Pope Francis has conveyed his appreciation and encouragement to seafarers and fishers worldwide.
Underlining our dependence on the maritime industry, he said, “Without sailors, the global economy would come to a standstill; and without fishermen, many parts of the world would starve.”
The Pope was addressing Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) national directors, chaplains and volunteers today during a Papal Audience, who met earlier this week for their European Regional Meeting.
Pope Francis noted many seafarers and fishers worked for lengthy periods of time, away from home and their families.
Yet many of their lives are “not only marked by isolation and distance, but at times painfully affected by shameful experiences of abuse and injustice”, he said.
These injustices include human trafficking, forced labour, not being paid their rightful salaries and abandonment; as well as human threats such as piracy and terrorism.
Pope Francis said Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers are entrusted with the mission of presence, bringing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to seafarers and fishers.
“Your daily visits to the ships enable you to encounter people in concrete situations. With compassion and discretion, you give them a chance to pour out their hearts,” he said.
He added, “Your ministry to sailors and fishermen is above all one of listening to them and to their material and spiritual needs.”
Listening can then lead to action, the Pope said. He urged chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris to redouble their efforts to confront issues that are all too often the fruit of human greed.
“Through your service, you can help restore to these persons their sense of dignity,” he said. Recognising that many seafarers approach or come to see chaplains and priests with problems of conscience that make them suffer greatly, Pope Francis has granted to all chaplains of sailors the same faculties given to the Missionaries of Mercy.
“In this way, you will be able to bring peace to so many hearts,” he stated. In concluding his address, Pope Francis called on those present to “persevere in commitment to your apostolate, following the fine example of all those who have gone before you”.
“Indeed, you are preparing to celebrate next year the centenary of Stella Maris at your Twenty-fifth World Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, where this mission of the Church was born in the hearts and actions of several lay people.
“This anniversary will be an occasion to remember the past in order to discern the present and to look ahead to the future,” Pope Francis said.
*Offcial photos from the Papal Audience can be viewed at the Vatican's Photo Department at http://www.photovat.com/PHOTOVAT/FRANCESCO/2019/06.GIUGNO/27062019_APOSTOLATO/index.html
*On July 14, churches across Great Britain and the world will celebrate Sea Sunday, a day to pray for and remember seafarers and fishers and to support the work of Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea).