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Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

IV European Seminar for Catholic Airport Chaplains

Lyon (France), 13 May 2003


  1. Twenty-seven Catholic “Chaplains” coming from twenty European International Airports met together for their IV European Seminar in Lyon (France) from 12 to 16 May 2003. The Seminar was organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the European Secretariat of Catholic Airport Chaplains and the Catholic Chaplaincy of Lyon-Saint Exupèry International Airport.
  2. The participants were grateful to receive a Message of good wishes and encouragement from Pope John Paul II, who attested that the airport is a microcosm of the world and that the Chaplains should be witnesses to peace, bringing serenity to all those whom they render pastoral assistance.
  3. The Seminar was opened by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council, and the participants were welcomed by Fr. Jean Battesti, Chaplain at Lyon International Airport. Then there was an introduction to the work of the Seminar by Fr. Slawomir Kawecki, Secretary in the European Secretariat. The welcoming words of Archbishop Philippe Barbarin of Lyon were deeply appreciated by the participants.
  4. On May 13, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto presented some challenges for the pastoral care of civil aviation, and he outlined few aspects of the current situation in airport chaplaincies with particular reference to the contemporary world situation. He began by mentioning Pope John Paul II’s Message to the Third European Seminar, held in Brussels and taking, as a starting point, the airport as a true crossroads of humanity. He went on to mention the description in the Catholic Civil Aviation Directives of an airport Chaplain’s ministry. From this he developed a reflection of the importance of celebrating the Eucharist in the airport and specifically the priestly character of a Chaplain’s activity in the airport.
  5. However, he emphasised that the Chaplain does not work in isolation and that nowadays Deacons and lay faithful play a significant part in this pastoral service. He drew the Chaplains’ attention to the situation of the many asylum seekers and detainees at the airports who would benefit from the Chaplains’ assistance. He concluded with a reference to the revision of the “Catholic Civil Aviation Directives”.
  6. The Chaplains were then addressed by Rev. Maurice Jourjon, Professor at the Faculty of Theology of Lyon, on the relevance of St. Iraneaus, Bishop and Martyr of Lyon, for ecumenism and the mission of airport Chaplains. The understanding of the Chaplains was deepened by their visit to the Roman Amphitheatre, where the early Christian martyrs of Lyon gave their lives up in witness to Christ. Furthermore, they enjoyed the privilege of concelebrating the Eucharist at the site of the tomb of St. Iraneaus.
  7. On May 14, Fr. Slawomir Kawecki gave the report of the activities of the European Secretariat. He spoke of his collaboration with Fr. Jean Battesti and Fr. Paschal Ryan. However, he was also ready to admit that to some degree the programme of the Secretariat had been too ambitious at the start. Nevertheless, he was able to report that the Secretariat had managed to keep contacts with airport Chaplains by means of an occasional newsletter. In addition, the Secretariat had been responsible for the production of a leaflet, providing details of all the Catholic Airport Chaplains in Europe. The exchange of information between airport chaplaincies and the Secretariat, as well as among themselves, would in future be facilitated by the new chaplaincy website: Furthermore, Fr. Kawecki was happy to announce that a number of chaplaincies had been established in the last two years.
  8. Archbishop Marchetto then spoke to the Chaplains, relaying the results of a discussion, which had taken place the previous evening. He was keen to involve the Chaplains in a discussion as to the best ways of ensuring that every participant at these international meetings could share both in the discussion and in the evaluation of documents under consideration. He sought to encourage a certain degree of self-sufficiency on the part of the Chaplains in both the translation of their discussions and production of the resultant documentations, as well as in the preparation of the events in which they are concerned at the European level.
  9. Archbishop Marchetto then began a survey of the ways in which the various airport chaplaincies are enabled to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and ensure the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in their Chapels. The survey will go on in writing to be completed
  10. The Seminar was addressed also by Prof. Pierre Lathuiliere, of Lyon University, on the subject of the ecumenical direction of the pastoral care of civil aviation. The main topic of his address was a presentation of the Ecumenical Charter, published by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), in 2001. He outlined both the origin of this Charter and its structure, beginning with the ecumenical principles, on which it is based and going on to examine the current situation in Europe. He was keen to establish a relation between the Church’s mission to evangelise and their commitment to ecumenism.
