By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis at the Sunday Angelus prayed for seafarers, fishermen, and their families, as the Church commemorates the annual recurrence of Sea Sunday.
“I pray for them and their families,” he said, “as well as for the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea.”
The Pope made special mention “of those who live in unworthy work situations at sea”.
On a related topic, Pope Francis then expressed his appreciation for all the people “who are committed to freeing the seas from pollution.”
What is Sea Sunday?
The Church observes Sea Sunday annually to shine the spotlight on the condition of those who work on the world’s oceans.
A third of all seafarers and fishermen are estimated to be Catholic, with a large proportion coming from Catholic areas of India and the Philippines.
They number around 1.2 million, provide over 110 tons of seafood for consumption, and are responsible for 90 percent of global trade.
Vatican message: Seafarers face many challenges
Also on Sunday, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, released a message for Sea Sunday 2018, detailing the hardships seafarers face daily.
He said they are “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.”
Cardinal Turkson said mechanization has reduced turnaround time in ports to a minimum, leaving crew members with “inadequate personal time to rest and relax.”
At the same time, chaplains and ship visitors, he said, are often denied access to vessels in port, and are unable to provide them with material and spiritual support.
Cardinal Turkson warned about the dangers of violence and piracy at sea, which, though improving in recent years, requires constant vigilance.
He also said crews and vessels are sometimes abandoned in foreign ports far from home.
“Once abandoned the seafarers are left by themselves to struggle for food, salaries, immigration status and many more issues unless they are assisted by a welfare organization.”
Cardinal Turkson said the Vatican supports efforts made by the International Maritime Organization “to prevent and significantly reduce marine plastic pollution from the shipping sector and in curbing greenhouse gas emissions from ships”.
Finally, he invoked 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.”