Today is World Maritime Day. On Sunday, during his general audience in St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict greeted the maritime community, saying: "I take this opportunity to send my cordial greetings, accompanied by my prayers, to all those who work on the sea." Last month German-born Pope Benedict XVI boarded river cruiser, the Rhein Energie which works the Rhine river, to preach to thousands of young Catholics gathered for the World Youth Day. World Maritime Day is promoted by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) whose theme this year is 'International Shipping, Carrier of World Trade'. The IMO highlights the fact that 'without international shipping, half the world would freeze and the other half would starve'. Commodore Chris York National Director of AOS in England and Wales said: 'We are delighted to hear these words of the Pope that echo the support of many Catholic churchgoers without whom the work of the AOS in supporting the faith and welfare of seafarers would be impossible." He continued: "The IMO theme 'International Shipping, Carrier of World Trade' points to the vast scale of this globalised industry. However it is essential that all the maritime industry stakeholders remember that it is individual seafarers who make shipping happen. They are the greatest single factor. However, seafarers struggle against criminalisation of seafarers, unscrupulous manning agents and rogue employers. Poor or lacking welfare and communication facilities for seafarers in a significant number of ports prevent communication with loved ones back home, separated for months at a time. These are all factors that continue to give the industry a bad name and cause immense suffering to those seafarers affected" "AOS is delighted that the Pope is alongside all seafarers and those working to highlight the importance of the individual in this most globalised of industries." The Pope is kept informed of the maritime world and the Church's work alongside seafarers by the Rome office of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) in the Vatican. AOS is one of the key welfare societies in the maritime industry and is present in 98 countries around the world. AOS is most familiar to seafarers through the 'Stella Maris' centres they run, welcoming seafarers far from home. AOS provides welfare services for seafarers of all creeds. AOS in Great Britain is present in 34 ports and this year is developing its presence in Scotland.
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