Abbé Xavier de Meeûs d’Argenteuil, 23.12.1924 – 8.12.2019

As an association we owe much to Fr Xavier, chaplain at Brussels Airport, who during 1961 met with Fr Steux from Orly Airport in Paris. Their idea was to bring together those engaged in airport ministry with the aim of mutal support and encouragement. As a result of their discussions ten more chaplains met in Brussels in 1967 and the foundations for the IACAC were laid with their decision to meet annually. They called themselves the Airport Chaplains International. Every year since then, except in 1985, airport chaplains from around the world have come together to share fellowship and learn from each other.

At the 1974 Conference held in Vancouver, Fr Xavier presented a short history of the group outlining the original reasons for its existence. The following is in his own words;

Since I first became involved with the chaplaincy of Brussels between 1962-63, it seemed to me a good idea to get together the chaplains of other airports. The idea progressed and, in 1967, ten of us met in Brussels. The basic idea was to set up a team of priests whose common interest was their work.
1968: DUBLIN. The second conference decided to open the meetings to other denominations. I refused the title of president in order to maintain the concept of a team rather than a structured committee.
1969: NEW YORK. The setup of the three chapels in New York was particularly conclusive to the first inter denominatioional meeting. The Protestant Chaplain participated enthusiatically and the Jewish Rabbi acknowledged our invitations.
1970: PARIS. The accent this time was on the community of which the chaplain represents the corner stone. Crew members and sick persons rely on the community.
1971: ROME. In the meantime the Vatican had established the ‘Pontificia Commissione per la pastorale delle Migrazioni e del Turismo’. This commission embraced an aviation section. We were received in Rome in 1971, and it was during the course of this meeting that the necessity emerged to establish contact with the Ecumenical [World] Council of Churches in Geneva. Our Protestant colleagues undertook this task.
1972: LONDON. Formation of a tripartite committee comprising a chaplain to organise later meetings helped by two other chaplains nominated by the conference.
1973: MALTA. In the presence of Harry Daniel from the Geneva office. The chronology gives an indication of the component parts of our group.

  1. The necessity became apparent to compare our pastoral experiences, this being the most basic principle.
  2. Aware of the rapid growth and diverse elements of our work, we avoided bodies which would have interfered with our spiritual roles.
  3. It is ecumenical
  4. It is in close contact with the Vatican and the the Ecumenical [World] Council of Churches.

Fr Xavier and his fellow airport chaplains of the day were the visionaries who have set the direction and purpose of airport chaplaincy and today we owe them much. Below are two of the messages received from our chaplain colleagues.

“What a wonderful man!  His vision of providing ministry in the civil aviation and airport setting inspired all of us.

May Jack Keough, Peter Holloway, and Glen O’Conor and the rest of the chaplains who have gone before us greet Xavier as he goes to be with the Saints in Light!”
Rev Bob White – Mineappolis St Paul {Bob remembers Fr Xavier from the many conferences he attended in the early years of IACAC}

“This is very sad news. I’ve never met Fr. De Meeus but understood his importance for the chaplaincy. Please convey my sincere condolences to the family on behalf of the protestant airport chaplaincy at Brussels Airport.”
ds. Edwin Delen
Protestant Airport Chaplaincy, Brussels Airport