The Vatican Bishop charged with the pastoral care of seafarers visited the crew of the recently launched cruise ship MV Britannia on Friday 16th October, when it docked in Civitavecchia, near Rome.
The Britannia was named by HM The Queen on 10 March, 2015, in a ceremony in Southampton.
At the beginning of his visit Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, from Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS), presented Deputy Captain Hamish Sunter with the Apostleship of the Sea Crest.
Some of the ships 1,350 crew then joined the bishop in the ship’s theatre for Mass; with many of them coming from Catholic countries, this was a particularly poignant moment for them.
In his homily Bishop Joseph recognised that for seafarers "to do the will of God sometimes is not easy because God asks us to be sincere, honest, faithful, kind, generous, etc., and we tend to do the opposite because it is easier." and yet he continued "we can ask God’s help to assist us to be like the Blessed Virgin Mary who did the will of God even when it was difficult. In doing the will of God, we become credible witnesses of Jesus Christ."
In his deeply personal sermon Bishop Joseph noted that for a ship’s crew "there is a great need of Christian witnessing. You should bear in mind that you are not on board only to earn money for your family (which of course it is important!) but also to give witness of Christ."
"With your love for one another, with your patience and kindness for everyone on board, in spite of the difficulties, you proclaim that Christ is in your heart and you bring Jesus to all the passengers and crewmembers."
After the Mass, Bishop Joseph, who is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, which coordinates the global activities of AoS, then toured the 141,000-ton ship.
Rev Roger Stone, Port Chaplain in the ship’s home port of Southampton, was also onboard and recounted how this visit underlined the Church’s unique care for seafarers through its network of port chaplains around the world and those that sail on P&O Cruises ships as cruise chaplains.
Roger said ‘the unique partnership between P&O Cruises and Apostleship of the Sea is greatly valued by crew, who know the chaplain is someone they can turn to both emotional and spiritual support.’
Roger had blessed the ship's rail for all the crew on board on the day of her maiden voyage from Southampton in March.
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