Second International Meeting, 1-2 December 2006: Final Document
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrant and Itinerant People
'On the road to sustainable mobility' 

"On the road to sustainable mobility" was the theme of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People's Second International Meeting held at the Vatican on 1-2 December 2006. The care for road professionals and those who live on the street were among the topics discussed. The following is a description of the event, the conclusions and recommendations.

I. The Event

The Second International Meeting on the Pastoral Care of the Road took place on 1-2 December 2006, in the offices of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People at the San Calisto Building, Vatican City.

Among the participants were five Bishops, several National Directors or Representatives of the Bishops' Conferences, and experts from 21 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, including a representative of the Latin-American Bishops' Council (CELAM).

There were also delegates from "Die Akademie Bruderhilfe-familienfrsorge" and the Italian National Association of Sociologists.

The meeting was enriched by the presence of a chaplain working for the pastoral care of the railways and representatives of the pastoral care of the inhabitants of the streets.

Pope Benedict XVI's Message of best wishes was particularly heartening. He expressed sincere appreciation for the initiative that "intends to examine more profoundly and promote pastoral action for those who work or are found living on the streets", with the hope that "ecclesial attention would always be nourished by constant love and generous resolutions of exemplary witness to the Christian faith".

The President of the Pontifical Council, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, greeted the participants on their first day of the meeting. He stated that the meeting provides an opportunity to reflect on the "pastoral needs of the sector, according to its various expressions... and to try to offer appropriate responses". In particular, "through an exchange of varied experiences", it will be possible to identify "the most appropriate means to assist travellers and transportation workers, as well as inhabitants of the street".

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Dicastery, introduced the sessions by linking "the apostolate of the road to the sign of the times, [specifically] human mobility", which includes two broad aspects: migration and itinerancy.

He then described those to whom this pastoral care is addressed: "drivers and their companions, as well as those engaged in occupations that serve their needs", without forgetting, however, the inhabitants of the road: street children, women of the street and the homeless.

The Archbishop defined the pastoral care of the road and the street as "the gaze of the Good Samaritan", which must be concretely translated into "a presence of welcome and service in the broad sense of the term".

Finally, Archbishop Marchetto explained the objective of the meeting, which was placing "our specific task, which has a real and social perspective", within the context of our "evangelizing mission and the promotion of human life", including a "renewed proposal of ethical and Christian values".

The first day was dedicated to the pastoral care of professionals and users of the road, as well as of workers in services for their benefit. The sessions began with a presentation by Archbishop emeritus Georges Gilson of Sens, France. He identified the invention of the internal combustion engine and the reaction engine as one of the technical revolutions of our times, which "multiplied by 10 our capacity to run, to move and to travel".

But the person is in command of the motor vehicle, not the engine, he said. The person thus has authority to decide at what speed to travel and whether or not to obey traffic regulations.

Men and women are therefore responsible towards themselves, their own lives and that of others, and towards the environment. It is thus necessary to educate people towards "sustainable" mobility, so as to guarantee road safety and social responsibility, as well as to carry out the Lord's command: "Love one another as I have loved you".

This was followed by a presentation of experiences from Spain, Brazil and Germany.

Bro. Juan Rivera, F.S.C., National Director for the Pastoral Care of the Road in Spain, delivered a detailed exposition of the history, current commitment and challenges of this care in his Country.

It requires the involvement of the individual Dioceses together with the Bishops' Conference, and a productive collaboration with civil institutions connected with the world of transportation. This means that there is a growing awareness, also on the part of lay professionals, of the importance of animating and participating in this specific pastoral care.

Finally, Bro. Rivera said he hoped for its development in all Dioceses and a deeper collaboration with the other departments of the Bishops' Conference.

The Brazilian experience was presented by Fr. Marian Litewka, C.M. He stressed the Eucharist as the starting point and summit of his Nation's Pastoral Care of the Road, but the presence of the Church is also manifested "in the trips [of pastoral agents] and during [their] visits to establishments offering services along the road".

These visits' goals include the need "to create an atmosphere of friendship on the road" and to "give importance to... those who live and work on the road", as the Gospel recommends.

Concretely, Holy Mass is celebrated in the open space of the road service station area, which road workers consider their own territory. Otherwise, the celebration takes place inside the truck-chapel, with the congregation gathered around it in the open.

Mons. Wolfgang Miehle, National Director for Migration of the German Bishops' Conference, discussed the pastoral care of truck drivers. He emphasized the solitude experienced in the course of their work as they travel alone through long stretches of highways for days and even weeks at a time. The result is difficulty in establishing social relations, even within their own families.

In addition, truck drivers have hard working conditions that border on exploitation. Indeed, they can be considered the poor for whom the Church should make a preferential option. They are, however, sensitive to pastoral care, which must be characterized by reaching out to them wherever they are, in the parking areas and in highway stops. Pastors and pastoral agents should therefore be available in places that can easily be reached "on the way".

