Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 106, April 2008
AOS Regional Coordinators Meeting*
Cardinal Renato Raffaele MARTINO
President of the Pontifical Council
for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Dear Regional Coordinators,
Welcome to Rome, the City of Peter and of his Successors.
I am glad that, in spite of the long distances and your many pastoral engagements, you have all been able to respond positively to our invitation. This is the first time for me to preside over an AOS Regional Coordinators meeting and I wish to congratulate you on your appointment or re-appointment to this important task. To accomplish your mission you will need determination and diligence and I pray that your ministry be fruitful so to bring a new dimension and vigour to all those who are under your pastoral care, confident as we are that “perseverance….will secure [our] lives” ( Lk 21,19).
In your responsibility as Regional Coordinators you will be guided by the norms set by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Stella Maris. Your main task will be to assist and cooperate with this Pontifical Council towards the implementation of the “Work” that AOS is, the arm of the pastoral solicitude of the Church in the maritime world. We count on you to carry out this responsibility in every part of your region. I am sure that you will spare no effort to achieve this goal, which is to bring the “Good News” of Jesus Christ to every man and woman related to the sea who have been entrusted to our pastoral care by the Church, and to promote their human dignity.
With this in mind and to better address the pastoral challenge in front of us, during the recent XXII AOS World Congress, some changes were announced concerning the constitution of the Regions on the American continent, so as to better take into account the existing cultural and pastoral realities. As you already know, now Mexico and Cuba will be part of the Latin American region and the English, French and Dutch speaking islands of the Caribbean will join the North American region.
Coming very soon after the XXII AOS Word Congress, this meeting is very significant as it will enable us to follow up on this momentous event. As I had the occasion to say before, the Congress constitutes a blueprint that will allow us to set our course for the next five years. In its Final Document, it has given us a rich collection of conclusions and recommendations, which is the fruit of the participants’ reflections and sharing, as illustrated in its first part (the event). They are the proposed responses to the many challenges which have been identified by the participants and which need to be put into practice. Now is the time to start to implement them, and we have five years to do so, if we want that the Congress really bear its fruits and not remain solely an academic exercise, a friendly and joyful meeting.
In this regard, you have a key role to play. Time after time we have been able to witness how much the pastoral dynamism in a given region depends on the impetus of the Regional Coordinator and on his pastoral zeal. You must take the initiative in establishing a regular dialogue with the Bishop Promoters and National Directors in your region. One of your priorities will be to establish a regional network of cooperation and solidarity, by building also fraternal relations and good lines of communication with all the personnel in your region and by encouraging the establishment in each country of an AOS structure. The strength of AOS is in its network, and no one should have to work in isolation without the benefit of mutual support and encouragement.
During the Congress it was repeatedly said that Regional Coordinators, National Directors and chaplains must have a clear vision of their responsibilities and that they must be given sufficient time and resources to carry out their tasks. Another of your main concerns will be then, to help chaplains and ship visitors understand their mission, by giving them adequate time and the material means to put into practice the Congress recommendations. Hence the primary importance of training. This is done through meetings, retreats, local and regional conferences, which you will promote and organise. Above all what is needed is a” formation of the heart” which will enable each one to be a true witness of Hope and give testimony through the proclamation of the Word, Liturgy and Diakonia, according to the guidelines set out by the XXII AOS World Congress.
The AOS Manual for Chaplains and Pastoral Agents, which has been completely revised and was presented at the Congress, is now available in English, French and Spanish. We believe that it will be of great help, as it will offer additional guidance to all those providing pastoral care and services to seafarers in ports and onboard. In trying to address the various challenges facing the maritime world and environment today, it has taken into account the latest Church documents and the most recent legislation in the maritime and fisheries sector . It will hence be useful for training and for providing a common ground or reference to all those in the AOS. There are also new chapters on the ministry to Cruise Ships and the Yachting and Sailing sub-sectors, which are becoming every day more important. A section on Inter-religious dialogue has been added as there is an ever increasing presence of people of other religions on the ships, in the ports and in our centres, providing us with a wonderful opportunity to respectfully witness Christ especially through love and hospitality because “love is a language that directly reaches the heart and opens it to trust” according to the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
I offer you my prayerful best wishes for the success of your mandate as Regional Coordinators and I thank you in advance for your loyal cooperation and support. I would like to conclude with this invocation taken from the recent encyclical Spes Salvi of the Holy Father: Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way! (N. 50).
I pray for abundant blessings from the Lord upon our meeting, and for yourself a happy stay in the “Eternal City” and a safe return to your homes.
* Rome, 31st January – 1st February 2008.
 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est N. 31a
 Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the Italian Voluntary Service Organisations, 10th February 2007: Osservatore Romano, (English edition), no. 8, 21 February 2007, 5.