Pope Francis told fishermen and maritime personnel that they are “not forgotten” and that their work and sacrifices during the pandemic are more appreciated.
In a video message on June 17 (see further below), the pontiff lauded maritime personnel and fishermen for “providing our greater human family with food and other primary needs.”
“Long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends, and native countries, fear of infection… all these things are a heavy burden to bear, now more than ever,” said the pontiff.
He assured the maritime workers that they are “not alone and that you are not forgotten.”
Although the nature of their work and the pandemic keep seafarers away from the rest of the world, the pontiff said they are close to him in his thoughts and prayers.
He said the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea, a Catholic agency that offers pastoral care to seafarers, are praying for their safety and wellbeing.
The Apostleship of the Sea has 216 chaplains in more than 311 ports in over 30 different countries.
“The Gospel itself reminds us of this when it speaks to us of Jesus and his first disciples, who were fishermen,” said Pope Francis.
“Today I would like to offer you a message and a prayer of hope, comfort, and consolation in the face of whatever hardships you have to endure,” the pontiff added.
The pope asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) for the protection of the fishermen and seafarers.
“I too give you my blessing and I keep you in my prayers. And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me,” he said.
The International Labor Organization said there are 150,000 to 200,000 maritime personnel who are stranded at sea because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Many of these seafarers have been stuck at sea for 15 months, according to Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the United Nations International Maritime Organization, in a statement.
He said the condition of seafarers “is now a real safety issue, endangering the safe operation of ships. We cannot expect seafarers to stay at sea forever.”