The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 101, August 2006



V European Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members

Wrocław (Poland), 22-25 May 2006 


Final Document 

The V European Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members took place in Dom Jana Pawła II, Wrocław (Poland), from 22-25 May 2006. It was attended by 28 representatives from 17 airports in 8 European countries, together with Ms. Nilda Castro, in-charge of this Sector at the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and two invited guests, Fr. John Jamnicky, National Coordinator of Human Mobility Apostolates in the United States, and Fr. Michael Zaniolo, President of the US National Conference of Catholic Airport Chaplains. 

On the first evening the participants assembled at the Cathedral for a solemn Mass, presided over by Archbishop Marian Gołebiewski of Wrocław, animated by a large array of seminarians and also attended by the faithful of the Archdiocese. From the Cathedral’s altar, the Holy Father’s message to the Seminar was read in Italian and Polish. It expressed his “appreciation for the important meeting” and the hope “that it would rouse in each one a renewed commitment of Christian witness so as to promote, also in the milieu of Civil Aviation, the evangelical values of love, justice and peace.” Archbishop Gołebiewski then welcomed those present in Polish, English and Italian. 

Later, Fr. Krzysztof Janiak, Director of Dom Jana Pawła II and Chaplain of Wrocław Airport, welcomed the participants, followed by Ms. Nilda Castro and Fr. Sławomir Kawecki, the outgoing Secretary General of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members in Europe.

On the second day, the participants were welcomed again by Archbishop Marian Gołebiewski, who accompanied practically the whole Seminar, and by the President of the City of Wrocław. Ms. Castro then read a message from Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, who stressed the point that the Seminar was “back in Poland, the country that saw the inauguration of these important European Seminars and witnessed the hope and enthusiasm of the first priests and pastoral agents working in this unique field of action: the airports of Europe.” He also gave the assurance that the whole Pontifical Council was accompanying the meeting with prayers.  

Ms. Nilda Castro then presented the theme of the Seminar: “Challenges to the European Catholic Airport Chaplaincies.” She affirmed that the mission of the chaplaincies at the airports “is an aspect of the Church’s responsibility towards her faithful and a participation in her universal mission to proclaim the Good News to all people, in the specific context of the world of Civil Aviation.” Citing the encyclical Deus caritas est, she explained that it is the news “of the manifestation of God’s boundless love, and the encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is love, that we, apostles in the field of Civil Aviation, are called to bring to all men and women who work or pass through the airports entrusted to our care.” 

At this point, the participants introduced themselves and shared experiences regarding their ministry as airport chaplains or pastoral agents.

Following this, Mr. Claude Wilhelm of Geneva Airport Chaplaincy related his experience as a layman responsible for the chaplaincy and offered his reflections on “Collaboration in the Airport Ministry on the Part of the Religious and the Laity.” He stressed that “the airport chaplaincy is a cell of the Church that is well inserted in the pastoral work of the local Church in Geneva,” where collaboration of religious and lay persons is a help in carrying out its mission. He also underlined the importance of ecumenical and inter-religious collaboration.

 Fr. Sławomir Kawecki then gave a report on his term of office as Secretary General and appreciation of his services was expressed. This was followed by the election of the new Secretary General, and Fr. David Lacy, Birmingham International Airport chaplain, was elected. He accepted this new responsibility and Sister Margaret Byrnes, pastoral agent at London Heathrow Airport chaplaincy, offered to assist him. This was welcomed.

In the evening, the participants visited the Marian Shrine at Henrykow, now a Junior Seminary but formerly a Cistercian Monastery. Mass was celebrated with the seminarians who provided the liturgical music. Then a visit to the monastery took place, followed by a celebratory meal. The Managing Director, from Warsaw, and another Director, from Wrocław, of the Polish Airport Authorities (PPL) joined in the celebrations.

On the third day, Bishop Edward Janiak, President of the Polish Episcopal Commission for Human Mobility, was welcomed to the Seminar. He talked about immigration in his country.

Fr. Jacques Fournier then shared his experience as former Paris Airports Chaplain over many years, especially his expertise in communication at all levels, using also modern media, including the internet. He stated that the airport chaplain is a communicator, “not a document but a person, or rather a team, the team of chaplains and their lay assistants.” His message is “part of his own life.” Drawing from his experience, he said that he was “simply ‘a drop of water’ mixed up in the daily life of those I was close to day by day, sharing their hours of joy and sorrow and their professional life: offering and communion.” 

Then further discussion regarding the possibility of forming a European association of Catholic airport chaplains took place. The newly revised text of the proposed Constitution of such an association was read in English and after a few minor amendments the document was accepted in principle by the assembly. The proposal will now be presented for review to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, taking necessary contacts with the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CEEC).

In the afternoon of the third day, the Seminar participants enjoyed a visit to the city of Wrocław, which included viewing a representation of an important portion of Polish history. The people’s devotion to Our Lady of Częstochowa was evident. 

On the last day, a proposal was made to write a letter to Pope Benedict thanking him for his message and assuring filial love and fidelity to the Church. Messages were also sent to some airport chaplains who were not present for health reasons. Gratitude for the splendid organization of the Seminar was also expressed.

Cardinal Henryk Roman Gulbinowicz, Archbishop emeritus of Wrocław, graced the closing lunch with his presence and related anecdotes on his life and ministry in the Archdiocese. He also offered each participant a remembrance of the anniversary celebration of the Archdiocese of Wrocław.

Finally, from the discussions that took place, following are some of the recommendations:

  1. Copies of the annual reports of the European Catholic airport chaplaincies for 2005 should be sent not only to the Secretary General of the European Secretariat but also to the CEEC and, of course, to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People;
  2. E-mail addresses of all European airport chaplaincies should be made available through the server utilized by the website of the European Secretariat,;
  3. Continuing use of the aforementioned site must be sought through Warsaw chaplaincy and, eventually, funding found if required;
  4. A Newsletter should be circulated to all members who in their turn will send a written contribution at least once a year. This would improve communication and understanding of each other because ministries are in different environments;
  5. European Catholic airport chaplaincies are to give a voluntary contribution to support the activities of the European secretariat; 
  6. News of the Seminar would be sent to CCEE, COMECE, KEK and IACAC.

It was also suggested that the place of next Seminar be Birmingham, U.K., in May 2008. Exact dates would be defined before the World Seminar, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Rome, which will hopefully be held during the last week of April 2007.

The cordial and simple atmosphere at the Seminar made the participants feel that they belong to one family and gave them the enthusiasm and encouragement to carry on in their challenging mission to be living witnesses of Christ and his Gospel in the airports of Europe.


Vatican City, 4 July 2006