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Message for Sea Sunday 2020

12th July 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, beloved chaplains, volunteers, friends and supporters of the Stella Maris,

The celebration of this year’s Sea Sunday should have been a joyous one in view of the October centenary celebration in Glasgow – Scotland (now postponed to 2021). Rather it is going to be celebrated in an exceptional and challenging time, which Pope Francis has expressed in these words: “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us”1.

Our heart is going out to the relatives and friends of the countless victims (among them many seafarers) of the corona-virus and we feel distressed and disoriented for the uncertainties about the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many countries to a complete shut down and to enforce an extended lock-down for many businesses in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. However, the maritime industry continued its operation, adding a multitude of challenges to the already problematic lives of the seafarers, and putting them on the front line in fighting against the corona-virus.

Vessels that are transporting almost 90% of products that are badly needed to carry on our normal lives in these taxing circumstances such as medication and medical equipment, remain at seas. Before it came to a complete stop, the cruise industry struggled to convince governments and port authorities to open their ports where they could safely disembark their guests. At the same time, they frantically tried to finds ways to contain the spread of infections among passengers and crew in ships that became incubators for the COVID-19.

Despite the fundamental role that seafarers play for the global economy, a role whose great significance and need organizations and institutions tried to uphold during the COVID-19 crisis, current and prevailing legislations and policies simply glanced over them. That is why Sea Sunday is an opportunity for us to revisit the role of seafarers, and to recall some of the issues that negatively affect the seafarer’s life and which are aggravated by the suspicion and fear of contamination.

In this unprecedented situation crew members, who had already spent between six to ten months on board, had to suffer the great inconvenience of having their employment period extended, with the consequent increase of personal fatigue and prolonged absence. from loved ones and the comfort of homes. Estimates suggest that, every month, 100,000 seafarers who finish their contracts and look forward to flying home were prevented from doing so by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closure of borders and flights. Accordingly, thousands of seafarers who were ready to leave for a new contract were stranded in hotels and dormitories around the globe, reduced to beggarly dependence on charitable institutions for their basic needs such as foods, toiletries, sim cards, etc..

Because of the absence of shore leave, and restricted port entry for ships visiting, seafarers on board the vessels suffer isolation, severe physical and mental stress that brings many crews on the verge of desperation and, unfortunately, committing suicide.

We have reports of many seafarers with serious and potentially life treating medical conditions which are unrelated to COVID-19. These still need emergency medical care in land-based national hospitals, which unfortunately were denied them or delayed until they had to be carried on stretchers. Furthermore, seafarers who returned home after a long and dramatic journey have to undergo quarantine or suffer discrimination or stigmatization in their own country, because they are considered as carriers of the corona virus.

Regrettably, we have also to deplore the fact that while seafarers endeavor to keep the supply chains moving with dedication and at the cost of huge personal sacrifices, some unscrupulous ship-owners, crewing agencies and managers use the excuse of th to dismiss their obligations to guarantee their labour rights, including proper wages and the promotion of safe and secure working environments for all them.

According to a report the first three months of 2020 have seen a 24% increase in piracy attacks and attempted attacks over the same period in 2019. Apparently, the corona-virus is not stopping armed robberies who continue to be a threat for seafarers, adding further anxiety and apprehension to lives, which are already lived under the pressure of uncertainties, caused by the corona virus.

To all of the experiences above of the seafarers, which describe a dangerous form of livelihood, we must now consider the real threat of losing even this precarious livelihood, because it will mean for many the total loss of income and inability to assume social and domestic responsibilities, such as, payment of utilities bills, education of dependants, welfare of family.

In the light of the above, the celebration of Sea Sunday especially by Christians should invite us all to exercising a “preferential option for the poor” seafarers, a pledge to live in solidarity with them. Pope John Paul II called solidarity a “virtue”, and defined it as an “unfailing commitment to the well-being of another”. This should be our attitude towards these seafarers; for, people who are not poor, just because they constantly expose their lives to danger, but do so, precisely, to ensure the movements of goods for a healthy global economy, really deserve our esteem and gratitude.

For this reason, we would like to re-launch the message of the IMO General-Secretary Kitack Lim: “You are not alone. You are not forgotten”.

You are not alone: the Stella Maris Chaplains and volunteers are with you wherever you are, not necessarily at the top of the gang way but with a “virtual chaplaincy” keeping in touch with you through social media, always ready to answer your call, to lend you a compassionate ear and praying for your well-being and the safety of your families.

You are not forgotten: the Stella Maris Chaplains and volunteers will be with you in the next months when your resilience will be put to test and we will try to respond to your material and spiritual needs. We will be always at your side, raising your concerns, upholding your labor and human rights and preventing discrimination.

You are not alone. You are not forgotten: because this coming month of August the universal prayer intention that expresses the great concern for humanity and the mission of the Church of Pope Francis, is dedicated to The Maritime World. All the Catholic communities around the world will be invited to pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishers and their families.

