Sailors and fishermen live far from home and are often victims of trafficking, forced labour and rights violations. Stella Maris chaplains have the same authority as the Missionaries of Mercy.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met with chaplains and volunteers from the Stella Maris Apostolate on Thursday. The Catholic agency for seafarers will mark its first centennial next year in Glasgow (Scotland) where it was founded.
In his address, the pontiff told them to double their efforts to cope with issues that are far too often the results of human greed, such as human trafficking, forced labour and the violation of human and labour rights of so many men and women who live and work in the seas.
The Holy Father stressed the mercy chaplains must have, to the extent that they have the same license as the Missionaries of Mercy, the priests who since the Jubilee of Mercy can absolve sins with the same authority as the Apostolic See.
“As chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris, you have been entrusted with the mission of presence, bringing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to the complex and varied world of seafaring. Your daily visits to the ships enable you to encounter people in concrete situations, at times serene, at other times anxious or even deeply troubled. With compassion and discretion, you give them a chance to pour out their hearts.
“This is the first and most precious service that you provide, above all to those who have few similar opportunities. Your ministry to sailors and fishermen is above all one of listening to them and to their material and spiritual needs. ‘Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 171).”
Noting that maritime shipping represents than 90 per cent of world trade, Francis pointed out that so many parts of the world would starve were it not for fishermen. “I would ask you to convey my esteem and encouragement to the sailors and fishermen whom you meet, many of whom work for lengthy periods of time, thousands of miles away from their native land and their families.”
“In addition, thanks to you, those who are most vulnerable can find hope for a better future. Your efforts can help them not to give up in the face of a life that is precarious and at times marked by exploitation. Your presence in the ports, large and small, is already a sign of God’s fatherhood and the fact that, in his eyes, we are all children, brothers and sisters to one another. Your presence is also a sign of the primordial worth of the human person, prior to and above every other interest, and an incentive for everyone, starting with the poorest, to work for justice and respect for fundamental rights.
“Let us remember that ‘men and women who are made new by the love of God are able to change the rules and quality of relationships, transforming even social structures. They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where there prevails the exploitation of man by man. Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves’ (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 4).”