It’s probably not on the list of amenities most passengers consider when thinking about airports, but many larger airports around the world offer one or more airport chapels. They’re there for travelers who are looking for a place to worship, reflect or meditate. In fact, since the 1950s, nearly all large airports in the U.S. (some notable exceptions are LAS, LAX and LGA) have installed at least one chapel, although they originally had nothing to do with passengers – you can click here to read more about how that came to be.
The U.S. isn’t the only country with airports that have chapels – they can be found all around the world. Similar to the ones in the U.S., what denomination of chapel they are (if any), schedule of regularly held services, use when services aren’t being held, etc., varies from place to place. They also sometimes change to keep up with the times and travelers – so some chapels that were originally host to one specific religion are now worship centers that are open to all religions.
One chapel inside the El Dorado International Airport, in Bogotá, Colombia, is located in Terminal 1. For years, the small space has been designated as a Catholic chapel, complete with a statue of Our Lady of Loreto, who is, as per the March, 1920 declaration of Pope Benedict XV, the patron saint of pilots, airmen and flight attendants.
On August 26th, OPAIN, the private company that manages El Dorado, announced on the airport’s official Twitter account that the chapel was going to be transformed such that it would no longer be only a Catholic chapel, but a generic worship space where all religions would be welcomed.
#ElDoradoInforma| El espacio de oratorio en el aeropuerto se encuentra en adecuaciones y en los próximos días será nuevamente habilitado como un espacio de culto y reflexión neutral. En donde serán bienvenidas todas las religiones.
— Aeropuerto El Dorado (@BOG_ELDORADO) August 27, 2022
The oratory space at the airport is undergoing adjustments and in the next few days it will be rehabilitated as a space for worship and neutral reflection. Where all religions will be welcome.
The announcement cause quite a stir, with many responses that suggested many from the local Catholic community were unhappy with that decision.
OPIAN clarified itself in another tweet the next day:
— Aeropuerto El Dorado (@BOG_ELDORADO) August 27, 2022
Based on the information that is being disclosed in relation to the works that are being carried out in the oratory, El Dorado Airport is allowed to inform that:
1. Thinking about all out passengers and their different beliefs, we are adapting the oratory to make it a space for neutral reflection, as it works in many airports around the world.
2. This is a decision of OPAIN, to offer a better service that includes all travelers and the airport community.
3. In the coming days it will be enabled again as a space where all religions will be welcomed.
4. This is a process that has been moved forward and it had the knowledge of the Archdiocese of Bogotá.
5. The Eucharist of the Catholic faith will continue to be celebrated, as usual, at 11am, every day.
Meanwhile, OPIAN reminded all that there still was another Catholic chapel at the airport, in Terminal 2, Air Bridge.
— Aeropuerto El Dorado (@BOG_ELDORADO) August 28, 2022
The oratory of the Catholic faith in Terminal 2, Puente Aéreo, continues to operate normally 24 hours a day.
But that apparently wasn’t good enough. The bishop of Fontibón, Colombia, Juan Vicente Córdoba, was particularly upset, especially since although OPAIN had notified the Diocese about the change back in April, the Church actually had an agreement to stay in the chapel for another 15 years.
“There was no dialogue. The contract says until 2037, but they, as they operate independently, can rescind it.” the bishop posted on the diocesan website a few days later. “It ended up throwing us out and throwing out the Catholic Church.”
“That they are going to give us an hour [a day to celebrate Mass] and all religions another hour, that’s something else. We had to get everything out. We left because they told us to leave, they didn’t want to talk, we had a meeting and it was only to notify us, and they kept notifying us to leave,” he said.
The bishop pointed out that they are denouncing the eviction because closing the chapel doesn’t allow the Church to “evangelize and attend to people who want to draw near to the peace of God in an airport, and they can’t do it because there are those who said no.”
“Those who said no, have to give an account to God,” the bishop said.
According to Statista, Colombia is 68.9% Roman Catholic. However the country has no official religion, and several other religions (and “no religions”) are represented:
- Catholic 68.9%
- Evangelist (unspecified) 15.7%
- Other 10.3%
- None 9.2%
- Didn’t know 1.1%
- Jehova’s Witness 0.7%
- Pentecostal evangelist 0.7%
- Didn’t answer 0.6%
- Agnostic 0.3%
- Atheist 0.3%
- Protestant 0.2%
- Adventist 0.2%
- Jewish 0.1%
And, of course, the religions of those who land in El Dorado Airport may very well be even more of a variety. So despite what the Archdiocese says, changing the chapel from “only Catholic” to one that can be used by a variety of religions is a much more “worldly” thing to do.
I would hope that if the decision makers eventually have to give an account to God, God might be pretty understanding about the whole thing. 😉
Feature Image: Pexels
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