analysis of this reality and consider what structures are appropriate for this service and how to provide pastoral agents in this field for the future.

This is in line with the mandate of the Pontifical Council to be “available to the particular Churches so that all those who are away from home will receive suitable spiritual care” (Pastor Bonus, art. 151).

Human mobility is a growing feature of globalization.  It brings new problems and challenges to be faced in which God also offers us new pastoral possibilities. The Church must accept these new challenges by being the Good Samaritan on the roads of humanity, promoting solidarity and responsibility, as well as exercising apostolic charity.

Since human mobility is by definition a phenomenon of change that expands almost uncontrollably beyond the normally defined boundaries, it requires international and regional cooperation, responsibility and solidarity. This is true not only for relations among States, but also for the Church which the Lord is also calling to promote communion, solidarity and cooperation in this field among the particular Churches, as well as in the ecumenical and inter-religious arena.

More and more, evangelization in the Third Millennium requires a renewed thrust through pastoral planning according to the letter and the spirit of Novo Millennio Ineunte. The Church in a globalized world is called to intensify its role as promoter and animator of solidarity and respect for human dignity and fundamental rights. This Pontifical Council, with renewed vigor, wishes to carry out its role of promoting pastoral structures and services, as well as collaboration among the Bishops’ Conferences for the benefit of “people on the road”.

Let me present a few statistics to you that can terrify us because of their dramatic reality. During the twentieth century, 35 million people died and 1.5 billion were injured in car accidents around the world.  Each year 500,000 persons die, and 10 to 15 million persons are injured in road accidents on our planet.  Approximately 70% of these fatalities and injuries occurr in developing countries. In the European Union, 40,000 people die and 1,700,000 are injured every year in car accidents at a cost of 160 billion US dollars. Ninety percent of car accidents are caused by human error. Lastly, for the year 2020, it is estimated that car accidents will rank third as the worldwide cause of human mortality, a striking increase in importance over the ninth place it held in 1990.

Allow me to share a statement with you by the Bishops of France which indicates the challenge all this represents for believers in Jesus Christ:

“Cars, motorcycles, cycles, bikes, vehicles play a central role today in people’s daily lives. Their use is a source of pleasure and convenience. They are essential instruments for work or in looking for a job. They reduce the distances between people, facilitate practical life, make travel possible, and offer greater freedom to many. But these wonderful instruments placed in our hands must not become instruments of death. Lack of safety on the road is a scandal that ought to make all drivers reflect and encourage them to change their behavior. The commandment from the origins, ‘You shall not kill’, still holds completely today on the road, too. But the Gospel lets us hear a call from Christ that goes much further: the call to change our mentalities.  This involves adopting attitudes inspired by charity in this area as in others! The road is not taken; it is shared. It is a place of encounter with others. It must leave room for the weakest so that they will be respected and free to make use of it in a social space worthy of its name. To put oneself in the school of the Gospel thus presumes self-control, mutual aid, and awareness of one’s responsibilities. Then the road becomes a place where fraternity is expressed” (“Road Safety: An Evangelical Challenge”, The Bishops of France, October 2002).

Here we are in this First European Meeting to study the past, present and future of the Apostolate of the Road. All of us, pastoral workers and animators, want to share our experiences and apostolic richness in order to develop what must be done in this sector to promote a Christian culture of the road, and also to open ourselves to the future that lies before us. This is the challenge that Christ is presenting to us today to open the road to others, too.

The history of salvation is the continuous “movement” of God, who meets people in the variety and contradiction of their experiences and who accompanies us to the destination of this voyage. Our Lady is an example of someone on the move. May Mary, the mother of Jesus (the Way, the Truth and the Life), protect us and be with us during this meeting.

I thank you, now already, for your participation in this meeting. May your work be fruitful and bring about a stronger and broader involvement of national and international pastoral workers in an urgent question which the world of human mobility is raising for the Church today: namely, the pastoral care of the road.