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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 102, December 2006




II AOS Latin-American Regional Meeting.

 Address at the Inaugural Session*



Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO 

Secretary of the Pontifical Council

for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People



Your Excellencies,

Reverend Fathers and Sisters,

Dear Chaplains and Ship Visitors,

Dear Participants,


I am very happy that Msgr. Jacques Harel is with you for this Second Regional meeting of Bishop Promoters, National Directors and Chaplains, which is being held under the auspices of our Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and CELAM. I intended myself to be present but it was not possible, therefore I send you my cordial greetings and those of our President, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino.

I congratulate Fr. Samuel Fonseca, the Regional Coordinator, Sr. Isabel Arantes of CELAM and the group of National Directors, who have succeeded in organizing this meeting. This is a great and important time since Regional gatherings are an essential part of our organisation. It is an occasion for all chaplains, ship visitors and volunteers to shape together a common vision, respecting the legitimate differences, and to learn to work together, to depend on each other as a team and as a network.

Chaplains, pastoral agents, ship visitors and volunteers can be geographically isolated from each other, thus meetings and conferences provide a unique, and sometimes rare, occasion for them to discuss together their pastoral engagement and concerns. Consequently the regional structure, animated by a Regional Coordinator, appointed by the Pontifical Council and in communion with AOS International, is of the utmost importance for the development and sustaining of the AOS and deserves all your support. 

Your mission field is vast, it goes from the Antarctica to Central America, and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Many of your Nations have a great maritime tradition and rely on the sea for their development and to obtain all what is needed for the daily needs of their population. You have also some of the biggest fishing fleets in the world and countless artisanal and small-scale fishermen.

Since the World Congress in Rio, your AOS Region has made important steps ahead. At that time AOS was dormant or inexistent in many parts of Latin America, but today it is a vibrant and dynamic Organisation.The AOS network has been greatly expanded, and there are now Centres and Chaplains in 11 countries ( Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, Honduras and Panama), and many others are in preparation. This has been made possible because each one of you has worked very hard and is strongly motivated.

It would be fitting however to say a special word of thanks to the Regional Coordinator, Fr. Fonseca, to the Bishop promoters and to CELAM for their work support and encouragements. I have been told that all this has been made possible thanks to the excellent relations that you enjoy with the ITF and especially with Captain Antonio Fritz and his devoted team of collaborators. The four-year ICSW Regional Development Programme, headed by Captain Ysmael Garcia, is a source of great hope for you.

One of the aims of your conference is to open the way to our XXII World Congress which will be held next year in Gdynia, Poland. You are here therefore also to prepare your contribution to the World Congress in 2007, which will have to respond to this question: How we can be witnesses of hope to seafarers and to the other categories of people object-subject of our pastoral care? And how we can enable them, on their part, to be witnesses of hope ?

I think you shall do so by reflecting and sharing on the threefold responsibilities which constitutes the essence of all our pastoral work, that is:

-  The proclamation of the Word of God in AOS;

-  The celebration of the sacred mysteries, of the sacraments as the source and “raison d’ętre” of our pastoral care;

-  The “diakonia”, service, to all but especially to the poorest.

Our effort is that each Latin-American country where AOS is active be represented in Poland, so that your voice and concerns may be heard and you may contribute in shaping up AOS world’s vision and outreach for the coming years.

I would like to conclude by quoting an extract from Cardinal Martino’s speech to the AOS European Conference which was held near Rome on September last:

“The constant challenge, however, of providing to the many and varied practical needs of seafarers may sometimes appear to be monopolising all your time and activities. The Holy Father’s Encyclical letter “Deus Caritas Est” (DCE), reminds us how important it is for the Church's charitable activity to maintain its specificity and not to become just another form of social assistance among many others. We acknowledge the need and primary importance of professional competence and good organisation, but it is not of itself sufficient. In our apostolate, we are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity and heartfelt concern…The Pope goes on to say that ‘Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, charity workers need a ‘formation of the heart’: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others’ (DCE, 31)”.

I wish you all a good meeting, invoking the blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the intercession of his Blessed Mother, the “Stella Maris”, on your work and deliberations. 

*Bogotá (Colombia), 18 October, 2006.