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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 97, April 2005


addresse to the A.O.S. Regional Coordinators meeting* 


Cardinal Stephen Fumio HAMAO

President of the Pontifical Council for the

Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


I wish to extend a warm welcome to all of you, who have come to our Pontifical Council for this meeting of the Regional Coordinators. I hope that you had the time to rest from your long voyages and that although we have a full agenda you will also have the opportunity to enjoy these few days in Rome. 

Our meeting this year takes a particular significance as it is being held in the aftermath of this terrible disaster which has stuck so many communities in the Indian Ocean. Our hearts and prayers go to all these families and populations. I would like to put on record here our feelings of deep sadness. I shall ask you particularly to forward to the Regions affected our deepest sympathy and the assurance of our continued prayers.

We all realize the importance of this annual meeting of the AOS for our worldwide organization; the regions are vast and you are geographically far from one another and from the Pontifical Council, this is why as the psalmist says it is “good and pleasant when brothers [meet] together in unity” (Ps 133). It is good to feel the solidarity towards one another and to know that we are not alone in our sometime complex and difficult ministry. For us, at the Pontifical Council, it is important to hear and to take into consideration what you have to say, to hear about your difficulties, your successes and your pastoral plans as you do your best to support and develop the apostolate in your regions. For you, Regional Coordinators, it is important to become always more aware of the catholicity of the Church, of its universality, as you exercise your coordinating responsibilities and take part in the policy making and planning of our organization and international network. There are moments in which our dialogue is even more important in case of disasters or natural calamities, demanding a deep analysis to take decisions and to show special solidarity with our people. Unfortunately, this is the case. We will discuss intensely this matter during the Fishing Committee Meeting.

You have been appointed by the Pontifical Council to assist us in implementing the norms set up by the Holy Father in the Apostolic Letter “Stella Maris”. One of your main responsibilities is therefore to report on the maritime apostolate in the countries of your region. To that effect you have received this time new guidelines and a report form; we hope that they have been a help to you, and not more of a burden . We believe that more systematic and uniform reporting will give us the necessary information that is indispensable if we want to keep abreast of changes in the maritime sector and provide to the seafarers, fishers and other categories linked with us, in the Sector of the Sea, the pastoral care they need. 

Also as you know, the discussions for an international AOS website have been on-going. Constantly to respond to the pastoral needs of the maritime and fishing communities we shall need a constant flow of reliable and comprehensive information, so that we can de-velop a global way of planning our own pastoral care. 

In this connection I would like to mention another feature of our meeting. This afternoon we shall have a delegation from AOS England & Wales, which will address us. As you may know we have been discussing with them, who have generously offered to help for the imple-mentation of a project regarding the website. Also lay pastoral agents and volunteers play an ever more important role in our mission, hence the necessity of finding additional finances; the AOS E&W delegation will share with us on their recent ex-perience in this field and on the vision of the AOS in that country.

Although situations and circumstances differ greatly from one region to another, sometimes even from one port to another, it is important that as a Catholic organization, AOS de-velops a common vision, that we agree mutatis mutandis on a common approach and that we work in solidarity to achieve these aims. In order to realize this, the regional meetings and the World Congress play an important role provided they are carefully prepared and respond to the needs of our chaplains, pastoral agents and volunteers. You will discuss the calendar of regional meetings and their agenda. Our last World Congress in Rio is deemed by many to have been a successful Confe-rence, one of the reasons being that its theme responded to the interrogations and expectations of many. Our next Congress will be in 2007; we must now already start the planning and reflection that will ensure another successful conference. 

On the last day we shall hold our “AOS International Fishing Committee”. The founding of this Committee is an outcome of the Rio Congress, it has been welcome and there are many expectations that have already been expressed from many quarters. Last year you supported its establishment and this year you will be asked to suggest ways and means that could help the Committee go forward and achieve the objectives that were set out at the “Ad hoc Committee“ in 2003. The Secretary of our Council, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, will develop this subject further on Wednesday.

I invoke the Holy Spirit on all of us, so that our deliberations may be open and fraternal and that we be granted a fruitful meeting so we can be ever more faithful to our call. Our specificity is that our commitment to the maritime world is a pastoral one and we are com-mitted to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Maritime World in all its facts. We may often be discussing material and practical things; this is not surprising as the Good News is directed towards the whole man as the Holy Father reminded us at the audience he granted to our Council on 18th May last year, on the occasion of the General Assembly: “Love and welcome are the first and most effective forms of evangelization”.

I shall follow your three day work with much interest, and I shall try to be present as far as my agenda permits. I have now great pleasure in declaring this meeting open.  

* (Rome, 31st January - 1st February 2005)