Pope Francis: Help seafarers to lead holy lives

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan – Pope Francis has encouraged port welfare workers and chaplains to continue with renewed ecumenical spirit their efforts to protect and safeguard the rights of all people of the sea, particularly seafarers and fishermen.

Pope Francis quoted portions of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1997 Apostolic Letter, Stella Maris, on the maritime apostolate as guidance for port welfare workers to “strive to see that the people of the sea are provided abundantly with whatever is required to lead holy lives; to recognize and promote the mission which all the faithful – and in particular the laity – are called to exercise in the Church and in the maritime world in accordance with their specific state.”

Pope Francis emphasized that the port welfare workers must “help the people of the sea to know Jesus Christ and to live according to His teachings”.

The video message of Pope Francis was shown during the opening ceremonies of the World Conference of the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, from Oct. 21-25, 2019.

“With compassion and discretion, you give them a chance to pour out their hearts,” Pope Francis earlier said in another statement, adding that listening to the people of the sea and to their material and spiritual needs is part of the ministry.

Pope Francis said that without seafarers, the global economy would come to a standstill; and without fishermen, many parts of the world would starve.

The international shipping industry is the life blood of the global economy as it is responsible for the carriage of around 90 percent of world trade.

However, Pope Francis said they face the seafaring dangers of storms and piracy, long periods of time away from their families and working conditions that are often harsh and low-paying.

ICMA is a free association of 29 charitable organizations working for the welfare of seafarers, fishers and their families. These organizations represent various Christian churches and communities that operate in more than 400 seafarers’ centers in more than 100 countries. ICMA was founded in 1969 to encourage collaboration and mutual assistance among seafarers’ ministry organizations.

The 2019 World Conference theme is 50 Years of Working Together for Seafarers, Fishers and their Families” attended by more than 250 guests from ICMA member organizations around the world engaged in the welfare of seafarers, fishers, and their families.

In a fragmented and divided society, it is the mission of ICMA to promote unity, peace and tolerance as it is the duty of every chaplain and welfare worker to serve the stakeholders regardless of nationality, religion, culture, gender or ethnic origin.

The Philippines earlier hosted in 2016the ICMA“Training and Immersion Course” for workers serving seafarers from the Philippineswhichallowed participants to gain a first-hand knowledge of Filipino seafarers’ social and cultural background and other institutions in the Filipino maritime sector.

Due to the high number of Filipino seafarers who visit port based welfare centers around the world, the course gave ship visitors and port based welfare providers the opportunity to learn more about the community of Filipino seafarers so as to better serve them.

China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine are estimated to be the five largest supply countries for all seafarers (officers and ratings).

To date, the Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings while China is the biggest supplier of officers.

It is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five complements on board a vessel at any time.

The estimated 337,502 deployed Filipino seafarers in 2018 remitted $6.14 billion or around P318.55 billion. The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Some of the members organizations of ICMA include Apostleship of the Sea (AoS), Mission to Seafarers, Sailor Society, German Seemannsmission, among others.

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Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)./PN

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