Pope encourages Stella Maris in apostolate to maritime community
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis has sent a message to the participants in the 25th World Congress of the Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland from 2 – 5 October.
In his address, the Holy Father noted that this first, in-person gathering since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic would hopefully permit them to fully celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Apostleship of the Sea (4 October 1920 in Glasgow), and the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s Motu Proprio 'Stella Maris' in which the norms of the apostolate were updated to better serve the needs of today’s maritime community.
“On this joyous occasion,” said the Pope, “I join you, and all associated with Stella Maris, in giving thanks to Almighty God for the witness of faith and countless acts of kindness and charity shown by so many chaplains and volunteers over the past century to those who toil on our seas and waterways for the benefit of us all.”
Growth from humble beginnings
Pope Francis recalled Pope Pius XI’s prayerful good wishes for the Apostleship in 1922, and his desire that it would reap “a rich harvest of good fruit.”
“We can all be thankful that such fruit has been abundant,” Pope Francis said.
He added that from “small and humble beginnings,” Stella Maris has grown into a widespread organization providing “spiritual, psychological and material assistance, on ships and ashore, for myriads of seafarers and maritime personnel of diverse nationalities and religious traditions.”
Such a global presence reflects the particular response to the Lord’s command to “go out into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation” noted the Pope, recalling that much of Jesus’ ministry took place around the Sea of Galilee and that some of His disciples were fishermen who later became fishers of men.
Know that you are not alone and are not forgotten
Pope Francis went on to underscore the importance of water, highlighting that Creation and our common home is comprised of a vast expanse of water which is essential for life, human commerce and tourism.
Indeed, he added, around 90 percent of the world’s goods are transported by ships, which is made possible by the daily work of 1.5 million people – many of whom are removed for months at a time from the support of their families, as well as their social and religious communities.
Upholding the vital importance of the ministry of Stella Maris, the Holy Father acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on the difficulties associated with such isolation, and reiterated his message to the suffering seafarers, reminding them to “know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten,” but are close to the Pope’s thoughts and prayers, as well as those of the chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris.
He added that the Congress provides the seafarers the opportunity to draw inspiration from their rich history as they look ahead to how they can continue to be of service to those whose lives and livelihoods are connected to the seas.
Challenges of seafarers
The Holy Father further noted that many maritime workers suffer from a variety of unjust working conditions and other deprivations, aggravated not least by the effects of climate change.
In addition, damage to marine environments “disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, whose very livelihoods are even threatened with extinction.”
In this regard, he expressed hope that Stella Maris will not waver in “drawing attention to the issues which deprive many within the maritime community of their God-given human dignity,” and in this way, continue its noble service of putting into practice the words of Jesus: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Pope Francis concluded by expressing his prayerful good wishes for the Congress and entrusting the chaplains, volunteers and all associated with Stella Maris, to the protection of Our Lady Star of the Sea.
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