In his Lenten message this year, Pope Benedict XVI, underlined the need for faith to show itself in acts of charity, through both humanitarian assistance and evangelization. The port chaplains of the Apostleship of the Sea will be taking up this call on Ash Wednesday.
On Friday 1st February Pope Benedict XVI's message for Lent 2013 was published at the Vatican. With less than two weeks to Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father’s reflections for Lent focus on the relationship between faith and charity. The Pope noted that "Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term "charity" to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the "ministry of the word".
During Lent and, indeed, throughout the year AoS port chaplains will be attending to both the spiritual and physical needs of seafarers; helping them communicate with loved ones, lending a listening ear, and also helping seafarers to live their faith, even in the midst of a busy industrialised port environment. The Holy Father’s Lenten message underlined the importance of also being aware of and responding to spiritual hunger ‘There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one's neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person’ he said. 'Seafarers, whilst working on ships, are often unable to celebrate their faith as they would like. They often do not have the opportunity to receive the sacraments as ports are usually far from towns and churches. They are also often at sea on Sundays and special feast days'.
Research by the International Transport Workers’ Federation Seafarers’ Trust shows that seafarers recognise their spiritual needs are just as important as their physical welfare, and the inability for them to practice their faith often has a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. (ITF/SIRC 2007 report Port Based Welfare Services for Seafarers) In this Year of Faith the Apostleship of the Sea is making special efforts to provide seafarers with faith resources such as the scripture magazine Bible Alive.