Pope Francis expresses support for fishermen detained in Libya

Pope Francis. Photo by Marcin Mazur/Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales

Stella Maris (formerly known as Apostleship of the Sea), has welcomed Pope Francis’ message of support for the 18 fishers detained in Libya since 1st September.

After the Angelus on Sunday 18th October, the Holy Father turned his thoughts to the captured Italian, Indonesian, Senegalese and Tunisian crew members, and said, “I would like to address a word of encouragement and support to the fishers stopped for more than a month in Libya and to their families. By entrusting themselves to Mary, Star of the Sea, they may keep alive the hope that soon they will be able to embrace their loved ones”.

Before concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis once again mentioned the men’s plight and expressed his closeness to their families, asking those present in St Peter’s Square to pray in silence together for the fishers and for peace in Libya.

The fishing boats “Antartide” and “Medinea” were captured by the militias of General Haftar, about 35 miles north of Benghazi, in international waters (disputed between Italy and Libya) in a stretch of sea within the so-called EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that Libya unilaterally established in 2005 and which extends for 62 miles beyond the 12 conventional miles of national territorial waters.

The vessels’ owners and the fishers’ families have appealed to the Italian government and done everything possible to bring their loved ones’ home.  In the past weeks Monsignor Domenico Mogavero, Bishop of Mazara del Vallo, met the family members of the 18 fishers several times, expressing closeness and concrete support from the Church to the families.

Since its foundation one hundred years ago on 4th October 1920, Stella Maris has always upheld the dignity of seafarers and fishers, and considers it appalling that the 18 fishers, who were at work to support their family, are criminalised and detained away from their loved ones for weeks now.

Stella Maris said, “These fishers are caught up, through no fault of theirs, in a complicated political game that transcends themselves and their hard work. We express solidarity with the fishers and their families and hope for a resolution soon.”

One of the fishing vessels owners told Stella Maris he felt reassured after hearing the Holy Father’s address. “The Pope’s words strengthen our hope and were a comfort for our heart,” he said.

The mother of one of the captured fishers added, “The Pope’s words have warmed our hearts and we hope that they can also reach the Libyans so that soon we can embrace our loved ones again.”