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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 99, December 2005



Sea Sunday - July 10, 2005


A Message from the Pontifical Council


As we celebrate Sea Sunday, our hearts and thoughts go to all seafarers, fishers, cruise ships personnel and passengers, port workers, sail competitions and yachting people, and their families. On this occasion we are reminded of the debt our society owes to these workers, as “we depend on them” to ensure the transportation of almost everything we use or consume, to receive food from the sea or to enjoy our lives. In fact more than 90% of the trade and commercial exchanges between nations is done by sea. Achieving this demands a great amount of courage, expertise, sacrifice and professionalism and yet the great majority of seafarers feel that their contribution to world economy is neither recognized nor justly rewarded.

Thus, in spite of the efforts of agencies such as the IMO, ILO and the FAO and of the protests of many Unions and NGOs, there are still many unresolved situations affecting the life and dignity especially of fishers and seafarers.Sufferings, specifically of people on the move, are caused in great part by the violation of human rights, notwithstanding the fact that society has an obligation to create the conditions, also for all of them, to live peacefully and decently.

Evermore, recently, we have been witnesses of increasing and unjustified detention and criminalisation of seafarers. There have been also many reports from our chaplains and pastoral agents complaining that access to the crew of the ships is becoming more and more difficult, even for pastoral reasons. Last year there were widespread protests also on the restriction to seafarers shore leave, but so far there have been no immediate significant improvements of such situation.

We are evermore all aware that HIV/AIDS represents a human catastrophe of large scale and we must admit that seafarers and fishers, and other categories alike, who travel all over the world as a community face grave risks. Therefore, as far as this pandemic is concerned, it is our duty to be aware of the problem and to combat it. Thus I encourage AOS around the world to resolutely engage itself, in conformity with the moral teaching of the Church, in the formation of the people concerned and to challenge discrimination and marginalisation, wherever it exists, towards those living with HIV/AIDS. In fact we must show them unwavering solidarity. Pope John Paul II spoke several times against any discriminatory treatment of people suffering from HIV/AIDS, and once he declared: “God loves you all without distinction, without limit. He loves those of you who are sick, those suffering from AIDS. He loves the friends and relatives of the sick and those who care for them. He loves all with an unconditional and everlasting love” (Address given at “Mission Dolores” Basilica, San Francisco, 17th September 1987).

Among other things, may we remember that the concept of “fair trade” is progressing slowly but surely in many parts of the world. A growing number of consumers are being sensitized to it. So, because sea transport is an essential part of international trade, has the time not come to extend the notion of “fair trade” to maritime transport, fishing and other categories alike?

On this auspicious day I would like to say again to the People of the Sea the resolute commitment and solidarity of the Church with them and their families. I commend the chaplains, pastoral agents and volunteers for their commitment. Let us always be guided by these words of the Apostle Paul: “Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good” (Romans 12:21). It was a passage of the Holy Scripture repeated frequently by Pope John Paul II.

May Our Lady, the “Stella Maris”, be always our model and our “compass”, may She intercede for us so that we may be protected fromevery risk and danger.

God bless you and protect you all!


Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao





                                     + Archbishop Agostino Marchetto