We entrust to Mary, Star of the Sea, the well-being of the people of the sea, the commitment and dedication of the Chaplains and volunteers and we pray Our Lady to protect us from all dangers, especially from the evil of COVID-19.

Cardinal Peter A. Turkson

Generally, Sea Sunday is celebrated on the second Sunday of July. It is a day set aside to remember and pray in a special way for the people of the sea who work at sea, far away from their countries, loved ones and local Churches. We are aware that, because of the difficult situation created by the global spread of COVID-19, some national Stella Maris have decided to postpone the celebration of Sea Sunday to a later date. For this reason, this message can be used anytime.

1 Extraordinary moment of prayer, 27 March 2020

XXV World Congress Postponed

31st March 2020 from the Vatican.

. . . the decision has been taken to postpone the XXV World Congress.

Dear Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Bishops Promoters,
Dear Regional Coordinators, National Directors, Chaplains and Volunteers,

On July 14, 2019, with a letter addressed to all of you, I officially announced the “XXV World Congress of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea and the Centenary Celebration from the 29th September to the 4th October 2020 in Glasgow – Scotland.”

The organizational plans for this occasion were quite advanced, however the new COVID-19 pandemic and its spread attested by the World Health Organization (WHO) have forced us to change our original project.

Therefore, I would like to inform you that, after having carefully considered the various practical implications involving the organization of the event and the unprecedented situation of uncertainty on how the worldwide situation will evolve in the future, the decision has been taken to postpone the XXV World Congress of the Stella Maris and the Centenary Celebration from Sunday October 3rd to Saturday October 8th, 2021 in Glasgow – Scotland. While we are saddened by this decision, we think that this is the best solution in the interest of our delegates and also of seafarers, fishers and their families.

However, because we do not want that October 4th 2020, Centenary day, go unnoticed, we urge you to organize celebrations, united in purpose, to mark the beginning of the commemoration of this important event which will culminate in the XXV World Congress of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea and the Centenary Celebration in Glasgow, next year.

In this time of global crisis let us pray for the seafarers who in spite of all, continue to support with their work the world economy by moving the essentials goods needed for our life personally paying the price with additional sacrifices because contracts are extended behind the usual terms, and most of the shore leaves are cancelled.

I would like to express my gratitude to the chaplains and volunteers who could not do “ship visit” because of the restriction in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but found new creative ways to continue to support and be near to the people of the sea.

Let us ask the intercession of Mary, Star of the Sea, to strengthen our faith in the Lord that with his passion, death and resurrection has defeated every evil and brought new life to all of us.

Sincerely yours
Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson
Dicastery For Promoting Integral Human Development

XXV AOS World Congress Announcement

14th July 2019 from the Vatican

100 years 1920-2020 Supporting Seafarers, Fishers and their Families

Re: XXV World Congress Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea and the Centennial Celebration

Dear Bishops Promoters, Regional Coordinators, National Directors, Chaplains and Volunteers,

As it is recorded by Peter Anson: “A meeting took place in the Catholic Institute, Cochrane Street, [Glasgow] at 8 p.m. on October 4th, [1920] during which the revival of ship-visiting in riverside parishes was discussed.” That night in Glasgow a new era for the Catholic ministry to seafarers began.

The Popes who succeeded in guiding the Church have always blessed and encouraged the growth of this Apostolate.

Pope Pius XI blessed and approved the first Constitution in a letter dated 22 April 1922 “With the certain knowledge that so noble an initiative, capably supported by the zeal of priestly soul, …, will spread more and more along the seacoasts of the two hemispheres…”.

On September 1956, Pope Pius XII referring to the Apostleship of the Sea said: “We are very much consoled to learn how seamen reaching the world’s ports are becoming accustomed to look for the help you are prepared to give them. Besides offering them the spiritual benefits of religion, you extend your Apostleship to social service; and you do well.”

While Pope John XXIII stated that “This particular situation of the maritime world demands your action…it is desirable that seamen be helped to lead an authentic Catholic life within their milieu. And it is a sure for us to congratulate you on the good work that you have already accomplished to make more easy the knowledge of Christ…”

Pope Paul VI, to the people of the sea in Cagliari on 24 April 1970, said: “… as seafarers, as men, as Christians: the network of the Apostolate of the Sea, now extended to so many ports in the world, does not leave you alone, expects you and assists you; you know that.”

Pope John Paul II in 1982 to the participants of the XVII World Congress in Rome affirmed that “The Church wishes to bring all the baptized to a fuller and more systematic knowledge of the person and message of Jesus Christ. In fulfilling this mission to seafarers, you face a most challenging and difficult task.”

In 2012 Pope Benedict XVI addressed the participants of the XXIII World Congress in Rome with the following words: “The vulnerability of seafarers, fishermen and sailors calls for an even more attentive solicitude on the Church’s part and should stimulate the motherly care that, through you, she expresses to all those whom you meet in ports and on ships or whom you help on board during those long months at sea.”

