Apostleship of the Sea: Pope Francis reaches out to seafarers

Pope Francis tweeted for the first time about Sea Sunday on July 9th.

The pontiff’s tweet read, “I entrust sailors, fishermen, and all those in difficulty on the seas faraway from home, to the motherly protection of Mary, Star of the Sea”.

It is the first time Pope Francis has tweeted a Sea Sunday message, a move widely seen as his way of personally reaching out to seafarers on their mobile phones and devices.

One reply read, “Thank You Papa Francesco for your prayers for our brothers and sisters who sail the rough waters.”

Besides the English version of the tweet, there were also versions in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Latin, Polish and Arabic.

The tweet in Arabic is particularly poignant given recent media reports about an increase in crew abandonment cases in the Gulf region.

According to the Gulf Times, nearly 100 Indian seafarers are stranded in UAE waters on 22 ships, with distress calls on the rise. Besides Indian crew, there are also seafarers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar and Pakistan on the ships. The paper says the men have not been paid their wages and are living in harsh conditions with a lack of food, fresh water and fuel.

Thousands of churches around the world marked Sea Sunday this year with Mass and prayers for seafarers, their families and those who support them. Proceeds from the Sea Sunday collection in Great Britain will ensure the work of AoS with seafarers and fishermen can continue.

In his Angelus address in St Peter’s Square on Sea Sunday in 2014, Pope Francis affirmed AoS’ ministry saying, “I urge Christian communities, particularly the coastal ones, to be attentive and sensitive towards them. I call on the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea to continue with their commitment to the pastoral care of these brothers and sisters” 

This October, AoS will hold its World Congress in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to explore further ways in which it can strengthen its global network and increase support to seafarers, with a particular emphasis on tackling human trafficking and injustices of fishers.