Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of the Migrants and Itinerant People
XII International Seminar
for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains
and Chaplaincy Members
Sacrofano, Rome (Italy), 19 – 24 April 2005
1. THE EVENT
a) The XII International Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, was held at “Fraterna Domus” in Sacrofano (Rome) from 19th to 24th April 2005. Seventy-five participants, coming from forty-one international airports of four continents, attended the Seminar. It had as general theme The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, naturally in the milieu of the airport chaplaincy. This specific theme was chosen, during this year dedicated to Eucharist, to emphasize the relevance of the holy Eucharist in the airports. The choice can now also be considered an honor given to the late Pope John Paul II.
b) Special prayers were offered during the Seminar for him who was a “frequent flyer”, taking the Good News to all corners of the earth, and had occasion to visit several airport chaplaincies. The meetings with airport chaplains, also during his visits to airport chapels, and the messages of spiritual comfort and encouragement he sent to the chaplains on the occasion of their International Seminars, were fondly remembered by the participants. They paid homage to the late Pope by also visiting his tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. Prayers of course were also offered for the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, to whom Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, on behalf of the participants, sent a message of warm wishes, assuring hierarchical communion and the affection of sons and daughters.
c) Due to the special norms in force at the death of Pope John Paul II and the consequent conclave and at the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the previous program of the Seminar had to be slightly modified. For this reason Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao and Cardinal Walter Kasper unfortunately could not be present. However Cardinal Hamao did meet the participants in the Vatican in the afternoon of Friday 22nd April. The participants were nevertheless happy to be in Rome during this historic moment in the life of the Church and to assist at the “white smoke” and the announcement of the election of the new Pope.
d) The Seminar was officially opened with the Welcome Address of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, who also presented the program and the aims of the Seminar. It was followed by the conference of His Excellency Roberto O. Gonzales Nieves, OFM, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, on the theme, Permanent Deacons as Ministers of the Eucharist: Origin, Role and importance of the Permanent Diaconate in the Airport Ministry.
e) In the same afternoon Archbishop Angelo Amato, SDB, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, spoke on the main theme of the Seminar: The Eucharist, Source and Summit of Life and Mission in the Airport Ministry. In the absence of Cardinal Kasper, the text of his conference in German was read by Archbishop Marchetto. The theme was The Eucharist as the Sacrament of Unity: Ecumenism and Dialogue in the airport ministry.
f) Since the Seminar was held during the Year of the Eucharist, which was also its main theme, special attention was given to it in the liturgy. Daily concelebrated Masses were presided over by Archbishops Angelo Amato, Agostino Marchetto and Roberto O. Gonzales Nieves, who preached homilies that were particularly appreciated. In the evenings the participants took part in the adoration and received the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
g) On the last day of the Seminar, the participants made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, popular Augustinian nun, who is also famous for her acts of reconciliation with the assassins of her husband and with rival warring groups.
h) During the Seminar, the participants formed themselves into six language groups to discuss the main sub-themes of the Seminar, namely, the importance of the celebration and reservation of the holy Eucharist in the airports, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and the role of permanent deacons in airport ministry.
i) They also met at continental level to discuss specific matters pertaining to their continents.
j) Chaplains were given the opportunity to share their experiences in their airport ministry, and in the evenings there was ample time for socializing and renewing friendships.
a) The participants came to the conclusion that it is necessary to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in airport chapels where this is possible. Catholic visitors to the chapel prefer to pray when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle as opposed to visiting a simple prayer room.
b) It is necessary to have the holy Mass celebrated in airport chapels on a regular basis.
c) As Catholic airport chaplains it is important for us to respect the “traditions” of other Churches, ecclesial communities and religions, while being mindful of our own identity regarding the Eucharist, which is not a means but a sign of unity already achieved.
d) The service aspect of permanent diaconate and its specific and valuable role in airport ministry must be considered and better understood.
e) With the help and support of their bishops, the chaplains should make every effort to obtain from the competent authorities a better visibility and a suitable place of the chapel.
f) It is worthwhile to consider more and more the pastoral care of the personnel and the workers of the airport.
g) Because of the theme of the International Seminar, the participants, recalling that the chapel is the spiritual heart of the airport (definition of Pope John Paul II), gratefully and fully received the following passage of the homily of Pope Benedict XVI, pronounced on the occasion of his first Concelebrated Mass with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel on the 20th April 2005: The Eucharist [is] the heart of Christian life and the source of the Church’s evangelising mission … The Eucharist makes constantly present the Risen Christ, Christ who continues to give himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of his Body and his Blood. From full communion with him flows every other element of the Church’s life, first of all communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardour of love for all, especially toward the poorest and the lowliest. […] I ask everyone in the coming months to intensify love and devotion for Jesus in the Eucharistic and to express courageously and clearly faith in the Real Presence of the Lord, especially by the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.
a) The Catholic Chaplains and the Pastoral Workers of Civil Aviation appeal to the bishops concerned to ensure, as far as possible, that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the airport chapels within their jurisdiction, where there are the proper conditions according to currant liturgical norms.
b) The Catholic Chaplains should initiate and create at the airport a forum for deeper communication and dialogue with other denominations and religions, to ensure fuller understanding of airport ministry, witnessing what we have in common, without losing what is the identity of everyone.
c) Taking into consideration the renewed presence and the role of the permanent deacons in the service of the Church and their particular suitability to the airport ministry, we propose that permanent deacons be appointed in the service of the chaplaincies, in conformity with what is foreseen by the Canon Law regarding the chaplains.
d) Considering also the presence in the airport chaplaincies of non-ordained ministers (extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, permanently trained Eucharistic ministers, etc.), we encourage them to cooperate generously together with “chaplains” for the benefit of workers, passengers and the staff of the airport.