And more recently Pope Francis on July 2018 said at the Angelus: “I pray for them (seafarers and fishermen] and their families, as well as for the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea. I offer a special thought to those who experience humiliating working conditions at sea and to those who work to free the seas from pollution.”

From the initial group of people who gathered in Glasgow and of whom we know only three names (Peter F. Anson an Anglican convert, Arthur Gannon and Bro. Daniel Shields SJ), today the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea, is serving seafarers, fishers and their families, around the world, with a global outreach in 261 ports in 55 countries worldwide with over 200 port chaplains and hundreds of ship visitors and volunteers.

One hundred years have passed and this ministry has grown and adjusted to the continuous changes of the maritime industry remaining faithful to the initial mission “to reveal Christ to those who go down the sea in ships, and do business in great waters, with the object of bringing them to a deeper knowledge of Christ and his Church”.

With this letter, I wish to announce the XXV World Congress of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea and its Centenary Celebration from the 29th September to the 4th October 2020 in Glasgow – Scotland.

I would like to invite our ecumenical partners, international maritime organizations, representatives from Governments, the shipping industry and civic society to “save the date” and make plans to join our chaplains, volunteers and other personnel for this important event.

The Centenary will be an occasion to remember the past and give thanks for all the people who over the past one hundred years have served the people of the sea, to celebrate the present and to chart the future of our ministry in responding to the evolving needs of seafarers, fishers and their families.

We would like to invite the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, Bishops Promoters, Regional Coordinators, National Directors, Chaplains and Volunteers around the world to organize at regional, national and local level celebrations to mark this important event. All these activities will increase awareness and interest in our ministry that will culminate in the XXV World Congress of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea and the Centennial Celebration in Glasgow next year.

May Mary, Star of the Sea, guide your actions and bless all chaplains and volunteers who will be involved in these events.

Sincerely yours
+ Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson.
Dicastery For Promoting Integral Human Development

Message for Sea Sunday 2019

14 July 2019

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ and beloved chaplains, volunteers, friends and supporters of the Apostleship of the Sea,

Though we do not realize it, the work of seafarers is essential for our daily lives because most of the possessions that we have in our houses, the television, the fridge, the washing machine, computer and phone, not to mention the fuel for our cars, the clothes we wear, and many other items are all made in distant parts of the world and brought to us by air or by sea. So, it is proper that we pause for a moment to reflect on how important and crucial seafarers are for our comfort and well-being.

For this reason, in various Christian Churches around the world the second Sunday of July is traditionally set aside as Sea Sunday. The faithful are requested to remember and pray for the 1.5 million seafarers who crisscross the oceans and the seas, transporting almost 90% of goods from one nation to another.

The life of seafarers, although it could appear attractive and interesting in the eyes of some people, because they sail around the world visiting numerous countries, is in reality full of challenges and hardships.

For their whole contract, seafarers are forced to live in the confined space of a vessel, for months at a time, away from their families and loved ones. Often their salaries are delayed and at least in one case, national legislation prevented seafarers from receiving cash while on board, leaving them penniless for the duration of their contract. Fast turnaround times in ports prevents them from going ashore to relax and release tensions from some of toughest working conditions, aggravated by the continuous threat of piracy and now also by the risk of terrorist attacks. In the case of maritime accidents, seafarers are often criminalized and detained without effective legal protection and the benefit of fair treatment. In a precarious mix of nationalities, cultures and religions the opportunities to interact socially with reduced number of crew members on board have diminished.

Isolation and depression, combined with a lack of a supportive environment, affects the mental health of seafarers, sometimes with tragic and heart-breaking consequences for their families, crew members and ship-owners.

We acknowledge that with the ratification and implementation of several international Conventions and legislation, working and living conditions on board a great number of commercial vessels have improved. However, we cannot deny that in many parts of the world, where unscrupulous ship owners take advantage of less stringent enforcement of the law, the above-mentioned issues still strongly affect the life of many seafarers and their families.

Once again, I would like to call on International Organizations together with proper government authorities and the different players of the maritime world to renew their efforts to protect and safeguard the rights of all people working at sea.

I would like to encourage the chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea during their daily ship visits to be vigilant and to approach each seafarer and fisher with the same committed spirit that animated the pioneers of our ministry when almost hundred years ago, on 4th October 1920, they decided to revive and restructure the widespread ministry of the Catholic Church for the people of the sea.

In the faces of seafarers from different nations, I invite you to recognize the face of Christ in your midst. In the confusion of languages, I recommend that you speak the language of Christian love that welcomes everyone and excludes no one. Confronted with abuses, I urge you not be afraid to denounce injustices and comment “to work together to build the common good and a new humanism of work, to promote work that respects the dignity of the person who does not only look at profit or production needs but promotes a dignified life knowing that the good of the people and the good of the company go hand in hand” (Pope Francis, 7 September 2018).

