ROME– After a week without news regarding a lost Argentine submarine missing since Nov. 15, Catholics across the country are organizing prayer services, with many dioceses celebrating Masses pleading for the safe return of the 44 crew members.
Eleven countries, including the United States, have joined Argentina in the search of the ARA San Juan, contributing personnel, planes and boats. Merchant ships, scientific vessels and fishing trawlers have joined in the effort.
Beyond Masses and vigils, several chains through social media and WhatsApp have asked Argentines to pray daily at 10 p.,m. local (8 p.m. EST), echoing two calls made by Pope Francis, an Argentine himself.
“Pope Francis assures his fervent prayers for the 44 officers aboard the Ara San Juan,” said a telegram sent by the Vatican’s Secretary of State to Argentina’s military ordinariate on Saturday. “[Francis] asks that his closeness be conveyed to their families and to the military and civil authorities of the country in these difficult moments. Likewise, he encourages the efforts to find the vessel.”
On Sunday, the pope referred to the submarine after the weekly Angelus prayer in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square.
Cardinal Mario Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires handpicked by Francis as his successor, said Mass in the local cathedral. In his homily, he said that “it’s not necessary to take the pulse of the sensitivity of our nation these days: everybody is talking, thinking, and praying for the 44 brothers we have in the submarine that we still haven’t found.
“In these special circumstances, in which we pray for the life of all from conception to death, we ask God that this moment of tribulation have a halo of hope,” he said on Tuesday.
The ARA San Juan, which is carrying 44 crew members, including the country’s first woman submarine officer, was last seen a week ago, in the San Jorge Gulf, about 268 miles off the coast of Argentina.
If the submarine has been fully submerged since its disappearance, time is running out for the rescue operations, as it only has enough air to last between seven to ten days.
Bishop Oscar Ojea, recently elected as head of the bishops’ conference, said that the prelates were united to the families of the 44 crew members: “All together, let’s continue to pray insistently for each one of them and their loved ones.”
Bishop Antonio Baseotto, emeritus military ordinariate, echoed those sentiments, while underlining the solidarity, “not only national, but also of so many countries, that have contributed and are contributing with all their means to find a solution to what is a grave emergency.”
Santiago Olivera, current military bishop, arrived in Mar del Plata, the coastal city where the families of the missing crew are currently staying, close to the rescue operations, on Tuesday, where he said Mass at a navy base.
The Institute of Religious Dialogue also issued a statement asking for “each Argentine to elevate a prayer in the form that their tradition dictates so that the 44 crew members of the submarine ARA San Juan be found alive.”
The institute was founded and is co-presided over by Father Guillermo Marcó, former spokesman of then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today Pope Francis; Rabbi Daniel Goldman; and Imam Omar Abboud, who is a close friend of the pope.