Pope Francis received in audience the participants at the World Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the theme: “Evangelii gaudium: What Support for the Pastoral Ministry of Civil Aviation?”
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I receive you at the conclusion of the International Seminar of Catholic Chaplains of Civil Aviation and members of the Airport Chaplaincies, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, on the subject: “Evangelii gaudium: What Help for the Pastoral Ministry of the Airport Chaplaincy?” I greet the President cordially and thank him for his courteous words. I greet all of you, who have taken part in these days of study to exchange ideas and pastoral experiences.
In particular, you reflected on how to receive the indications of the Apostolic Exhortation in the apostolate of airports, always beginning from witness, to help people to open their heart and life to Christ. Pastoral solicitude in the ambit of civil aviation is addressed to all those that, in different capacities, belong to the civil community, regardless of their nationality, religious creed or culture, with particular attention to those among them that are poorest, suffering or marginalized.
The airport is a place of meeting of so many people that travel, for work, for tourism, for other necessities; passing through them are migrants and refugees, children and elderly people, persons who are in need of care and special attention. And then there are persons who work there, every day, with their personal and professional situations. There is also the worrying number of passengers without documents — often refugees requiring asylum –, who are detained in airport buildings for brief or long periods, sometimes without adequate human and spiritual assistance.
Sometimes tragic situations can be verified, as a result, for instance, of incidents or hijackings, with serious consequences for the safety or psychological state of people. In these circumstances the chaplain is also called and sought by those in need of comfort and encouragement.
In airports also Christ the Good Shepherd wants to take care of his sheep through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, where the encounter with the infinite mercy of God opens unthought of ways of evangelization. In fact, to proclaim the Gospel in our days implies relieving people of the burdens that weigh on their heart and life; it means proposing Jesus’ words as alternative to the promises of the world that do not give true happiness. Today it has become more urgent to rediscover the compassionate face of God, and, precious for this, will be the time of grace that the Holy Year of Mercy will offer us.
The airport chaplaincy is called to be a place of unity in diversity for all categories of people. Airports seem to be cities within cities, where multiple realities are intertwined and superimposed. As a great city, the airport is a cosmopolitan environment, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and you, chaplains and members of the chaplaincies, are immersed in the life of this singular community. Therefore, it is important to collaborate docilely and to always be listening to the Holy Spirit, who creates unity in diversity (cf. Acts 2:1-13).
The mission in the airport also requires work so that people have the desire to listen to the Word of God. One who listens and takes to heart God’s voice becomes in turn capable of offering words of consolation and of helping others to trust in divine mercy, which is a sure shelter for one who is weak and does not have the presumption of saving himself on his own. Divine mercy opens to all and shows God’s will who wants to save all.
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to work so that in these particular “frontier” places, which airports are, there is space to find and practice love and dialogue, which nourish fraternity among people and preserve a peaceful social climate. And, together with you, I pray to the Lord that your apostolate, which participates in the universal mission of the Church, is an effective proclamation of the Good News.
I bless you all and your communities. May Our Lady protect you. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]