Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Since apostolic times, "the seafaring world was a means of evangelisation." To be so again today, "the latter must take into account the complex effects of globalisation. Sadly, it [evangelisation] confronts situations of injustice, especially when disembarking restrictions are imposed on crews, when they are abandoned with their ships, when they face pirates or suffer from illegal fisheries. Given the vulnerability of seafarers, be they fishermen or seamen, the Church must pay more attention" to them, said Benedict XVI as he addressed participants to the 23rd World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea currently underway at the Vatican. This year's theme is the "New evangelisation in the maritime world: new ways and means to proclaim the Good News."
In his speech, the pope reiterated the main topics examined at the congress, namely "proclaiming the Gospel and the growing number of seafarers affiliated with Eastern Churches, outreach to non-Christian or non-believing seafarers, and the search for ever-growing ecumenical and interfaith cooperation. In view of the difficulties seafarers, fishermen and their families face, it is increasingly clear that the former must be addressed with a holistic view of man, reflecting the various aspects of the human person, seen through eyes purified by charity."
"Jesus' Apostles and disciples also had the opportunity of going into the whole world and proclaiming the gospel to every creature (cf Mk, 16:15) by travelling sea routes, as Saint Paul did in his voyages. Thus, they began a journey to spread the Word of God 'to the ends of the earth' (Acts, 1:8). Even today, the Church sails the seas to bring the Gospel to all nations. Your extensive presence in the world's ports, the visits you make on a daily basis to ships moored in harbours, and the brotherly welcome you reserve for ship crews are visible signs of your concern for those who cannot receive a regular pastoral care."
"A special thought goes out to those who work in the vast sector of fishing and their families. More than others in fact, they must face today's difficulties, living in an uncertain future, marked by the negative effects of climate change and resource overexploitation. To you fishermen, who seek dignified and safe working conditions, to protect the value of the family, the environment and the dignity of everyone, I want to assure you of the Church's sympathy. In this context, the apostolate of the laity is especially active, with many permanent deacons and volunteers operating in Stella Maris centres. The Church also and especially sees among seafarers a growing concern for their fellow crewmates; it encourages them to rediscover and intensify their relationship with God during their long ocean-going trips, and help them with a spirit of charity when they are in a situation of danger."
"Be apostles, faithful to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel," the pope said in concluding. "Show the thoughtful face of the Church that welcomes and is close to this part of the People of God. Answer without hesitation seafaring people, who are waiting for you on board to fill the soul's sense of homesickness and thus feel an active part of the community. I hope each and every one of you can rediscover each day the beauty of faith, and bear witness to it, always, with the coherence of life."