XV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members

"The New Evangelization means that chaplains move from maintenance to mission"

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27 (Zenit.org).- Here is the full text of the Final Document of the XV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members under the theme of “New Evangelization in the Field of Civil Aviation”.

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INTRODUCTION

We, seventy-nine Catholic chaplains and chaplaincy members who serve in civil aviation across the world with joy and hope, have come together from thirty-one international airports of fourteen countries in Europe and the Americas, to respond to the call of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People to examine how we could effectively carry out the New Evangelization in the world of civil aviation. In our assembly, we counted on the competent help of experts and institutional representatives who enlightened us regarding the context in which the New Evangelization needs to be carried out in our contemporary world and the importance of considering different forms of dialogue as part of the evangelizing process everywhere, including the sphere of human mobility in general and our civil aviation milieu in particular.

Stepping back from the day-to-day activities in which we are immersed to reflect on our ministry and to be in dialogue and communion with others who share our mission has been a great grace. We remember the importance of periodically “coming away,” as the Gospel tells us, to pray and reflect on our mission and ministry.

Inspired by the words that the Holy Father addressed to us, we have become more aware that we are “called to embody in the world’s airports the Church’s mission of bringing God to man and lead man to the encounter with God.” This has re-affirmed our sense of purpose and our understanding of the importance of this mission and ministry in the life of the Church.

We leave our gathering of Catholic chaplains who serve in civil aviation across the world with joy and hope. We leave with a sense of challenge to meet the many needs and possibilities that we have seen emerge in the world of civil aviation. We anticipate the results of the upcoming Synod of Bishops as a further clarification of our task in bringing the New Evangelization to a world in need.

Our conclusions represent some of the major lines of development that emerged in the course of the seminar.

CONCLUSIONS

Airport chaplaincy is an important ministry and pastoral outreach of the Church that contributes to her vital presence not only in airports but in society as well. It needs recognition and support as such by those responsible for the structure and organization of the Church’s mission. The particular circumstances of airports that include large populations of both stable and transient persons of various cultural backgrounds indicate the great potential of this ministry for the New Evangelization.

Airport chaplains need to continue to serve the religious and spiritual needs of believing people, especially through the celebration of the sacraments for Catholic people. At the same time, the New Evangelization invites chaplains to serve the revitalization of the faith of those who are already faithful. In the Year of Faith this can mean a more extensive catechesis and deeper exploration of the ways of prayer and spiritual counseling.

The New Evangelization means that chaplains move from maintenance to mission, from simply being responsive to requests to actively reaching out to those who are alienated from faith and Church. Thus, the New Evangelization means an intensification of the apostolic outreach of airport ministry. For this outreach to take place and to be effective, chaplains must engage their imaginations and creativity with others in the Church, because the New Evangelization is, indeed, new.

Airport chaplains who wish to promote the New Evangelization must be conscious of the fluid and multidimensional cultural context of their efforts. Culture encompasses the new terrain of electronic communications, a globalized economy, a re-alignment of religious sensibilities that span the forces of secularization to the surge of various forms of fundamentalism, and people who are ever more mobile and mixed in their backgrounds. The airport itself is a great point of cultural intersection and, therefore, becomes an extraordinary “Areopagus” in the context of the New Evangelization.

A critical moment for airport chaplains and others engaged in the New Evangelization is the process of pre-evangelization. The process of pre-evangelization includes helping men and women of our time to identify the deepest questions of their lives. Only if they are clear on the questions will they be open and available to the answer which is found in Jesus Christ, the Word of Life. Often these deep human questions are connected to a sense of the fragility of human life as well as the deepest aspirations of the human heart for knowledge and love. Chaplains can effectively pre-evangelize by using the airport experiences of fragility and vulnerability as well as high human aspirations to draw their listeners into a clearer possession of the decisive life questions that can only be answered by faith in Jesus Christ.

If airport chaplains are to carry on the New Evangelization, they themselves must be personally engaged. Their own formation as believers is, of course, essential, since to be effective evangelizers they need first to be living witnesses of Christ’s Gospel. Even before that, the human formation of airport chaplains must be a central concern. Their human personalities enable them to receive people, to be present to them, to listen to them attentively, and to engage in a dialogue which can lead them to faith or deeper faith. Their humanity, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, must become a bridge and not an obstacle in the communication of Jesus Christ to men and women today.

Because airports are grand intersections of all humanity, the ecumenical and inter-faith dimensions of airport ministry are extraordinarily important. Airport chaplains need to be sensitive to the different religious traditions. In particular, chaplains need an ecumenical perspective that would link them with other Christians. This ecumenical connection serves to give common witness to Jesus Christ and, in its own way, fosters the New Evangelization.

We have therefore come up with some suggestions for concrete actions to be taken in the context of the new evangelization.

SOME CONCRETE SUGGESTIONS

The method of evangelization in airport chaplaincies cannot be the same as that of a parish. In airports, chaplains and their collaborators meet people who would otherwise not encounter people of faith, nor enter into any kind of religious or spiritual dialogue. Therefore, we suggest the use of video presentations in the chaplaincies on various aspects of the Catholic faith, including further explanation of the catechism. A good occasion would be before the celebration of Holy Mass. This could also be done by making similar CDs or books available in the chapel, or by distributing them, for instance, as Christmas gifts to airport workers.

We recommend that all those who carry out their mission in airports be readily identifiable, for example through the use of a chaplaincy badge. In particular, it is suggested, where possible and opportune, that priests, deacons and religious men and women connected to airport chaplaincies wear their clerical garb or religious habit to make them a visible presence of the Church in a neutral space.

Airport chaplains and their collaborators need to maintain good relations with the airport authorities, entrepreneurs and labor unions to be able to better attend to and serve the people entrusted to their care – airport and airline workers and users, as well as aircraft passengers – by protecting their dignity and responding to their spiritual and social needs.

This would also make it possible for airport chaplaincies to have the opportunity to use technological instruments present in airports for their pastoral service in the context of the new evangelization.

Airport chaplains and chaplaincy members have an important evangelization mission to carry out in moments of emergencies and critical incidents. Therefore it is necessary that they be competent not only in pastoral terms but also on how to be concrete responders to the demands of such moments.

The new evangelization in airports would greatly benefit from the full-time availability of airport chaplains and chaplaincy members. Where possible, Ordinaries of Dioceses where airports are located are encouraged to appoint a full-time chaplain. The participation of volunteers who support the chaplains in the ministry is also encouraged.

The publication of a new “Prayer Book for Travelers” could be a useful instrument of new evangelization.

A study could be made regarding the possibility of establishing an International Association of lay volunteers who would be of assistance to airport chaplains and may guarantee constant prayer in the chapel, for example, through permanent Eucharistic adoration.

Epilogue

We therefore consider it our task to implement these conclusions and recommendations, and communicate them to our fellow chaplains and chaplaincy members as well as to our Bishops, so that together we may carry them out more effectively not only to the benefit of the people we serve, but so that Christ may be more visible in the civil aviation milieu and become more and more the center of its life and activities.

We lay the work that we have done at the feet of Our Lady of Loreto, our patroness, so that she may be our constant inspiration and guide in this challenging and fulfilling mission.