ROME — The Vatican is highlighting the plight of maritime workers during the pandemic, saying bans on shore leave are severely stressing crews stuck aboard ship, some to the point of suicide.
Cardinal Peter A. Turkson, who heads a Vatican office dealing with issues of human development, said in a message Sunday that maritime workers “really deserve our esteem and gratitude” for ensuring movement of goods for a “healthy global economy” while much of the world is in lockdown to combat spread of COVID-19 infection.
He said that tens of thousands of seafarers who were due to fly home for leave between long stints at sea were prevented from doing so due to lockdown rules.
Similarly, thousands of seafarers due to head to sea on new tours of duty were stranded in hotels and dormitories.
Turkson lamented that those stranded on board vessels “suffer isolation, severe physical and mental stress that brings many crews on the verge of desperation and, unfortunately” suicide.
The cardinal said Catholics worldwide during August are being encouraged to pray for all those who work and live from the sea, including sailors and fishers and their families.