container ship at Tilbury - pic ICN
New Evangelization is at the heart of reflections at the XXIII World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea that began in the Vatican’s Synod Hall on Monday. The November 19-23 congress is the first to be held in Rome in 30 years; the last one to be held here was in 1982. This year’s Congress is also taking place 90 years after Pius XI signed the first Constitutions of the Apostleship of the Sea on August 17, 1922.
In extending its invitation to workers in this pastoral ministry for seafarers and their families, the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People said the congress will offer a moment for “reflection, prayer and sharing…to examine the current situation of our apostolate ‘to outline new ways and expressions of the Good News to be transmitted to contemporary man with renewed enthusiasm’.
In his opening address to the some the 400 participants from 70 countries at the congress, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, described Apostleship of the Sea centers with their chaplains and volunteers in ports around the globe as “a beacon of light for those who have sailed for weeks only in the company of themselves.”
In his opening speech, Cardinal Vegliò said: "After 30 years, we have chosen to be in the Vatican again because we wanted to return to our roots and commemorate the 90th anniversary of Pius XI's approval of the first Constitutions and blessing of this new Apostolate. The small mustard seed planted 92 years ago in Glasgow by a small group of laypersons has grown and fulfilled Pius XI's wish that this initiative would develop in the maritime areas of both hemispheres."
"The technological development of the maritime industry, the growing problems concerning the seafarers' life and work, the challenges raised by the new and often restrictive rules, and the world economic crisis make the Apostleship of the Sea evangelize in rather difficult conditions.
"Despite all these difficulties, the maritime world is a fertile terrain for evangelization. The ships, in fact, sail the seven seas of the world, stop from one port to another, and transport not only goods but also crews with a different culture, tradition and religion and create, for people from different ethnic groups, the opportunity to meet and appreciate the differences.
"Multinational teams live and work in the ships' very limited space, far from their families and Christian communities for months, and with no nourishment for their faith, which is often like a “smoldering wick”.
"The New Evangelization and the Year of the Faith invite every chaplain and volunteer of the Apostleship of the Sea to deepen their faith, to believe in the Gospel message, and to go forward to proclaim the Gospel to those who do not know it and to rekindle in this way that “smoldering wick” through Christian witness."
"This Christian witness must be given through a ministry of on-going presence, service and solidarity. For the seafarers who arrive in foreign ports, far from the city, the presence of an Apostleship of the Sea center with the chaplain and volunteers is always a beacon of light for those who have sailed for weeks only in the company of themselves. The constant service given with love to respond to the needs of all crews, regardless of creed and nationality, brings hope in the moments of discouragement. Solidarity for exploited and abandoned seafarers is an expression of Christ's love for all. Through your lives, often without saying a word, you are agents of evangelization! The Church appreciates your work and is grateful to you for what you do."
He ended with the following prayer:
“O Stella Maris,light of every ocean and mistress of the deep,
guide the peoples of Oceania across all dark and stormy seas,that they may reach the haven of peace and light
prepared in him who calmed the sea.Keep all your children safe from harm
for the waves are high and we are far from home.As we set forth upon the oceans of the world,
and cross the deserts of our time,show us, O Mary, the fruit of your womb,
for without your Son we are lost.Pray that we will never fail on life's journey,
that in heart and mind, in word and deed,in days of turmoil and in days of calm,
we will always look to Christ and say,'Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?'”.
The Cardinal then declared the congress open.