Pope Francis encourages seafarers amidst pandemic

Pope Francis greets pilgrims before his general audience Feb. 26, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis thanked maritime personnel and fishermen for their contribution to feeding humanity amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video message sent to the Apostleship of the Sea on June 17, Pope Francis recognized the difficulties seafarers faced as a result of the pandemic.

He also expressed gratitude for their help in feeding humanity despite the risks involved.

“Your work as maritime personnel and fishermen has thus become even more important,” he said, adding that they provide “our greater human family with food and other primary needs.”

The pope noted that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many sacrifices among seafarers.

He said “long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, and fear of infection” are “heavy burdens to bear.”

Between 150,000 and 200,000 seafarers are currently stranded at sea, according to the International Labor Organization.

In his message, Pope Francis addressed suffering seafarers directly.

“Know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten,” he said. 

“Your work at sea often keeps you apart from others, but you are close to me in my thoughts and prayers, and in those of your chaplains and the volunteers of Stella Maris,” he added.

The Pope reminded them that Jesus’s first disciples were fishermen, something they should take comfort in.

Pope Francis then offered each seafarer “a message and a prayer of hope, comfort, and consolation in the face of whatever hardships you have to endure.”

He also encouraged all those who provide them with pastoral care and spiritual support.

“May the Lord bless each of you, your work, and your families,” he said, “and may the Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, protect you always.”

The Apostleship of the Sea is a Catholic charity supporting seafarers. Its patron is Our Lady, Star of the Sea.

Stella Maris was founded in Glasgow, Scotland, in the early 20th century as a network of seafarer chaplaincies in ports throughout the world.

The Apostleship of the Sea’s 216 chaplains work in more than 311 ports in over 30 different countries. - Vatican News