Finally, let us entrust your ministry to Mary, Star of the Sea, that she continues to strengthen, inspire and guide every action of chaplains and volunteers and to extend her maternal protection and assistance to all the people of the sea.

Sincerely yours
+ Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson
Dicastery For Promoting Integral Human Development

Prayer for Sea Sunday 2019

14th July 2019

O God most tender Father, endless sea,
We thank you for the work of the million and a half seafarers, who sail the oceans and the seas, transporting about 90% of goods from one country to another, contributing to our comfort and well-being.

You know that their lives are full of challenges and difficulties. Fast turnaround in ports prevents them from going ashore to relax and release tension caused by their difficult working conditions, aggravated by the continuous threat of piracy and now also by the risk of terrorist attacks.

Support them with Your blessing in their work, which forces them to live in the confined space of a ship, for months at a time, away from their families and loved ones, sometimes not getting their own wages.

The presence of chaplains and volunteers in ports is a constant reminder of Your paternity and of the fact that we are all sons and brothers before you; it is a reminder to the primary value of the human person before and above all interest.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Divine Helmsman,
as the Father sent you, so you today continue to send the chaplains to bring Your Good News to the complex and varied maritime world. Make their hearts similar to yours, so that with compassion and discretion they will listen to the material and spiritual concerns of seafarers and fishermen. Through Your gift may they open horizons of hope, sowing with full hands Your mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which gives peace to the heart.

Holy Spirit, which hovers over the waters of the sea,
assist the chaplains and the volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea so that, during their daily visits on board, they be vigilant and approach each seafarer and fisher with empathy, pastoral creativity and tenderness.

Let them recognize in the faces of seafarers of various nationalities the face of Your Son, Jesus Christ, making them able to speak the language of love that welcomes each and every one.

By your grace, through their apostolate, the isolation and depression of seafarers can be avoided; combined with the lack of a supportive environment, they can affect their mental health, sometimes with tragic and heartbreaking consequences for their families, crew members and ship-owners.

Give them light and strength to promote work that respects the dignity of the person and the prophetic boldness of denouncing the injustices of unscrupulous shipowners, who in many parts of the world make the working conditions on board ships intolerable. Let them redouble their efforts to confront issues that are too often the fruit of human greed: human trafficking and forced labor.

Give wisdom and discernment to International Organizations, government authorities and the different players of the maritime industry, to renew their efforts to protect and safeguard the rights of all people working at sea. Ensure that in the case of accidents at sea, seafarers are no longer criminalized and detained without effective legal protection and the benefit of fair treatment.

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Stella Maris,
strengthens, inspires and guides every action of chaplains and volunteers and extend Your maternal protection to all the people of the sea. Glory, praise and honor to you, Father, who through your Son Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit guide us to the harbor of all our hopes among difficulties and misfortunes.
Amen. Alleluia!

Inspired by the Message of the Dicastery for the Service of Human Integral Development and the Address of the Holy Father to the participants at the Meeting for Chaplains and Volunteers of Stella Maris – Apostleship of the Sea, 27.06.2019.

XXV AOS World Congress Preparation

14th July 2019 from the Vatican

To the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences
To the Bishops Promoters
To the Regional Coordinators
To the National Directors
To the Chaplains and Volunteers

Suggestions in preparation for the Centennial
Below you will find some proposals (everyone should feel free to implement and realize any of them, according to the national and local situation of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea). Additional suggestions will be shared in the future. They could help to plan and increase awareness of the importance of service to the people of the sea using the unique occasion of the Centenary Celebration. It is understood that to organize and coordinate all the different activities it is necessary to constitute a Committee composed of people who are part of the ministry and experienced in the maritime industry.

Opening of the year in preparation of the Centennial
The preparation of the Centennial of the foundation of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea will run from 4th October 2019 to 4th October 2020. We would like to encourage everyone to celebrate this occasion with a special celebration or with a very simple ceremony in all the Stella Maris Centers or in any church in the Diocese. All the activities and events organized during this year at national and local level should aim to rediscover the history of our ministry, strengthen what has been done, increase awareness of the importance of service to the people of the sea in the local church and eventually start new projects.

  • To be continuously reminded of this important event it is suggested to create a countdown clock from October 4, 2019 to October 4, 2020. The countdown clock can be displayed in the Stella Maris Centers, offices, schools and places where general public, seafarers, fishers and their families usually pass by.

Universal intention of prayer of the Holy Father
The Apostleship of Prayer to which the initial history of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea is intrinsically connected has decided that the universal intention of prayer of the Holy Father for the month of August 2020 is dedicated to:

The Maritime World: We pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families.

