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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 105 (Suppl.), December 2007



Presentation of the Seminar 


Archbishop Agostino Marchetto

Secretary of the Pontifical Council

for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


Dear Airport Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, 

When Cardinal Richard Cushing established the first airport chapel at Boston’s Logan International Airport in 1950, little did he realize that he was putting the groundwork for the presence of the Church in those places which would become privileged means and targets of an abominable fact in the new millennium: terrorism. Its deceitful method of striking innocent people who do not expect it and therefore cannot defend themselves makes it even more detestable. Because of this, some people walk through airports or board airplanes at times with a sense of insecurity and fear.

Nevertheless, we, as Christians, firmly believe that evil, the mysterium iniquitatis (“the mystery of iniquity”), does not have the final say in this world and with regard to humankind, whom Christ saved through his passion, death and resurrection. To have a deeper insight on this mystery, Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will share with us some philosophical and theological reflections on the problem of evil.

As Christians, we want to heed the call of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI not to return evil for evil, but to win evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21). In fact, we feel it our Christian duty to respond to terrorism with forgiveness, letting however justice go through its due legal course. At the same time, we know that we should defend ourselves and all innocent people around us, particularly in the airports where we carry out our mission, without however forgetting that human rights must be duly respected.

Being a worldwide concern, strategies to combat terrorism have been studied and set up by international instances. Knowing what they are could help us feel more secure and put us in the position to understand the methods used, thereby enabling us to legitimately cooperate in ensuring the collaboration of the general public for its own protection. This is the reason why we requested to be informed, in the course of this Seminar, about the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which will be competently explained to us by Mr. Francesco Cappè, Coordinator of the Security Governance/Counter Terrorism Cluster of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute in Turin. For the same reason, and also because the Association is related to our field of action, we want to know the International Air Transport Association’s Airport and In-flight Security Program, which Mr. Iain Jack, IATA’s Senior Security Advisor in Europe, has very kindly accepted to present.

Of course, we are aware that repressive and punitive measures alone are not sufficient to deal with terrorism, also because it is done by human beings. It is indeed necessary to work together to be effective. This was the plea raised during the gathering for peace in the world held in Assisi, on 24th January, 2002: “Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In God’s name, may all religions bring upon earth justice and peace, forgiveness, life and love!”

Consequently, it is necessary for the world’s great religions to work together to respond to terrorism, especially by teaching the dignity of the human person and by spreading a clearer understanding of the oneness of the human family. Hence, the importance of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. We have therefore asked Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, to speak on Inter-religious Dialogue to counter terrorism and Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, to discuss Ecumenical Collaboration in relation to the threats of terrorism.

However and unfortunately, terrorists continue to threaten and have actually carried out terrorist action. There are, in fact, those among you who have had first-hand experience under these terrible circumstances. It will certainly be enlightening for us to know these experiences and learn from them. Indeed, for our specific and difficult apostolate, sharing is of capital importance. For this reason, we shall listen to Rev. Paschal Ryan who had to help the London Heathrow travelers and workers cope with threats of terrorist attacks and Rev. David Baratelli, Chaplain at Newark International Airport, who has had the grace and the sad mission of ministering to the victims of the September 11 event, and to the members of their families. 

We are also pleased to have with us Rev. Andrea Krasznai, Acting President of the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains, who will speak on IACAC’s esperience particularly in relation to coping with terrorism. The Association’s ecumenical character has a special significance in the context of dialogue, which we are discussing as a response to terrorism.

We would have wanted to listen to each and everyone of you, but as you know, time is always short. We shall therefore at least hear from your Associations that will summarize the experiences of their members. The US Catholic Conference of Airport Chaplains will be presented by its President, Fr. Michael Zaniolo, and the European Secretariat, by its Secretary General, Fr. David Lacy. Time will also be given for reports from Asia and Africa, as well as from individual chaplaincies that might want to add new and singular information and experiences.

There will be time to discuss the problems and positive experiences, the challenges and success stories that you have experienced in the course of your apostolate in the world’s airports, both in the workshops and informally, during the breaks and moments of relaxation. These will also be propitious moments of camaraderie and opportunities to know each other more profoundly.

Space has also been given to “special” meetings. The Superiors of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People are willing to meet all those who will not be in the European or U.S. group meetings to answer their questions.

Hopefully, this Seminar will give us the possibility to put together a comprehensive plan for  the future, under the sign of sharing and international cooperation, with the grace of God, who is the source of our mission. We hope that the new chaplains will learn how to start or to proceed with their apostolic service at the airports, and that established chaplaincies will come up with new ideas on how to develop their airport apostolate. Of course, our Pontifical Council is always eager to receive news and reports from all the old and new airport chaplaincies in the world. We recommend to you our Review People on the Move and to visit the Vatican website. We are at your service in carrying out your apostolic mission. 

Dear Airport Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, 

The highlight of the Seminar is our Audience with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict the XVI, to whom you wish to manifest your love and unity, and assure your support for his demanding ministry. Being at a General Audience it will be a wonderful witness to the people of God that will be gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The number of the faithful attending this event is continuously growing. It was calculated that some three million people have come to the Audiences since the beginning of this Pontificate and this is consoling.

 For many of you the meeting will close with a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto. May Our Lady of Loreto, patroness of Civil Aviation, assist us in our mission and help us transform the world’s airport population into one family, in spite of, or maybe because of, the threat of terrorism, up to the point of neutralizing and overcoming the reign of terror that it wants to establish.

I therefore wish you God’s blessings on the work that you have set out to do, and to you, therefore, I say “Buon lavoro Congressisti!”