VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 29, 2009 ( There is a street associated with nearly every important event in life, but for some people the street is simply "home." 

This reflection was made by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, as he introduced the first European Meeting for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street. The meeting began today in the Vatican and ends Friday.

Before considering the four main topics of the conference -- pastoral ministry linked to transportation; prostitutes or "women of the street"; street kids; and the homeless -- the archbishop reflected on roads in general.

"Ever since society became more mobile, the paths that men and women have trodden have had special meaning," he said. "They take us to and from work and school. They take us to visit friends and relatives as the means or place of encounter. They can symbolize rites of passage -- birth of a child, an intimate relationship, a marriage, and even death. They are routes taken also by both migrants and refugees. 

"There is almost always a road associated with every place we go and every important event in our lives. And along the way there are those for whom this association is more than just a journey; they are those for whom the street is simply 'home.'" 

The Vatican official observed that there "is much that is obvious and seen upon our roads and in our streets," but at the same time, "there is much that is unseen, or that is prevented from being seen."

"There are people, homes, lives that are hidden from view because often they are too painful and too ‘ugly' for our society to see and acknowledge," he said. 

A pulpit

Archbishop Marchetto went on to note that roads have a special place in the Gospel.

"Jesus meets people on the way, on the side of the road, in crowds and when he is alone," he said. "[...] The road is thus the place of encounter and transformation. It is the place of proclamation and evangelization, of healing and witness. In many ways it could be said that the road, the street, was both his home and pulpit."

This special significance continues today, the prelate observed, for those "who work in the service of the Gospel." The road, he suggested, "continues to be a place of both proclamation and witness and transformation and healing."

"It is the place where Christ may still be encountered," the archbishop affirmed, "where his words and life may given, through gestures and actions, where the Church may through its various apostolates channel the grace of God."

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On ZENIT's Web site:

Full text of Archbishop Marchetto's address: