The Vatican Bishop charged with the pastoral care of seafarers visited the crew of the P&O Cruises ship MV Oceana Tuesday 17th May, when it docked in Civitavecchia, near Rome.
At the beginning of his visit Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, from Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) or Stella Maris, presented Captain Christopher Bourne with the Apostleship of the Sea Crest.
A large number of the ship’s 890 officers and crew then joined the Bishop in the ship’s Footlights theatre for Mass; with many of them coming from Catholic countries, this was a particularly poignant moment for them.
In his deeply personal homily Bishop Joseph reminded the crew that their presence on board is not a casual one, but that they have a mission, saying “Christ has called all of you to bring His message of love, forgiveness and reconciliation to the world.”
“This cruise ship is a small representation of the ‘world’ with people coming from all walks of life, with different faiths and beliefs. Through your example of obedience to God, forgiveness for all and prayer you will become witnesses of Christ as Mary was.”
The Mass was celebrated in honour of Mary, Star of the Sea or Stella Maris, and Bishop Joseph urged the crew to follow her example of a life completely dedicated to serving the Lord by doing His will.
“Mary is the Star at which we should look for direction when we are lost and we do not know where we are going. Mary is the Star that brings consolation and strength when we feel alone and abandoned. Mary is the Star that brings good news, joy and happiness every time we ask for her intercession with trust and confidence.”
Fr Bruno Ciceri from AoS Rome con celebrated and Rev Roger Stone, AoS Port Chaplain in Southampton and the South Coast ports in Great Britain was also present.
After Mass, Bishop Joseph, who is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which coordinates the global activities of AoS, distributed rosaries, prayers booklets and Year of Mercy prayer cards to the crew and had lunch with them in the crew mess.
Rev Roger said this visit underlined the Catholic 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.
He 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 for pastoral, emotional and spiritual support.