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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 2 of 18)

Jubilee Year of 2000[3].

These Guidelines are aimed at bishops, priests, religious and other pastoral workers, as a further step towards a pastoral care that pays increasing attention to all expressions of human mobility, and is integrated within ordinary, local and parochial pastoral care.

Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino

+ Agostino Marchetto
Titular Archbishop of Astigi


I. The phenomenon of human mobility

1. Moving from place to place, and transporting goods using different means, have characterised human behaviour since the beginning of history. Mobility and wandering are therefore expressions of human nature and of our cultural development.

2. The transportation of goods and people is increasing at a dizzy pace, sometimes taking place under difficult conditions and even putting life at risk. Our lives are conditioned by the car, as mobility has become an idol, which the car symbolises.

Roads and railways should be at the service of the human person, as tools for facilitating life and the integral development of society. They should constitute a communication bridge between peoples, thereby creating new economic and human spaces. Indeed, it is true that "a great deal of a country's lifeblood moves along its roads"[4].

3. A modern phenomenon, full of consequences, which is part of this mobility, and the progress that derives from it, is traffic in general, and especially road traffic. Traffic has gradually increased, as a requirement of a society that is continually developing, and also due to the ever faster and bigger means of locomotion used for transporting people and goods.

Road traffic and human progress

4. Roads are no longer just communication routes; they have become places where we spend a great deal of our lives, also in developing countries. We only need to consider the many uneven roads travelled on by unsafe and overloaded means of transport, which constitute a grave danger for everyone, especially at night.

5. In addition to traffic congestion, people are directly exposed to dangers deriving from other related problems, such as noise, air pollution and intensive use of raw materials. We must tackle these issues and not just passively put up with them, partly in order to limit the costs of modernisation that are becoming unsustainable. In this context, it is a good idea to call for a commitment to avoid unnecessary car use.

6. Undoubtedly, road vehicles give us many advantages. They provide a rapid means of transport for people (getting to places of work and study, weekend outings with the family, going away on holiday, meetings with friends and relatives). The same goes for the transport of goods. Vehicle use benefits social life and economic development and gives many people an opportunity to earn an honest living.

7. Another positive aspect is the possibility for self-improvement deriving from getting to know other cultures and people with different religions, ethnicities and customs[5]. Transportation unites peoples, facilitates dialogue and gives rise to socialisation and personal enrichment via new discoveries and encounters.

8. Means of transport are particularly useful when they enable sick and injured people to be rescued, thus making urgent treatment easier and more accessible. They may also promote the exercise of Christian virtues -- prudence, patience, charity and helping one's fellow men and women -- in both a spiritual and corporal level. Finally, they may also provide an opportunity to come closer to God, as they facilitate discovery of the beauties of creation, the sign of his boundless love for us.

Travellers' spirits may also be uplifted by contemplating the various religious symbols to be seen along a road or railway. These include churches, bell towers, chapels, column tops, crosses and statues, as well as places of pilgrimage which may now be reached more easily by using modern means of transport.

9. Therefore, road and rail transport are a good thing, as well as being indispensable requirements of contemporary life. If we make good use of means of transport, accepting them as gifts granted to us by God, which are also fruits of the work of his industrious hands and intelligence, we may take advantage of them for our own human and Christian development.

II. The Word of God illuminates the road

10. From Christian commitment in places of road and rail transport, which we call Pastoral Care of the Road, also arises the duty to draw up and promote a fitting and corresponding expression of "spirituality", rooted in the Word of God. Such spirituality sheds the necessary light to give meaning to the whole of life, stemming precisely from the experience of road and rail ...

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