Category Archives: Sea Sunday

Message for Sea Sunday

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

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.

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 Sea Sunday 2016

10th July 2016

Seated comfortably on the sofa in our living room, we find it difficult to understand how much our daily life is depending on the maritime industry and the sea. If we look around in the places where we live and work, we realize that most of the furniture and IT equipment we are using have been transported by ships, our clothes were shipped in containers from the other side of the world and the fruits we eat were delivered by refrigerated ships from another country while tankers are transporting oil and petrol for our cars. Without seaborne trade the import and export of goods and finished products would not be possible.

Even when we decide to enjoy and relax by going in a cruise we do not think that thousands of seafarers are working hard to make sure that everything will run smoothly and we will have a comfortable vacation.

Furthermore in the recent humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean Sea the crews of merchant vessels have been in the front line to intervene and rescuing thousands of people trying to sail to Europe on board of overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels, inflatable rafts.

Almost 1.200.000 seafarers of every nationality (many of them from developing countries) on board of 50,000 merchant ships are transporting almost 90% of every kind of cargo. The unforgiving forces of the open sea and of the oceans expose ships to significant risk, and the seafarers are “risking their life” more than one way.

The physical life of the seafarers is at risk because aside from the hazards of the forces of the nature, piracy and armed robbery, shifting from one area to another and constantly evolving and adapting to new situations, continue to be a major threat to the security of the crew. Their psychological well-being is at risk when after having been at sea for days or weeks they are denied shore leave and prevented to leave the vessel.

The family life of the seafarers is in danger because their contracts force them to stay away from their families and loved ones for many months and often for several years on a row. Children are growing up without a fatherly figure while all the family’s responsibilities are on the shoulders of the mother.

The human and working dignity of the seafarers is at risk when they are exploited with long working hours and their wages are delayed for months or in cases of abandonment not paid at all. Criminalization of seafarers is a serious concern especially considering that in recent years a number of previously considered lawful seafaring activities have been criminalized particularly in relation to incidents such as shipwrecks, pollution, etc.

Encouraged by Pope Francis who called the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea to “be the voice of those workers who live far from their loved ones and face dangerous and difficult situations”[1], as Apostleship of the Sea we stand at the side of seafarers to reiterate that their human and labor rights must be respected and protected.

We would like also to call on Governments and competent maritime authorities to strengthening the implementation of the ILO Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) 2006, especially the Regulation 4.4 whose purpose is: To ensure that seafarers working on board a ship have access to shore-based facilities and services to secure their health and well-being.

Finally, on this occasion of the annual celebration of Sea Sunday we would like to remind to all Christian communities and to each individual how important and essential are the seafarer profession and the shipping industry for our daily life. We would like to call on the bishops, especially the ones of maritime Dioceses to establish and support the Maritime Apostolate as “a visible sign of your affectionate attention to those who cannot receive ordinary pastoral care.”[2]

While expressing our gratitude to the seafarers for their work, we entrust them and their families to the maternal protection of Mary, Stella Maris.

Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

+Joseph Kalathiparambil

[1] Francis, General Audience, 22 January 2014
[2] Benedict XVI, Address to the participants in the XXIII AOS World Congress, 23 November 2012