By Lydia O’Kane
In the message released on Wednesday, Pope Francis told those in the Maritime sector that they are “not alone and they are not forgotten”.
He also offered each seafarer “a message and a prayer of hope, comfort, and consolation in the face of whatever hardships you have to endure.”
Speaking about the video-message, Martin Foley, the Chief Executive of the Apostleship of the Sea UK, expressed his deep gratitude for the Pope’s words, saying, “it will be a tremendous source of comfort and encouragement for seafarers and also their families.”
Gratitude to seafarers
Mr Foley noted that this has been a “particularly difficult time for seafarers who have continued to work throughout the pandemic to ensure that our society continues to function; to ensure that our supermarket shelves are stocked. So, we owe a great debt of gratitude to seafarers; they are amongst the heroes of this pandemic”
He continued, that with “the airline industry being grounded, seafarers who have come to the end of their contracts have had no other option even to extend their contracts; to stay on board their vessels until they can disembark at port from where they can then fly home.”
The work of Chaplains
When at sea, Chaplains are on call to provide vital support to those in this industry.
At this difficult time, the AOS Chief said they “continue to reach out to seafarers, to support them in whatever way they can.” He also said, that due to the social distancing restrictions, their organization is having to “find ever more innovative ways to reach seafarers”. That includes, for example, sending “weekly Gospel reflections via video to a number of cruise ships that are currently in port".
A few weeks ago, the Apostleship of the Sea conducted a survey of seafarers and found that their primary concern was for the financial wellbeing of themselves and their families. Mr Foley pointed out that the financial fallout from the pandemic would be significant and stressed that there would also be job losses within the Maritime sector. “There is great nervousness amongst the families of seafarers who are wondering if their loved one continue to be in employment", he said.
As this pandemic continues, Mr Foley noted that people can play their part to support those a sea. Prayer, he stressed is very important at this time. But there are also other ways, including becoming a volunteer, financial support, or by helping the Chaplaincy team with goods that can be brought on board, such as woolly hats, prayer books, food and supplies.
Reiterating the Pope’s words from his message, Mr Foley said that it means so much for seafarers to know that “they are not alone and they are not forgotten”. “Seafarers are all too often forgotten, because their work is at sea… we don’t encounter them in the course of our daily lives, so to have a global figure like the Holy Father urging us not to forget seafarers and their families is so important”.