By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis on Monday addressed members of Catholic Airport Chaplaincies who are meeting in Rome for a seminar dedicated to their “Catholic civil aviation chaplains and members of the airport chaplaincy at the service of integral human development. The 17th International Seminar is being promoted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
In ministering to the millions of people who travel by air each day, Pope Francis told pastoral workers “you are called to bring the message and presence of Christ… and to bring to everyone, whether Christian or not, the Good News of God’s tender love, hope, and peace”.
A presence of availability
He described their activity as “primarily a presence of availability”, representing “God’s ever-present love” to all they meet. “Your witness, and the message you communicate in that particular moment, can leave a life-long impression”.
The Holy Father said he was pleased to see their focus on integral human development, which “embraces a variety of particular concerns”. “I urge you to carry out your ministry with commitment and enthusiasm”, he said, “gazing with the heart of Christ upon the thousands of faces passing by, so that everyone can sense God’s presence”.
A space to encounter God
He also urged pastoral concern for pilots and cabin crew, as well as speaking about the importance of providing opportunities in airports for people to have an “encounter” with God “in prayer and in the sacraments.” Pope Francis also spoke out in favour of migrants and refugees who pass through airports, highlighting the necessity for pastoral workers to ensure their “human dignity”, and that their rights might be “safeguarded”.
Noting that the many commitments of civil aviation chaplains “can prove physically and spiritually draining”, the encouraged chaplains “to involve others”, and especially lay people, in their mission.
“Missionary spirit must be the inspiration and guide to all our activity”, Pope Francis said in conclusion, before entrusting them all to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of “Our Lady of Loreto, Patroness of Civil Aviation”.