“Know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten… Your work at sea often keeps you apart from others, but you are close to me in my thoughts and prayers, and in those of your chaplains and the volunteers of Stella Maris”. This is how Pope Francis, in his Message to participants at the 25th World Congress of Stella Maris, being held in Glasgow from 2 to 5 October, recalls his words addressed to seafarers on the occasion of the centenary of the Apostleship of the Sea, 4 October 2020.
Addressing the Delegates gathered in the Scottish port city, the Holy Father expressed gratitude "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". He then noted that in its work of service to people of "different nationalities and religious traditions", Stella Maris responds to the Lord's command to "“go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15), recalling also that “much of Jesus’ ministry took place on and around a small yet vital stretch of water – the Sea of Galilee – and that some of his first disciples were fishermen, who in turn became fishers of men” (cf. Mt 4:19).
The event opened with a video message from Card. Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who highlighted the value of the service that the Apostleship of the Sea has been conducting since its inception in favour of seafarers and their families, and in particular in recent years, marked first by the scourge of the pandemic and then by the conflict in Ukraine, which have exacerbated the working conditions of seafarers, often deprived of their rights and dignity. "The last time chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris gathered in Glasgow," he recalled, "was in September 1938. The world was on the brink of the devastating II World War. Today’s era is characterized by similar levels of tension and turbulence, not least the Covid-19 pandemic and the many wars, in Ukraine and elsewhere. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact. When the world went into lockdown, the people of the sea kept the global economy moving”.
Faced with the crisis that still plagues the world of seafarers and fishermen, Card. Czerny reiterated Stella Maris' readiness to work more closely with governments, trade unions and the maritime industry, calling for a greater effort to implement the ILO Conventions on Maritime Labour and Work in Fishing. Finally, quoting Pope Francis in his Encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Prefect remarked that respect for human rights “is the preliminary condition for a country’s social and economic development. When the dignity of the human person is respected, and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the creativity of the human personality is released through actions that further the common good”.