“Stella Maris” (“Star of the Sea”) has long been the favourite title by which people of the sea have called on her in whose protection they have always trusted: the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her son, Jesus Christ, accompanied his disciples in their vessels (1), helped them in their work and calmed the storms (2). And so the Church accompanies seafarers, caring for the special spiritual needs of those who for various reasons live and work in the maritime world.
In order to meet the requirements of special pastoral assistance for people involved in commercial shipping and in fishing - as well as their families, port personnel and all who travel by sea - we establish what follows, updating the norms issued earlier in this century and having heard the opinion of our Brother, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and of Itinerant People.
The Work of the Maritime Apostolate
I. Although it does not constitute an autonomous canonical entity with its own juridical personality, the Work of the Maritime Apostolate is the organisation concerned with the specific pastoral care of the people of the sea; it seeks to support the work of the faithful who are called to witness to their Christian life in this sphere.
People of the Sea
II. 1. In this document, the terms used are defined as follows:
2. The chaplains and the authorities of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate will strive to see that the people of the sea are provided abundantly with whatever is required to lead holy lives; they will also recognise and promote the mission which all the faithful - and in particular the laity - are called to exercise in the Church and in the maritime world in accordance with their specific state.
III. Mindful of the special circumstances of the people of the sea
and taking into account the privileges which over the years the Apostolic
See has granted this people, the following is established:
The Chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate
IV. 1. The Chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate is the priest appointed in conformity with art. XII, par. 2; the authority who appoints him also confers on him the office described in can. 564 of the Code of Canon Law, to attend to the pastoral care of the people of the sea. As far as possible, appointments to this ministry should be characterised by stability.
2. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate should be be distinguished by integrity of life, zeal, prudence and a knowledge of the maritime world. He should be good at languages and enjoy good health.
3. In order that the chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate be fitted to carry out all aspects of this particular ministry, he should be properly instructed and carefully prepared before being entrusted with this special pastoral work.
4. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate must identify, among local and transient maritime personnel, those who display leadership qualities and help them to deepen their Christian faith, their commitment to Christ and their aptitude for creating and guiding a Christian community on board.
5. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate must identify among maritime personnel those who have a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and train them so that they can be appointed, by the competent authority, as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and be able to exercise this ministry with dignity, especially on board ships.
6. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate should provide pastoral assistance in Stella Maris centres and in other hospitality centres for maritime personnel.
V. 1. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate, by virtue of his office, can perform for the people of the sea all acts pertaining to the care of souls, with the exception of matrimonial matters.
2. The faculties of the chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate are cumulative with those of the parish priest of the territory in which they are actually exercised. For this reason, the chaplain must carry out his pastoral ministry in fraternal understanding with the parish priest of the territory and consult with him.
3. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate must take care to keep a register of those baptised, confirmed and deceased. At the end of the year he must send a report of what has been done to the National Director, described in art. IX, par. 2, together with an authentic copy of the registers, unless the acts were recorded in the registers of the port parish.
VI. All the chaplains of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate, by
virtue of their office, have the following special faculties:
VII. 1. The chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate who is appointed by the competent authority to exercise his ministry on board a ship during a voyage is obliged to offer spiritual assistance to all who are making the voyage, whether by sea, lake or river, from the start of the trip until its conclusion.
2. Can. 566 of the Code of Canon Law remaining in force, the chaplain mentioned in the preceding paragraph has the special faculty of administering the sacrament of Confirmation to any of the faithful during the voyage, as long as there is no Bishop on board who is in proper communion with the Apostolic See and all the canonical presciptions have been fully observed.
3. In order to assist validly and licitly at a marriage during the voyage, the chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate must be delegated by the Ordinary or by the parish priest of the place where one or other of the contracting parties has a domicile or quasi-domicile or has been staying for a least one month, or, if they are transients, by the parish priest of the port parish where they boarded the ship. The chaplain is obliged to report the details of the celebration to the one who delegated him, for recording in the marriage register.
VIII.1. The same authority competent to appoint chaplains can appoint a deacon, a lay faithful or a religious to be a Co-Worker of the chaplain of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate. This Co- Worker assists the chaplain and, in accordance with the law, subsitutes for the chaplain in matters which do not require the ministerial priesthood.
2. Those so appointed to be Co-Workers in the Work of the Maritime Apostolate must be distinguished by integrity of life, prudence and a knowledge of the faith. They should be suitably instructed and carefully trained before this task is entrusted to them.
The direction of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate
IX. 1. In each Episcopal Conference with maritime territory there should be a Bishop-Promoter whose responsibility it is to foster the Work of the Maritime Apostolate. The Episcopal Conference itself will appoint the Bishop-Promoter, preferably from among the bishops of dioceses with ports, indicating the term of his appointment and communicating the details of the appointment to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
2. The Bishop-Promoter will choose a suitable priest and present his name to the Episcopal Conference which will then appoint him, in writing and for a determined period of time, as National Director of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate, with the duties prescribed in art. XI. The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People is to be informed of his name and the duration of his appointment. The National Director may be assisted by a pastoral worker.
X. The tasks of the Bishop Promoter are:
XI. The principal duties of the National Director are:
XII. 1. It is the right and duty of the Bishop of a diocese to show zealous concern for and to offer pastoral assistance to all maritime personnel who reside, even for a short time, within his jurisdiction.
2. The Bishop of a diocese is responsible for:
XIII.1. The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of
Migrants and Itinerant People, which is responsible for the overall
direction of the Work of the Maritime Apostolate, has these principal
2. So that the pastoral care of people of the sea may be better and more effectively organised, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People should encourage and foster cooperation and reciprocal coordination of projects among Episcopal Conferences and local Ordinaries. This same Council will establish relations with institutes of consecrated life and with associations and organisations that can cooperate at the international level with the Work of the Maritime Apostolate.
We order all these things to have lasting effect, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given in Rome at St Peter’s on the thirty-first day of January, nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, the nineteenth year of our Pontificate.
JOHN PAUL II
1. Cf Mt 8:23-27; Mk 4:35-41; Lk 8:22-25
2. Cf Mt 14:22-33; Mk 6:47-52; Jn 6:16-21
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