A positive experience in this regard is the "Kanal K", a telephone hotline for truck drivers started by the Commission for the Pastoral Care of Business Enterprises in Southern Germany. Through it, a truck driver can contact a priest or another pastoral agent. The presence of churches along the highways, in addition to the "truck church" at the highway stop, for example, is considered an especially apt opportunity.

Railways are roads, too. Mons. Oliviero Pelliccioni, chaplain of Rome's Termini Train Station, traced the history of this pastoral care in Italy and illustrated its objectives. It started as a pastoral care of business enterprises addressing train crews and was meant to accompany them in their specific work activity through presence and "company" rather than discussions.

The chaplain or pastoral agent must therefore be "a friend, a brother" for them, able to assimilate their language and aspirations, knowing how to listen with esteem and trust, spending time with them without judging, establishing relationships and remaining constantly updated on the problems of such an environment. "Respectfully recognizing the competence of the laity", the chaplain assembles "the faithful by means of the Word of God and the Eucharist".

The second day dealt with the pastoral care of inhabitants of the street: children and women of the street, and the homeless. Three female experts communicated their experiences with strength and conviction in this regard.

In very moving fashion, Dr. Chiara Amirante, President of the New Horizons Association, presented her group's pastoral work for street children and women of the street.

The goal is not simply humanitarian aid, but most of all guidance towards responding to the love of the One who gave his life for us to overcome death.

Inhabitants of the streets can become involved to such a point that they themselves become apostles of evangelization and hope on the streets.

Dr. Francesca Zuccari spoke on behalf of the Community of "Sant'Egidio", and illustrated their commitment in favour of homeless persons and street children, along the footsteps of the Good Samaritan. The Community works in this area not only in Italy and Europe, but also in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

For her part, Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, M.C., presented her decades-long experience on behalf of women and minors who are victims of exploitation and human trafficking. She also spoke about the commitment of congregations of women religious in this pastoral activity, geared to free these people and help them build their lives anew.

Moreover, Sr. Bonetti expressed the hope that congregations of men religious would also become involved in the rehabilitation of the victims and the reeducation of the "consumers of sex".

Lastly, Fr. Christopher Riley, S.D.B., gave a brief presentation of his rich experience in the rehabilitation of street children in Australia. He recommended courage and perseverance in carrying out this pastoral service.

Sharing among the participants continued and intensified in the workshops following the addresses. Themes discussed included: "Roads and railways" and "Inhabitants of the street".

II. Conclusions

In the mysterious plan of the history of salvation, God joined man in his condition as a traveller, as a searcher for the Absolute, and communicated himself to men and women along the way. He called human beings to a communion of love with him, the origin and fulfilment of every good.

God reveals himself as the liberator of an oppressed people in need of freedom and light, truth and guidelines, in order to find the meaning of life and the answer to wandering. The epic of the Exodus offers the paradigm of God's compassion and the answer of man who leaves his land of exile to return to his country, the land of promise, to which he is drawn by the Lord's revelation.

Man's existence is emblematically represented as torn between the desire for true freedom and his own incoherence and incapacity to achieve it by himself. Therefore, God gives his Covenant as a sign of peace, security and happiness-beauty, giving man a confirmation of the possibility to free himself from the slavery of things and from an alienating society, from the weight of absolute autonomy, and to entrust himself knowingly to the reassuring benevolence of God, in the novelty of being his "child".

The Church, therefore, follows man's journey with interest and solicitude, according to God's will in Christ. Where humanity is, with its joys and sorrows, there is the Church, with her pastoral presence.

Ecclesial attention for human mobility, however, is not generic or anomalous. Rather, it is manifested in the proclamation of the Gospel through witness, the word and pastoral action in those places and environments where contemporary men and women lead a particular way of life, resulting from the assumption of responsibility in work or in attempting to survive.

In this perspective, the "street" becomes a sign of life and defines a way of being men and women in a society that is thrown into the realm of speed and change, competition and consumption, wherein those who do not run, compete or consume are pushed to the corner of indifference and neglect, like those who are exploited or live on the streets. This is how the person fulfils his being a "traveller", who comes from afar and goes far, also on the road.

Through the means of transportation the roads are transformed and become goods used by those who, as travellers, are in danger of being transformed into "mobile" persons, "auto-mobiles", who drive themselves in a falsely autonomous way.

In this route, those who carry out their profession by driving the highways over long stretches of time (truck drivers, for instance), run the risk of feeling extremely lonely, far from their family and their dignity. For this reason, the Church as educator and mother executes a pastoral plan of meeting with diocesan teams and parish delegates, together with the different associations and ecclesial movements, all to make Christ present in the different places of work and recreation and to manifest deep communion.

Thus, the Lord Jesus accompanies people in their daily lives, thanks also to the Church present in the community, schools, airports, train stations and on the roads and streets, by means of pastoral care that meets and welcomes men and women where they live every day or where they stop as part of their daily work.