  • We would like to request chaplains and volunteers, particularly during this month, to preach and share their personal reflections and experiences about the ministry and invite people to pray in a special way for our apostolate and the people whom we serve.

Celebration of a monthly Stella Maris Mass.
Our Lady Star of the Sea, or Stella Maris, has long been the title under which the people of the sea have called on the Virgin Mary for her motherly intercession. She is also considered the patroness of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea. The Mass may be celebrated as a votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturday, or on any appropriate day that is not a Sunday or other solemnity, and most appropriately on the Stella Maris feast day itself (the last Thursday of September).

  • In order to promote the devotion to Our Lady Star of the Sea “Stella Maris” and entrust the people of the sea and the Maritime Apostolate to Her motherly protection, we strongly encourage chaplains to celebrate this mass frequently and mark the feast day in an appropriate way (eg. organize a pilgrimage to a Marian Sanctuary specifically for seafarers, fishers and their families, print and distribute different images of Mary Star of the Sea with a prayer at the back, distribute rosaries and foster among the seafarers and their families the Marian prayer, etc.).

Celebration of the Centennial with our partners in the maritime industry.
It is important to highlight the contribution that national/international government agencies, civil societies, funding agencies, unions, maritime organizations, ecumenical partners and individuals have had in the growth and development of each Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea.

  • We would like to suggest that at regional, national and local level celebrations are organized to give thanks for the 100 years of Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea inviting the most significant partners of our ministry, including seafarers, fishers and their families. During the celebration it would be proper to recognize their contribution to the development of maritime apostolate in the country.
  • In Centers where we work with other Christians denominations, we suggest organizing specific occasions of ecumenical prayer to reiterate the commitment of Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea to work in partnership with others.
  • To remain faithful to the mission of being the voice of the voiceless it might be appropriate to mark the Centenary with a Seminar/Symposium on maritime welfare to promote and defend the human and labour rights of the people of the sea.
  • A Centennial Year Award ceremony could be held to recognize the commitment and dedication of organizations and individuals who thanks to their dedication, generosity and support, have contributed to the development and growth of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea at the National, Diocesan and local level.

To the Bishops Conferences and the Apostleship of the Sea Bishop Promoters
In order to increase the awareness among the Christian faithful and stress the importance of this ministry at the service of the people of the sea, during this Centennial Year, we would like to appeal in a particular way to all the Bishops Conferences and the Apostleship of the Sea Bishop Promoters.

  • To give particular prominence to Sea Sunday on July 12, 2020 organizing a celebration in all the Dioceses of the country because even the non-coastal Dioceses benefit from the hard work of seafarers and it is essential they are aware of this ministry.
  • Where it is not yet done, on the occasion of the Centennial, during Sea Sunday (July 12, 2020) we strongly suggest to have an extraordinary collection to start/support the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea in the country.
  • To invite Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea chaplains and volunteers to share their ministry during meetings of Bishops, clergy and other pastoral gatherings.
  • Not to limit the celebration of the Centennial only to a series of beautiful events, we would like to suggest that in 2020 a “Centennial Project” be realized within the country or Diocese as a concrete and tangible sign of the commitment and dedication of the Church to the service of the people of the sea.
  • An old quote says: If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. The Centennial celebration could be the occasion to rediscover history. We encourage, where is not yet done, the commission of a research and write the history of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea in your country or Dioceses. These different histories would reveal the continuous and universal motherly care that the Church has provided to the people of the sea even before the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea was reorganized and structured in 1920. We would ask you to bring your history to Glasgow to be celebrated together because each individual history is essential for our Centennial celebration.

Social Media and other activities.
Where it is possible, utilize in a regular fashion both the social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and mass-media (diocesan newsletters, parish bulletins, newspapers and magazines, local TV stations, etc.) for interviews, to share news, articles and information about the Centennial celebration and the Stella Maris/Apostleship the Sea mission to society at large.

  • To inform seafarers, fishers and their families about the global history of the Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea and the Centennial celebration.
  • Prepare a series of articles/interviews explaining what the mission of a chaplain or a volunteer is.
  • To request seafarers, fishers and their families to write and share their personal experience regarding the role that Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea played in a particular moment of their life.
  • With the creation of specific learning material to involve government/parish Catholic schools and other organizations to know more about the maritime world and the ministry performed by Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea for the welfare and wellbeing of the people of the sea.
  • Where possible, to invite small groups of people for a ship visit to let them experience first-hand life on board.
  • Organize a visit and mass on board, presided over by the Local Bishop, to show the specific concern and care of the Church for the people of the sea.
  • Reach out to bring comfort and assistance to seafarers, fishers and their families who are living in situations of neglect and marginalization such as abandonment, detention and hospitalization.

The Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea office within the Dicastery for Promoting Human Integral Development would be grateful if you would share your plans or suggest new initiatives to mark the Centennial. Furthermore, we remain available to assist and support the realization of any of these events.

