Catholic chaplains set out to sea

 The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) is to send its chaplains to sea to work alongside international merchant crews - in a radical overhaul of the 81-year-old charity. The seafarers' welfare agency - which works in the ports of England and Wales - will relaunch on June 25 at the Lloyds Building, in London, in the presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and other guests including the Italian and Ukrainian Ambassadors and the Consul General of Panama. Commodore Chris York, AOS's National Director, said: "AOS will be building up its port teams of chaplains and ship-visitors. But from now on, part of their jobs will be to spend time working alongside crews at sea. "This will be the distinctive element of our ministry, giving all our work its credibility. A recent pilot study has demonstrated the demand for this type of ministry. We are now initiating dialogue with ship owners and operators to take this forward on a larger scale. Our work to support seafarers is in a very real sense work which supports the maritime industry as a whole." In future, the Catholic agency will provide seafarers with drop-in centres, with phones and email facilities, rather than hostels, and work more closely with its ecumenical counterparts in visiting crews on board their ships. Commodore York said: "The industry has changed beyond recognition since the so-called glory days of British shipping in the 60s and early 70s. It is now a globalised industry which can fail to take into account the very real needs of crews. They come predominantly from poorer countries and work away from home on nine or even 12 month contracts, facing danger and isolation. Some crews are even exploited and abused as they deliver the goods we consume every day. "AOS has also had to change - that's why we are relaunching. Globalisation has brought new challenges and this relaunch is our way of saying we are ready and prepared to meet them head-on." The relaunch is sponsored and supported by some of the biggest names in the shipping industry, including V Ships, Bibby Lines Ltd., Inmarsat, Cunard, Holman Fenwick & Willan, and HSBC. The Apostleship of the Sea is an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales. AOS was founded in Glasgow in 1922 and has since spread to 89 countries around the world. It is both a mission and welfare outreach of the Church, providing help to all seafarers regardless of colour, creed or nationality. AOS works closely with its ecumenical partners inmission: Mission to Seafarers and British & International Sailors Society, as well as Deutsche Seemannsmission and the Nordic seafarer societies. Source: CCS

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