Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In June I had the tremendous privilege of spending four days in Rome with Roman Catholic colleagues from around the world at the 2019 World Seminar for civil aviation chaplains and pastoral agents, meeting on the theme of “Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Members of the Airport Chaplaincy at the Service of Integral Human Development”. This, the 17th such gathering was the first to be organised by the Dicastero Servizio dello Sviluppo Umano Integrale (Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development), and an entirely new Vatican team.
This new body was established by Pope Francis on 31 August 2016 and began its work on 1 January 2017, with responsibility for “issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture“.
The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development combines the work of four Pontifical Councils, set up between 1967 and 1985 in response to priorities highlighted during Second Vatican Council: a) Justice and Peace, b) Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, c) Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and d) Cor Unum (which coordinated humanitarian disaster relief operations)
The Dicastery is an expression of the church’s care for suffering humanity: the needy, the sick and the excluded, paying special attention to the needs and issues of those forced to flee their homeland, the stateless, the marginalized, victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters, the imprisoned, the unemployed, victims of contemporary forms of slavery and torture, and others whose dignity is endangered.
It studies, communicates and enacts the social teaching of the Church, seeking to engage with, and transform, social, economic and political policies, especially in areas of justice and peace, the development of peoples, the promotion and defence of human dignity and human rights, including workers’ and children’s rights; the phenomenon of migration and the exploitation of migrants; human trafficking and enslavement; imprisonment, torture and capital punishment; disarmament and arms control as well as armed conflicts and their effects on the civilian population and the natural environment (humanitarian law).
The Dicastery also encourages local Churches to provide effective and appropriate material and spiritual assistance to the sick, refugees, exiles, migrants, the stateless, circus workers, nomads and other itinerant populations, encouraging Catholic institutions and individuals committed to respecting the dignity of every person, affirming the values of justice and peace, and helping people in need, especially in disaster relief.
Roman Catholics engaged in airport ministry are fortunate enough to have a global body within the church dedicated to supporting, resourcing and advocating for them to their local Bishops’ conference. The Seminar included several speeches and presentations outlining the Vatican position on various matters, but there were also presentations by chaplaincies, and working groups in which chaplains were asked about their ministries and ways in which the Dicastery could support and resource them. Although there was no opportunity given to speak about the IACAC to the Seminar, it was gratifying how many of those present were committed members of our Association and, of those who were not, how much interest in and goodwill towards the Association there was.
It was clear to me that our respective groups complement (rather than compete with) one another, and I worked hard to introduce the Association’s work to the Undersecretary of the Dicastery, Msgr. Segundo Tejado Muñoz in what was a bit like what Hollywood producers call an ‘elevator pitch’.
In the IACAC’s origin story, we look back to 1967, when Father Xavier de Meeus of Brussels and Father Steux of Orly brought together ten Catholic priests for mutual encouragement and support in Brussels. After only a year, it was decided in 1968 (during the gathering in Dublin) to invite non-catholic chaplains to become part of the group. By 1974, at the conference in Vancouver, the newly named Civil Aviation Chaplains International was established as “an ecumenical group of ordained civil aviation chaplains”, with “the intent… to be as inclusive as possible with respect to membership whilst protecting the soundness of the group and its work as God gives us wisdom, courage, and the love to do so.”
In 1984, a more formal document, upon which the present constitution is still based, was approved and the name of the Association was changed to the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains.
The IACAC is the professional organization of chaplains involved in the civil aviation industry. We promote chaplaincy work at airports and support one another; Airport Chaplains who are men and women, ordained, licensed, authorised, commissioned and lay, representing a wide range of Christian denominations (thankfully retaining our strong foundational connection with the Roman Catholic network from which we have grown), as well as major world faiths; Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and Baha’i.
We work in partnership with, and share common membership with, several (such as the British Isles and Ireland Airport Chaplains’ Network). We are therefore, uniquely placed to be at the centre of such networks, uniting individual chaplains (working alone), larger chaplaincies as well as denominational and ecumenical, regional and national networks.
You may have read some of this before (I do like to recycle whenever I can) – in the IACAC 50th Anniversary history and overview of our half-century of meeting together. I was pleased to be able to present to HH Pope Francis with a copy of the book, and even more delighted by his evident interest in the Association (and the book) and also by his evident understanding of and ambition for the ministry of airport chaplaincy around the world as he addressed us.
I also presented a copy of the book, with a promise to provide more information about the Association to Msgr. Segundo Tejado Muñoz, undersecretary of the Dicastery. As the still newly-established Dicastery is having rapidly to get up to speed in its understanding of airport chaplaincy, I made the point that the Association, and our many networks regional and denominations of airport chaplains would both benefit from and support and enhance the work of the Dicastery in working together and learning from one another. The significant crossover in membership is but one part of the evidence for this.
The Revd George Lane