Message World Fisheries Day 2018

21st November 2018

World Fisheries Day was established in New Delhi, India, on November 21st, 1997 when for the first time representatives of small-scale, artisanal fishers and fish workers from 32 countries gathered together to form an international fishers’ organization and committed themselves to support global sustainable fishing policies, practices and social justice.

To appreciate the importance of celebrating World Fisheries Day, it is enough to consider the FAO 2016 data indicating that 59.6 million people were engaged (on a full-time, part-time or occasional basis) in fisheries and aquaculture. Of these workers nearly 14% of were women. The great majority of the population engaged in these sectors were in Asia (85%), followed by Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. These together supply about 171 million tonnes of fish to the global market, and generate a first-sale value of production estimated at USD 320 billion. Global fish value chains that include production, processing, distribution and trade of fish, provide for the livelihoods of around 820 million people. Fish consumption provides about 3.2 billion people with nearly 20 percent of their animal protein.

Hidden within these significant figures which reveal the importance and contributions of the fishing sectors to food security, economic growth and poverty alleviation, there are countless and persistent challenging issues. Topping the list, aside from physical and verbal abuses, is the massive exploitation of fishers, including numerous cases of forced labor, human trafficking and disappearance at sea. We see direct links between all these abuses and the use of flags of convenience, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and transnational crime. Besides, we should not forget the challenge of sustaining fish stocks, pollution and other environmental concerns.

From this distressing and painful reality, the fish workers are crying out for help; and, as Church, we cannot shut our ears and we cannot remain silent.

On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): we would like to reaffirm Article 4 of the Declaration: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”. Additionally, we wish to recall Article 23, as follows:

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
    These fundamental labour rights are human rights, and they must be fishers’ rights too!

Aware of the many problematic issues in fisheries, Member Countries of the specialized agencies of the United Nations[1] have adopted and endorsed several international instruments that, if ratified and fully implemented by all States, could dramatically change the life of fish workers, of their families and the environmental status of fisheries resources.

The fishing industry, which is considered by many as the main culprit for the difficult working and living conditions of fishers, is committed to solve these problems with product certification, while civil society and consumers are calling the retailers to be more responsible in their business and to exercise due diligence throughout their whole supply chain.

However, from reading the mass media reports on the issue and, most of all from hearing the harrowing stories recounted by the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea around the world, it seems that all these efforts are not enough, because the number of governments that have ratified the international instruments is still very low and in some small areas, the fishing industry still suffers from the ruthlessness of profit-seeking policy makers.

As a Church, we would like to recall the exhortation of Pope Francis to put people before the profit, as follows: “… Behind every activity there is a human being. […] The current centrality of financial activity compared to the real economy is not random: behind this there is the choice of someone who thinks, wrongly, that money is made with money. Money, real money, is done with work. It is the work that gives dignity to man, not money”[2].

As we celebrate World Fisheries Day, and as are expect to increase awareness on the situation of fish workers and create fundamental changes in their lives, we would like to call on international agencies, to join hands, putting aside differences, antagonism and rivalry, to develop a road map towards widespread ratification and implementation of the international instruments. This cooperation should be pursued at global, regional, national and local levels; and it should ensure the involvement of civil society, industry and retailers, NGOs, trade unions and the Church.

Working together, we can stop human trafficking and forced labor at sea, we can improve the safety of working conditions, and fight IUU fishing, in the hope of creating a socially, environmentally and commercially sustainable fisheries sector.

It is a great challenge but it is also the only hope that we have to reaffirm “the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms“[3] in the global fisheries industry.

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson

[1] International Maritime Organization (IMO), The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Preamble

Message for Sea Sunday 2018

8th July 2018

As we celebrate Sea Sunday, we are invited to remember the 1.2 millions of seafarers from all nations, professing different faiths, forced to live for several months in the confined space of a vessel, away from their families and loved ones missing the most important and meaningful events in their families (birthdays’, graduations, etc.) and failing to be present during times of trials and difficulties such as sickness and death.

Seafarers with their profession play a significant role in our global economy by transporting from one corner of the world to another, 90% of all the goods we use in our daily life. For this reason, today while we pray for all of them wherever they are, we would like also to express our gratitude for their tough work full of sacrifices.

Here are some of the challenges that the people of the sea face daily:

Denied shore leave and ship visiting
With the mechanization and automatization, the turnaround time in the ports is reduced to the minimal, leaving the crew with inadequate personal time to rest and relax. Furthermore, if the introduction of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) might have improved maritime security at the same time it proved to be particularly challenging for seafarers. In numerous ports, crews are finding increasingly difficult to get permission to go ashore, either because of company policy or because restrictive and discriminatory regulations imposed by governments. However, that is not all. Many of our chaplains and ship visitors are denied entering into ports or prevented to go on board of vessels to provide material and spiritual welfare to seafarers who reach shore after weeks at sea.

