ROME — Pope Francis thanked members of the Stella Maris outreach to seafarers for their “witness of faith and countless acts of kindness and charity” and urged them to continue standing up for people struggling to make a livelihood from the sea.
Stella Maris national directors, chaplains and volunteers met in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 2-5 to mark the 100th anniversary of the ministry, which was founded as the Apostleship of the Sea. The actual anniversary was in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the group’s World Congress and its celebrations.
In a message to the congress Oct. 3, Pope Francis said that for thousands of seafarers, the pandemic was not simply inconvenient. Stranded on ships or in ports or blocked from traveling, the workers grew even more reliant on Stella Maris to provide comfort, material assistance and help keeping in touch with family members.
“As the world now gradually emerges from the pandemic,” the pope said, the congress is an opportunity to look at how the organization can “continue to be of service to those whose lives and livelihoods are connected to our seas.”
A key concern, he said, is how climate change is impacting people who fish for a living as well as those who staff large ships.
“Creation, our common home, is comprised of a vast expanse of water, which is essential for life and human commerce, not to mention tourism,” he said. “It should not be surprising, therefore, that around 90% of the world’s goods are transported by ships, which is made possible by the daily work of over one and a half million people, many of whom are far removed for months at a time from the support of their families as well as their social and religious communities.”
But “damage to marine environments,” like other ecological destruction, “disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, whose very livelihoods are even threatened with extinction,” the pope said. “I trust, then, that Stella Maris will never waver in drawing attention to the issues which deprive many within the maritime community of their God-given human dignity.”