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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 97, April 2005



the General Council of the Forum of Christian Organizations for the Pastoral care of Circus and Carnival Workers*


Msgr. Anthony Chirayath

Office Head in the Pontifical Council for the

Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


On the occasion of the 29th International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo, as is the custom, the Forum organized its annual General Council, this year from 22 to 26 January. For economic reasons the meetings as well as the lodging of participants were arranged in Mentone, a small town not far from Monte Carlo. Though there was some sort of ecumenical collaboration right from the beginning of the ministry among the pastors serving the circus and traveling show people, the Forum officially came into existence, with its present statutes, only during the Congress in Padova in 1999. It holds the General Body meeting once a year during the Church Unity Octave, usually in Monte Carlo to facilitate an ecumenical celebration with the participation of the circus and show people, who will be present there in large number. The celebrations are held under the grand permanent chapiteau of the circus festival. 

Now the Archdiocese of Monte Carlo has taken the responsibility of organizing the celebrations from the hands of the Forum, bringing a large number of clergy and faithful to the prayer service. Most of the Protestant brothers and sisters present in the Archdiocese will also be present for the occasion. This year the Archbishop of Monte Carlo, in his welcome speech during the ecumenical celebration, made special mention of the recent Congress organized by our Pontifical Council. The Congress of the Forum is celebrated every three years. Last Congress was in Rust (Germany) and the next will be in Barcelona in November this year. 

General Council of the Forum is composed of all Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant National Directors of the circus ministry and of the representative of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, who participates as Observer. Usually the Orthodox Churches do not participate. Protestant and Evangelical ecclesial communities from Austria, Germany and Switzerland are regular attendants. This time the Catholic representatives from Austria, Belgium and USA were absent. Msgr. Pier Giorgio Saviola from Italy is the Secretary General of the Forum. A new Secretary General will be elected during the next Congress, with a possibility of re-election. 

The meeting began with a concelebrated Mass in the parish church, presided over by Msgr. Chirayath, who also preached the homily. The Protestants held separate service. Msgr. Saviola opened the session recalling the words of the Holy Father to the participants of the recent congress in Rome. He said that the Orthodox Church, though not coming to the Forum, is engaged in the ministry particularly in Spain and they may be attending the coming congress in Barcelona. The Evangelical Pastor Christine said that there are several Anglican Pastors, who are ministering to circus people in England, but they have no association and they are interested in attending the Forum in future. 

Msgr. Chirayath was invited to speak on the recent International Congress of the Pastoral Care for Circus and Travelling Show People, held in Rome (12 – 16 December 2004) for the benefit of those who were absent. He spoke in detail about its final document with special mention on the proposals and recommendations. There was unanimous appreciation for the well-organized Congress of our Pontifical Council. Fr. Jean-Claude Demotta, National Director of France, said that he would be organizing a two-day seminar in February for the French pastoral workers to study and discuss our final document. Msgr. Saviola said that the national and regional meetings would also take it. 

Pastor Christine presented a collection of prayers, which could be used in ecumenical gatherings of circus and show people. Don Luciano Cantini gave a Power Point presentation of the collection of such prayers. Now it is only in Italian, but it will be translated soon into other languages. Fr. Miehle from Germany said that he would get them translated into German. Msgr. Saviola stressed that we could have only ecumenical prayer services in common, and no common Eucharistic celebration. During the Congress in Barcelona there will be separate worship for Catholics and Protestants, but common ecumenical prayer services will be arranged. 

In Italy there are 150 circuses and 65,000 families engaged in “luna-parks”, and no Protestant pastors at present are present in this ministry; therefore there is no ecumenical collaboration. In France there are 250 circuses, of which fifteen are rather big, for which there is special pastoral care. Still in France, the ministry to forains (100,000) is well organized with fifteen regional directors (seven are working well). We must also consider the presence of sixty-two festivals for the street artists. A bulletin is published five times a year. It was noted that in Holland there is a common national “register of sacraments” for circus and show people. Fifty small circuses run on family basis are to be considered in Spain, where many circus artists come from Latin America and China. Many of them belong to the Orthodox Church, and there are some Orthodox pastors ministering to them. 

Sr. MEugenia Alegre García, National Director from Spain, informed the participants of the preparations for the 6th International Congress of the Forum, which will be held in Barcelona from 5 till 9 November this year. About eighty delegates are expected. The Congress will be held in a Jesuit house. There will be separate worship for Catholics and Protestants and also common ecumenical prayer services. 

One of the matters discussed in detail during the General Council in Mentone was the education of the children of the circus and travelling show people. Formerly it was cared for by the organization known as EFECOT, which procured funds from the Council of Europe. But EFECOT is in trouble due to bad management and closed its doors. At present there is no other organization working for this scope at the European level, though there are national organizations. It was felt that a European organization would be able to represent the category with more force. Most of the national directors present at the meeting expressed the opinion that it is not the primary interest of the chaplaincy. They said it should be left to the unions who are working for the welfare of these people.

During the stay in Mentone, several occasions were taken to meet with the circus artists from different countries and their managers. The presence of the chaplains on those occasions had a good influence. Also the ecumenical service held under the chapiteau with the participation of the Archbishop of Monte Carlo and the Bishop of Nice, together with several priests and pastors, brought home to the circus people that they too are cared for by the Churches.

* At Monte Carlo, 22 – 26 January 2005