Vatican City, 21 January 2014 (VIS) – “We cannot ignore the pitiful situation in which many fisherman and their families live. … And we offer a special thought for those seafarers who are still being held hostage by pirates, and for their families who await their release”. With these words, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, inaugurated the Annual Meeting of the Co-ordinators of the Apostolate of the Sea, currently being held in Rome until 24 January. The participants will attend the Pope's general audience tomorrow, 22 January.
In his address, the cardinal made a plea to chaplains and those who are responsible for offering assistance to seafarers to give all possible support to those who are experiencing the drama of kidnapping at sea, and to show their families “the loving face of the Church”. He recalled that Blessed John Paul II had urged the promotion of an ecumenical spirit in the maritime world, to encourage co-operation and mutual co-ordination of projects involving the Episcopal Conferences and local Ordinaries, adapting them to the current scenario. In view of the phenomenon of the opening of new trade routes and the merging of companies in order to maximise efficiency and profit, the cardinal emphasised the need to strengthen solidarity between nations and to share resources.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, to guide the activity of the Apostolate of the Sea more effectively, has divided the world into nine regions: North America and the Caribbean, Latin America, Indian Ocean Africa, Western Africa, Europe, South Asia, South-East Asia, Arab Gulf States and Djibouti.
Speakers at the meeting include Roberto Giorgi, president of the company Vships, world leader in the field of maritime services, in trade, cruises, and the sectors of energy and defence, who will speak about current trends, developments and the main problems the maritime sector will face over the next five years. Msgr. Giacomo Martino, consultor of the dicastery and John Green of the Apostolate of the Sea in Great Britain will speak about the current economic crisis and how networking and sharing pastoral experiences can contribute to facing it. Msgr. Martino will also give a presentation on the tragic subject of the modern slavery that affects a growing number of fisherman who are victims of forced labour on sub-standard ships where their lives are placed at risk, on human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The lawyer Deirdre Fitzpatrick, director of Seafarers' Right International (SRI), which deals with the defence of seamen, will speak about the many violations of their rights.