We deplore these facts that are contradicting the spirit of the Regulation 4.4 of the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC)1 entered into force on August 20th, 2013, aimed to improve wellbeing of the seafarers. Crews should not be denied the freedom of coming ashore likewise chaplains and ship visitors should not be denied the right to go on board of vessels.

Violence at sea and piracy
Though the situation is improved compared to the previous years, we would like to invite everyone to be more vigilant regarding violence at sea that generally is characterized by piracy. The root cause of piracy is always related to political instability and it is often linked to the fishing industry. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has deprived many coastal states of their natural marine resources, which created a situation of extreme poverty on land, making it easy for unscrupulous individuals to transform desperate and unemployed fishers into pirates.

We request governments and ship owners to put into place all the necessary mechanisms to protect the life of the people at sea and to minimize the economic cost.

Abandonment of vessels and crews
Abandonment of vessels and crews is not a new problem for the maritime industry. According to a newspaper report2 from 2012 to 2017 more than 1,300 seafarers were abandoned for different reasons in foreign ports far away from home, often with unpaid salaries and without food and fuel provisions for the vessel. Once abandoned the seafarers are left themselves to struggle for food, salaries, immigration status and many more issues unless they are assisted by a welfare organization.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers who, from Malta to South Africa, from United Kingdom to United States of America, for months and months have and are still providing material, spiritual, legal and psychological support to several crews of abandoned vessels.

We call for the full implementation of the amendments to the MLC 2006, requiring that a financial security system be put into place in order to ensure that ship owners provide compensation to seafarers and their families in the event of abandonment3 .

Environmental impact on the oceans
In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis says: “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy” (no. 26).

Like all types of transportation that use fossil fuels, vessels produce carbon dioxide emissions that significantly contribute to global climate change and acidification. Besides carbon dioxide ships also release a handful of other pollutants that contribute to the problem.

We support the efforts made by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), to prevent and significantly reduce marine plastic pollution from the shipping sector and in curbing greenhouse gas emissions from ships, as it implements other regulations that will mandate cleaner-burning fuels at sea.

Finally, I invoke the Blessed Mother, Star of the Sea, to extend her maternal protection to the people of the sea and guide them from the dangers of the sea to a secure port.

Cardinal Peter A. Turkson
Dicastery For Promoting Human Integral Development

1. Each Member shall ensure that shore-based welfare facilities, where they exist, are easily accessible. The Member shall also promote the development of welfare facilities, such as those listed in the Code, in designated ports to provide seafarers on ships that are in its ports with access to adequate welfare facilities and services.
3. Amendments to the Code Implementing Regulation 2.5 – Repatriation of MLC, 2006 (a

Message for Sea Sunday 2017

9th July 2017

Dear chaplains, volunteers, friends and supporters of the Apostleship of the Sea,

In our daily lives, we are surrounded by and use many objects and products that at some stage of their journey towards us have being transported on vessels. It is difficult for us to imagine behind these objects the faces of the many seafarers who have secured a smooth sailing for the vessel to deliver safely these commodities in the port.

On Sea Sunday we are invited to recognize and express our gratitude to this force of more than 1.5 million seafarers, (the majority of them coming from developing countries), who with their hard work and sacrifices are making our life more comfortable by transporting, between nations and across the seven seas, almost 90 per cent of the goods.

Though their contribution is essential to the global world economy, many are challenges experienced by these people and many are the difficulties affecting their life and dignity. Here, I would like to recall some:

In spite of the great progress in technology, that has improved communication between seafarers and their loved ones, the long months away from the family are still a huge sacrifice that often reflects negatively on the family life. Mothers are left alone, forced to play multiple role with children growing with an absent father. It is important that in our pastoral ministry, we pay special attention to the families of seafarers by initiating and supporting the creation of seafarer’s wives groups to provide mutual care and assistance.

The use of social media would allow the crew to be connected with many people around the world, but disconnected and isolated from each other on board because everyone is isolated in the virtual world in which is seeking refugee during free moments. Our function especially during visits on board is to try to create a “human connection” and strengthen the “human communication” among crewmembers to prevent loneliness, isolation and depression that could lead to suicide which, according to a recent UK P&I Club research, is the top cause of seafarers’ death.

Because of the increase of the threat of terrorism, new security measures are further restricting in some ports the going ashore of seafarers and sometimes even the access to the vessel on the part of welfare visitors. Notwithstanding that we understand the need of making the ports “a secure place” for the people and the goods, on the other hand we must make sure that no one will be discriminated and prevented to go ashore because of nationality, race or religion and advocate for the fundamental right of the crews to “have access to shore-based facilities and services to secure their health and well-being” (MLC 2006, Title 4, Regulation 4,4).