  11. In the afternoon, the Chaplains undertook a pilgrimage to Ars, where St. John Mary Vianney, the “Curé d’Ars”, was so long the parish priest and where he carried out his mission, in particular, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In his homily at the Concelebrated Mass, Msgr. Guy Bagnard, Bishop of Belley-Ars, referred to this, emphasising, in particular, the degree to which St. John Mary Vianney sought to facilitate the access of penitents to the reception of the Sacrament. He went on to encourage the priests participating in the Seminar by underlying the fact that the “Curé d’Ars” had himself faced great difficulties and even opposition, but had overcome these problems entrusting himself totally to the Lord.
  12. On May 15, Msgr. Anthony Chirayath presided at the election of the Secretary General. He opened the meeting with a brief overview of the history of the European Catholic Chaplains’ meetings and the work of the Secretariat. When nominations were sought for the post of the Secretary General, it emerged that finally there was only one candidate, Fr. Slawomir Kawecki, who was elected by an overwhelming majority of the Chaplains present. Fr. Kawecki accepted his election and undertook to continue the work he had been doing previously.
  13. The invitation of Fr. Krzysztof Janiak, Airport Chaplain at Wroclaw (Poland), to hold the 2005 Seminar of European Catholic Chaplains was accepted by all in view of his colleague at Leipzig International Airport being willing to collaborate with him. The assembly proposed the following themes for the next Seminar: Service of Deacons at airports, Role of volunteers, “Sacramentality” in airports, Christian communities working in airports, Assistance to asylum seekers and refugees in airports. The final theme will be chosen later on.
  14. That same morning, the Chaplains were received by Archbishop Philippe Barbarin of Lyon at his residence, where he addressed them on the challenges and opportunities for the Church in Europe. He placed particular emphasis on the importance that the Holy Father had attached to the concept of Europe as a community of nations, in which there would be a respect for minorities and openness to the contribution that the Church could make to the development of this wider community. The meeting with the Archbishop was followed by a Concelebrated Mass in the Basilica of Fourvière, at which the Archbishop presided, giving a very profound homily.
  15. At noon, the Chaplains were received by the Director General of Lyon-Saint Exupèry International Airport and were entertained to lunch, which was provided by the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon in collaboration with the Airport’s authorities.
  16. In the afternoon, the Chaplains were addressed by Prof. Michel Boursier of the Catholic University of Lyon on the prospects for the future of Europe. In his talk Prof. Boursier pointed to various developments that had taken place in the fields of technology, finance and culture. He emphasised the importance of the lessons that could be drawn both from a study of history and geography of Europe. He went on to examine the current situation in which Europe is adjusting both to an increase in the number of nations involved in the European Union and the EU’s forthcoming adoption of the European “Constitution”. In the discussion which followed, mention was made of the important contribution from the part of the Church in the development of Europe. At this time in history it was suggested that the Church still had a vital role to play in the development of a wider Community.
  17. As Archbishop Marchetto stressed in his observations and conclusions, the Seminar could be said to provide a number of opportunities for the airport Chaplains to reflect on various aspects of their ministry and of the European context in which it is exercised. In discussions it emerged in fact that there were many differences between chaplaincies in terms of their human and Christian resources and their ecumenical and inter-religious contacts. There is however a common apostolate in the wide variety of people on the move who pass through the airports of Europe. Certainly the holy atmosphere of Lyon in these beautiful days  as well as the conferences and the dialogue – said the Archbishop Secretary – will inspire us, for a better future of this difficult and complicated apostolate of ours. He also stressed the importance of our “visibility” at the airports, which is already a testimony, a sign of the presence of the Lord in the midst of the people on the move. Msgr. Marchetto also pointed out that with the “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” a new light for the airport ministry is given to us, which encourages us not too easily renounce having the Holy Sacrament in our chapels. It is our Sun! H.E. the Secretary again indicated the pastoral priorities of the Chaplains in the service of the Gospel of charity (Message of Pope John Paul II to the participants of the Third European Seminar in Brussels, 14 May 2001; cfr. Proceedings p.7) and the importance to find our successors and co-operators in this apostolate. Msgr. Marchetto finally expressed his hopes about the European continent which, because also of its Christian roots, has to make its contribution to the humanism in the world’s history.
  18. Archbishop Marchetto finally thanked the organisers, in particular Fr. Jean Battesti and Fr. Slawomir Kawecki and expressed gratitude to all the participants of the Seminar.