Pope Francis has sent a video message of encouragement to seafarers recognised the difficulties they face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He expresses gratitude for their help in feeding humanity despite the risks involved and prays for those who work at sea and for stranded seafarers who have been unable to go ashore or those unable to go to work.
"Know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten," Pope Francis says. "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."
Anywhere between 150,000 and 200,000 seafarers are currently stranded at sea, according to the UN's labour agency. The International Labour Organization (ILO) said recently that lockdown measures have prevented healthy maritime personnel from disembarking. Many completed their tours months ago but were forced to stay aboard.
Mental health issues and physical exhaustion, ILO said, are affecting many.
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."
Watch the video on the Vatican's Youtube channel HERE
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