Vatican City, 23 November 2012 (VIS) – “Ever since the dawn of Christianity, the maritime world has been an effective vehicle for evangelisation. The Apostles and disciples of Jesus were able to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, partly thanks to maritime navigation; the journeys of St. Paul provide just one example. In this way they undertook their mission to spread the Word of God to ‘the ends of the earth'”.

With these words Benedict XVI this morning greeted participants in the twenty-third World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The congress focused on themes such as the proclamation of the Gospel to the increasing number of seafarers belonging to the Oriental Churches, assistance to non-Christians and non-believers, and the intensification of ecumenical and inter-religious collaboration.

“Today too the Church sails across the seas to bring the Gospel to all nations, and your presence in ports throughout the world, your daily visits to ships docked in these ports and the fraternal welcome you give to the crews whilst in port are a visible sign of your concern for those who are not able to receive ordinary pastoral care. Nowadays the world of seafaring, with its continual movement of people, must take account of the complex effects of globalisation and, unfortunately, has to face situations of injustice, especially when crews are subject to restrictions on disembarkation, abandoned along with the vessels on which they work, face the threat of piracy at sea or suffer the consequences of illegal fishing. The vulnerability of seafarers, fishermen and sailors must encourage even greater concern on the part of the Church and stimulate the maternal care that, through you, she shows to those you meet in ports and on board ships, or assist during long periods at sea”.

Benedict XVI then turned his attention to those who work in the fishing sector and their families, emphasising that more than other groups they have to “face the difficulties of the present time and the uncertainty of a future threatened by the negative effects of climate change and the excessive exploitation of resources. I guarantee the Church will remain close to fishermen who seek dignified and safe working conditions, safeguarding the value of the family and the environment and defending the dignity of each individual”.

Finally, citing the Vatican Council II decree “Ad gentes” on the missionary activity of the Church, the Pope encouraged those who work “on the front line of the evangelisation of many men and women of various nationalities in your ports” to be “faithful apostles to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel” and to “show the caring face of the Church who welcomes and draws close also to this group of the People of God”, responding “without hesitation to seafarers, who await you on board, in the hope that you may fulfil the deepest longings of their souls and that they may become an active part of the community”.


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