Truckers Considered a Type of "Vast Parish"

Church Remembers Transport Professionals

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INNSBRUCK, Austria, MARCH 3, 2009 ( Truckers face particular professional challenges, and thus have a special need for the Church, affirmed the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto said this Monday in an address on the pastoral care of truckers in Europe, during a meeting organized by the European Association with tolled motorways, bridges and tunnels, being held these days in Innsbruck, Austria.

The prelate recalled that the pastoral care of truckers was first addressed 50 years ago by Pope Pius XII, who described the group as «a very vast parish.»

He pointed out that 44% of Europe’s merchandise is transported by road and it is estimated that by 2010, the number of trucks circulating on the continent will have increased by 50% compared to the year 1988. Moreover, the latest statistics show that in more than 40,000 annual accidents on European highways, truckers are responsible for only 4% of the incidents.

Archbishop Marchetto explained that for the Church, «mobility and transport can express a global connection in the context of the human family, which can promote exchange and understanding.»

Hence, he said, it is necessary to pay special attention to all those working in this sector, remembering that «those who undertake long trips, above all, face a vast gamut of challenges and problems that require a different and specific pastoral approach.»

These difficulties, the prelate observed, are «essentially of five types: physical, personal, moral, social and spiritual.»


From the physical point of view, the trucker’s work is quite hard, he noted: «[H]e must drive long distances. Sometimes the lap begins and ends with the loading and unloading of the merchandise.

«Often they are tired to the point of exhaustion. They do not do much physical exercise, and spend the day confined in the small space of the cabin, exposed to smoke and atmospheric contamination.»

This situation, he added, «can lead to problems at the mental level, such as stress, loneliness and monotony, which can lead to several degrees of isolation and depression.» In the same way, he said, «excessive work and pressure can lead to incidents of anger and tension that are manifested in aggressive and dangerous driving.»

They face the potential of having their cargo robbed, he said. Sometimes, as well, truckers can be involved in the network of contraband or the trafficking of human beings.

Archbishop Marchetto noted the social difficulty of the truckers’ work that causes «isolation, separation from friends, family and children, with the inability to live a normal family life.»

«Sometimes this separation can lead these professionals to seek sexual company in other places, causing personal and matrimonial tensions,» he explained, adding that refuge might also be sought in drugs or alcohol. It can even lead to an inability to live a normal life, he noted, «because of lack of coordination in different linguistic and cultural environments.»

Needing Jesus

The prelate pointed out that for truckers who practice the faith, the need exists «to have access to the sacraments, to help and to prayer.»

From this point of view, he said, in Europe «we are not navigating in altogether unexplored waters,» though «it depends a lot on the country’s cultural heritage, the Church’s resources, and the particular view of the bishops, pastors and the laity.»

The archbishop added that many countries have undertaken initiatives such as «chapels — fixed or mobile — on the highways, visits to structures of pastoral service, liturgies celebrated in service areas and in truckers’ parking areas.»

«The process consists above all not in creating a ‘Church of the highway,’ with a celebration of the Mass — if it is desired and is possible — that is different and completely separate, but in helping people of the highway to integrate into the general life of the Church,» he continued.

Left behind

Another sector of pastoral care emphasized by Archbishop Marchetto is that of the families who remain at home. It is important, he said, «to safeguard the matrimonial and family bonds and to create a space of welcome where the driver can return, rest and find human, spiritual and mental nourishment.»

It is true that much has been achieved with the advent of mobile phones and technological resources, he pointed out, but «more could still be done, furnishing the bars of the highways and the truckers’ parking lots with Internet connections and means to talk and see through the Web.»

It is a question of finding «new ways of cooperation and coordination,» Archbishop Marchetto concluded, «so that the highways can be safer places in which to live and work and where the dignity of every human person is the main concern.»

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