for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
IV European Seminar
for Catholic Airport Chaplains
Lyon (France), 13 May
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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: www.airportchaplaincies-europe.org.
Furthermore, Fr. Kawecki was happy to announce that a number of chaplaincies had
been established in the last two years.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.