Indeed, the foundation of the Church's pastoral work is the awareness that whatever is done to the least is done to Christ himself. Therefore, she also recognizes the dignity and the rights of the inhabitants of the street — children and women of the street, and the homeless — because they too are created to the image and likeness of God. A preferential option for the poor is thus renewed, so that they can live with respect and a fresh sense of responsibility.

Moreover, taking popular religiosity into consideration, in the light of "Jesus the traveller" and of the pilgrim Church, it is evident that attention be given to the saints linked to the street and the invocation of their companionship and protection.

Chapels and shrines built along roads and highways, and mobile chapels in parking areas, are designed to receive the modern pilgrim. They are important reference points, both from the religious and human viewpoints.

Faith, including its expression in terms of popular piety, elevates men and women from the insignificance and fragility of ordinary daily life towards the beauty of the divine, manifested in simple yet intense forms of devotion. Saints are chosen by popular devotion as friends who are close to us in our journeys. They are there on the road travelled by itinerant people and lead them safely to their destinations.

The pastoral care of the road is complex, also owing to the great variety of its recipients. Hence, it is impossible to carry it out alone, each one on his own. The Church must therefore carry out its role in "networking", especially in defence of human life and dignity.

III. Recommendations

For the reasons mentioned above, it is recommended that:

• for the benefit of drivers and professionals in road and railways transport:

— there be a more thorough examination of pastoral attention for a secure and sustainable mobility that respects life, human persons, their dignity, rights and destiny;

— a sharing of knowledge be promoted, and dialogue be encouraged among all involved in mobility;

— contacts with the means of social communication be intensified in order to invite them to analyze with greater care the messages they transmit daily and to become allies in the work of education, including road education;

— the right of professional and workers of the road to have secure working conditions be safeguarded;

— places and occasions of meeting with professionals of the road be created since, different from personal or family use, the former are more sensitive to the feeling of solitude and distance from their family.

— these meetings be held in places considered "their own", like large parking areas as well as highway stops;

— these meetings promote a more intense spiritual life in order to grow in the faith;

— those who are employed in establishments that offer services to travellers and their means of transportation also be considered as workers of the roads and railroads.

• Keeping in mind also the conclusions and recommendations of the First International Congress for the Pastoral Care of Street Children (Rome, 25-26 October 2004) and of the First International Meeting of Pastoral Care for the Liberation of Women of the Street (Rome, 20-21 June 2005; cf. www.vatican.va/romancuria/pontificalcounci is/migrants/s-index-road/rcpc-migrants-sectionroad-en.htm), as the "inhabitants of the street" are concerned, it is recommended that:

— the situation of street children and women of the street, as well as the homeless, be considered as a state of absolute vulnerability;

— their unexpressed need for salvation and security be answered by going to the places where they are, in the streets, and not merely waiting for them in reception centres;

— the quality of such centres be improved to truly be places of welcome and solidarity, and an extended family, where spiritual and not only material needs are satisfied;

— the inhabitants of the street be helped to discover their own dignity and regain an adequate level of self-esteem;

— they be loved, respected, kept near, "called by name" in fact, so as to give them back a more human life. In this way, they in turn will learn to love one another and help others;

— a family be given to those who do not have one, or maybe never had one, especially the street children;

— they be helped to reintegrate into society;

— they should not be compelled to follow prefabricated programmes, but rather arrangements should be designed to respond to their needs;

— activities be organized for children at risk, and appropriate associations be formed such that the street would lose the attraction that it may still have in spite of everything;

— work be done in the places where children and women of the street originate, above all, so that the causes of their difficult situation could be overcome;

— a pastoral care of presence, welcome and accompaniment be set up to give concrete responses to the needs that could arise;

—specific and territorial pastoral care be integrated;

— there be dialogue and networking with other ecclesial and non-ecclesial organizations, governmental and non-governmental institutions, as well as the organs of the State (ministries, parliament, police, penitentiaries, etc.), in order to change the reality, not only temporarily but permanently, if possible;

— work be done for scholastic training and education, including value formation;

— suitable pastoral agents be identified and adequately formed;

— experiences and knowledge be shared with other pastoral agents;

— awareness be fostered among Bishops and Dioceses and among Catholic associations and movements for a specific pastoral care of this type;

— parish structures, if available, be utilized with due prudence to provide material and spiritual assistance to children and women of the street and the homeless;

— in the context where pastoral care is carried out in the different parts of the world, cultural and other differences should be taken into consideration;

— there be a process of awareness-building regarding the phenomenon of the "inhabitants of the street", and that information be provided regarding efforts to offer solutions to problems arising from such a situation;

— the effort of awareness-building be continued with respect to society and the public institutions that are fundamentally mandated for the task of intervening;

— work be done to change mentalities with respect to these new forms of poverty, exploitation and slavery, with the commitment to have the value and dignity of the human person rediscovered, regardless of his or her objective or temporary conditions of life;

— the creation of a specific Web site be considered, to facilitate a sharing of experiences and information in this important field of human and pastoral care.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
7 February 2007, page 6

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