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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move 

N° 94,  April 2004, pp. 229-231

36th Annual Conference of the

International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains (IACAC)*

Msgr. Anthony CHIRAYATH

Office Head, Pontifical Council for the

Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Brief history of the Association: 

It began as an association of CatholicAirport Chaplains in 1967. In their second meeting held in Dublin in the following year (1968) the Catholic Chaplains decided to include also the Protestant chaplains in their annual meetings. Thus the first inter-denominational meeting of civil aviation chaplains took place in New York in 1969, and since then all the annual conferences were held on an ecumenical basis. But it was only in 1984 during their annual conference held in Melbourne (Australia) the chaplains adopted the present name. Before that the association of chaplains was known as “Civil Aviation Chaplains International” (CACI), a name chosen during the Vancouver (Canada) conference in 1974.

The first draft of a constitution of the association was drawn up at the 1984 conference in Melbourne. The final text of the constitution was voted at the 1986 Conference in London. The aim of the association is condensed in its Constitution in article No. 2 under the title “purpose”: “The purpose of the Association, which is a non-profit organisation, is the promotion of the spiritual well-being of those engaged in and using civil aviation”. Today the association cannot be considered anymore an ecumenical organism, but an inter-religious association, since there are Moslems and Jews among its members. But practically it continues still as an ecumenical association. The Pontifical Council for the pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant People has an Observer status within the association, together with the World Council of Churches (WCC). It is also Member of the Executive Board of the IACAC in the quality of Observer, which meets four times a year in different countries. The new President of the association is Rev. Can. Mike Vincer, Anglican Chaplain at Manchester International Airport. At present there are 161 active members, 15 retired chaplains and 3 honorary members in the association.

36th Annual Conference:

The 36th Annual Conference of the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplain (IACAC) was held in Melbourne (Australia) from 22 to 26 September 2003. The conference was hosted by Rev. Peter Holloway, the Anglican Airport Chaplain at Melbourne. In fact, there is no more airport chaplaincy in Melbourne or in any other airport in Australia, since the time all airports were privatized in Australia and the “industrial mission” was suppressed in the country. But Rev. Holloway and Fr. Michael Kalka (Catholic) continue to take care of the pastoral needs of the airport workers, and they are called to the airport whenever their presence is needed. One of the main purposes of organizing the conference in Melbourne was “to support those re-establishing a chaplaincy at Melbourne Airport”. 

The venue of the conference was the Airport Motel and Convention Center at Attwood, situated near the airport. There was a Catholic Church near the conference center where the Catholic priests celebrated daily Mass at 7 a.m., with the participation of many of the parishioners. On the first day Msgr. Anthony Chirayath presided over the Concelebrated Mass and preached the homily. Mons. Chirayath was also the first speaker during the inaugural dinner. The Protestant participants did not have separate worship during the conference. There was common prayer daily at the start of the conference, which included singing the Psalms, reading of the Sacred Scripture and a concluding prayer. 

The theme of the conference was “Wings of Mercy in a Multicultural Society”, meaning that the airport ministry is a mission of mercy in a multicultural society, which is the airport today. There were three presentations during the conference: 1. Living and ministering in a multicultural society (speaker: Dr. Irene Donohoue Clyne, Cross Cultural Coordinator of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne), 2. The umbrella of safety – a Parson’s dream (speaker: Max Griffiths, former Director of Australian Inland Mission), 3. Workshops on communication conducted by St. Luke’s Innovative Resources.

In the first presentation, Dr. Donohoue spoke about the situation of immigrants in Melbourne. Melbourne is a multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious city of 3.5 million people, of whom 43,5% are immigrants. There is a tremendous growth in the Chinese community. Melbourne is also one of the largest Greek-speaking cities in the world. There are also more Maltese in Melbourne than in Malta itself. The Christian population is diminishing except the one of the Catholic Church, which is getting more Catholic immigrants from Vietnam. There is also a big growth among the Buddhists. The problem is how to communicate in the Church. Dr. Donohoue suggested having multilingual information bulletins, multilingual prayer books, and multilingual welcome boards. Max Griffiths spoke about his experiences while working as a missionary in the hinterlands of Australia going to serve in the most isolated areas. The third presentation was about communicating with others.

Rev. Can. Mike Vincer, the newly elected President, in his opening speech publicly expressed appreciation and thanked for the support of the Pontifical Council to promote the pastoral care of civil aviation in the world. Rev. Michael Banfield of London-Luton Airport proposed that the IACAC should have a strategy: two sub-commissions will be working on it and will present their conclusions at the next conference. Rev. Banfield announced that he has completed writing the first draft of a booklet “An Introduction to Airport Chaplaincy”. 

There were 64 participants, of whom 24 were Catholics. There was also the Imam of Nice (France) at the conference. The presence of Africa was very much evident this time. Many were new to IACAC. Though the participants came from different parts of the world and from various churches and ecclesial communities and religious background, there was great fellowship and rekindling of friendships during the Melbourne Conference.

The next conference (37th) will be held in Seattle (USA) from 6th to 10th September 2004. The other conferences will be in Manchester (UK) from 19th to 23rd September 2005 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the chaplaincy, in Cape Town or Nairobi in 2006, in Dallas Fort worth (USA) in 2007, in Zurich in 2008.

*Melbourne (Australia), 22 – 26 September 2003,