In spite of the adoption and entry into force in August 2013 of the MLC 2006, that establishes the minimum international requirements of the human and labour right of seafarers, too many are still the cases of crews cheated out of their salary, exploited and abused on their work, unjustly criminalized for maritime accidents and abandoned in foreign ports. While it is our duty to provide all the necessary assistance and support to the crews which are experiencing hardship and difficulties, on the other hand we would like to call on all the maritime authorities to be more vigilant and attentive in intervening to prevent abuses and redress any wrongdoing.

Even though the treat of piracy around the maritime routes has decreased, compared with few years ago, the danger of arms attacks and hijackings are still very high in some geographical areas. We would like to invite the maritime community not to let down the guard and to implement all the necessary measures that will guarantee the safety and the protection not only of the cargo but most of all, of the crew.

Finally, I would like to focus our concerns on fishers and fisheries who will be the focus of the XXIV World Congress which will be held in Kaohsiung – Taiwan this coming October.

Similarly to seafarers fishers spend long time at sea, often sail on fishing vessels that are not seaworthy, their profession is considered one of the most dangerous in the world but they are entitled to lesser wages and benefits than those enjoyed by the seafarers. The fishing sector is plagued with cases of human trafficking and forced labour, and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

During the Congress, with the assistance of qualified speakers, we will increase our awareness and attention to these particular issues; we will strengthen our network with the objective to increase cooperation between the Apostleship of the Sea of the different nations; we will share resources and best practices to develop specific skills, particularly in the fisheries sector.

I renew my invitation that this Congress be attended not only by the experts, but by the largest number of chaplains and volunteers, because fisheries and fishers are a concern of the Apostleship of the Sea and not just only of those who are personally involved.

In concluding, let us ask Mary, Star of the Sea, to sustain our service and dedication to seafarers, fishers and their families and to protect all the people of the sea until they reach the “safe port” of heaven.

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson
Dicastery For Promoting Human Integral Development

Message for World Fisheries Day 2016

21st November 2016

World Fisheries Day since 1998 is celebrated each year on November 21 to highlight the importance of conserving the ocean and marine life that provides food for billions and employment opportunities for over 50 million people worldwide.

Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Sì mentions some of the threats which are affecting and destroying the natural marine resources: “Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonder world of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life? 1” This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural mono cultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite (No. 41)”. Since these are a common patrimony of humanity, Pope Francis calls everyone to: ”…cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents (No. 14)”.

For this reason, we appreciate and wait with expectation for the implementation of The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), adopted as a FAO Agreement in 2009. After several years of diplomatic efforts finally it went into effect, last June 5, and is now legally binding for the 29 countries and one regional organization which signed it2. Through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures, the PSMA is the first ever-binding international treaty seeking to prevent, deter and eliminate the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a major environmental problem which causes great economic damages and threaten food security in many countries3.

However, our concern is not only for the marine resources. The fishing industry has been widely recognized as one of the most unsafe for the frequency of occupational accidents and high death rates. On this World Fisheries Day we would like to call our attention also on the many fishers which find themselves in situation of exploitation and abuses.

Unfortunately it is not well known the tragic reality that, within the fishing industry, there are hundreds of thousands of internal/transnational migrants who are smuggled/ trafficked for forced labor on board of fishing vessels.

This is favored by a network of criminal organizations and individuals who prey on people coming from situation of poverty, eagerly seeking an employment that could help them to break away from the circle of misery. Instead, they end up in a situation of trafficking, debt bondage and slavery often without a way out. In fact, the fishing vessels stay out at sea for long periods (from a few months to several years), and the victims of these crimes find it difficult, if not impossible, to report their predicaments.

Heeding the call of Pope Francis: ”Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.4, we as Catholic Church would like to renew our appeal to the Governments to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188), to create a safe working environment on board of fishing vessels and better welfare provisions for fishers. As of October 2016 the Convention has been ratified by nine coastal states5, and one more country is necessary for the entry into force of the Convention.

While we express our gratitude to the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) for their dedication and commitment, we would like to call on them to be vigilant and intensify their presence in fishing harbors to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking. It is also necessary that AOS work more closely with leaders of fishing communities to educate and prevent human trafficking by providing viable alternative of employment and live hood.
May Mary Stella Maris continue to be the source of strength and protection to all the fishers and their families.

Antonio Maria Card. Vegliò

Fr Gabriele Bentoglio, cs

Pontifical Council For The Pastoral Care Of Migrants And Itinerant People

[1] Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Pastoral Letter What is Happening to our Beautiful Land? (29 Jan¬uary 1988).
[2] Australia, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, the European Union (as a member organization), Gabon, Guinea, Guyana, Iceland, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, the United States of America, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.
[3] Illicit fishing may account for up to 26 million tonnes of fish a year, or more than 15 percent of the world’s total annual capture fisheries output.
[4] Address of Pope Francis to the new Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See on the occasion of the presentation of the letters of credence. 12th December 2013
[5] Angola, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Estonia, France, Morocco, Norway, South Africa.