2012-11-08 13:41:43

November Apostleship of Sea Congress to focus on New Evangelization

(Vatican Radio) Caring for the spiritual needs of maritime travellers, helping to safeguard seafaring workers and their rights – these are just one part of the Catholic Church’s ministry called the Apostleship of the Sea. How to continue providing this ministry amid the global economic crisis and in an increasingly connected world will be the focus of a special five day world congress on the Apostleship of the Sea later this month. The World Congress, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants which is responsible for the Apostleship of the Sea ministry, was announced at a Vatican press conference Thursday. The theme of the Congress will be “New Evangelization in the Maritime World.” Tracey McClure reports:

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Some 410 people from 71 countries representing the five continents will be participating in the Congress. Special attention will be given to the following themes: the new evangelization, effective relations with the maritime industry, fishermen, maritime piracy, and missionary action which will include ecumenical collaboration and interfaith cooperation in ports around the world.

In introducing the Congress, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio’ spoke of the roots of the Apostleship of the Sea stemming from the mid 19th century movement Apostleship of Prayer when Catholic missionaries began accompanying to and from Europe thousands of migrants seeking a better future in the Americas.

Since then, Cardinal Veglio’ pointed out the apostleship has grown into a worldwide ministry, counting 110 “Stella Maris” centers across the globe where hundreds of priests, religious and lay volunteers offer material and spiritual care to people of the sea and fishermen of every nationality and religion.

Recognizing the pastoral and ecclesial contribution of the ministry’s work, the Holy See placed the Apostleship of the Sea under the direction of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants. In his Motu Proprio Stella Maris, Blessed Pope John Paul II highlighted the importance of the ministry in responding to the spiritual needs of commercial seafarers, fishermen and their families as well as those of port workers and sea travellers.

Though he highlighted technical improvements in the shipping industry as “positive factors” Cardinal Veglio’ expressed the Church’s concern for those in the maritime world who are subjected to forms of physical abuse or those required to work for months at sea without contact with their families or Christian communities. In recent years, he said, ships and crews have been abandoned in foreign ports without food or supplies and increasingly restrictive local regulations often prevent mariners from going ashore. Piracy he said, which “causes long term psychological trauma not just for the seafarer but also his family” deserves special attention in and of itself.

With these challenges in mind, the Apostleship of the Sea the Cardinal said, collaborates with the World Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization advocating on behalf of the welfare and rights of seafarers and fishermen.

Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Fr. Gabriele Ferdinando Bentoglio announced the Congress will introduce two important Church-sponsored initiatives in defence of people of the sea: the Seafarer’s Rights International (SRI) to promote the rights and legal protection of maritime workers; and the Maritime Humanitarian Piracy Response (MHPR), an inter-agency network to respond to the needs of families and seafarers who have suffered traumatic events such as pirate attacks, kidnappings and armed theft.

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