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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 106 (Suppl.-I), April 2008




of Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO

Secretary of the Pontifical Council

(Gdynia, Poland, Mass of St. John the Baptist, June 24, 2007)


According to an ancient Russian legend, one day all contacts between heaven and earth were interrupted.  So God convened the Assembly of the Saints and decided to send Saint Nicholas and Saint Cassian to earth to re-establish links and find out what was going on down here.  God recommended only one thing to them: “do not soil your white clothes, the symbol of your holiness”, as we can also read in the Apocalypse.

The two Saints found themselves on the immense Russian plain and they met up with a peasant who asked them to help him pull his cart out of the tracks in the road where it was stuck, in the mud.  But what would become of their white clothes?  Saint Nicholas helped the peasant and got covered with mud.  Saint Cassian did not want to get dirty and so he did not take part in the work of charity.  When their mission was over, they went back to God, anxious to know how He would judge what they had done.

God praised Saint Nicholas – as you can well imagine, for his love and charity – and rewarded him by giving him two feast days during the liturgical year.  And Saint Cassian?  He was a saint and so he could not be removed from the rolls of the Saint, but God decided that his feast day would be on February 29th, so that it would not be celebrated every year …

You have surely understood that God does not need Saints to find out what is happening on earth, but the legend has its moral.

And in the West?  Here Saint John the Baptist is also entitled to two feast days in the liturgical calendar, which really attests to this Saint’s exceptional character.

It is a fine coincidence for us, therefore, that the first Eucharist of this Congress is celebrated on the day of the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist about whom Jesus himself said, “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John” (Lk 7:28).

This Congress is dedicated to the Apostleship of the Sea’s responsibility to give witness to its hope.  And Saint John the Baptist is indeed the witness to hope par excellence, the one who “was sent from God…to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn 1:6-9).  In the history of salvation, John the Baptist’s role was to reveal the presence of the Messiah, the hope of Israel’s liberation, in view of the salvation of all peoples.

John the Baptist was chosen for a unique mission: to prepare the paths of the Lord in order to help people to welcome the promised Messiah, who came to set up the Kingdom of God, the sovereignty of God, in a spiritual sense, as Pope Benedict says in his book “Jesus of Nazareth”.  He was responsible for announcing the Messiah’s imminent coming and he did this both through his words and his lifestyle.  His unique destiny is highlighted by his extraordinary conception; he found himself between the New and the Old Testaments; his mother, Elizabeth, is presented to us as a new Sara; and he, when he was very young, withdrew into the desert to get ready for his mission.

John the Baptist is the one who identified Jesus in the people’s extremely difficult reality, and he was able to do this because he was a free man impassioned by truth.  During his short lifetime, he always remained faithful to his principles.  He refused to let himself pass for what he was not; for him, truth was synonymous with humility.  He was not the Messiah, Elijah or the great prophet that was awaited: “When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, ‘I am not the Messiah’” (Jn 1:19-20).  In his need for truth, he would humbly step aside before the spouse, his friend, because Jesus was the Messiah and he was just the Master’s servant who was unworthy to untie his sandal.  His humility and desire for truth were such that he even pointed out the Lamb of God and let his disciples leave him in order to follow Jesus because “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Can we say the same, in relation with Jesus, in relation with our brothers and sisters?

In his commentary on the Gospel of St. John, St. Cyril of Alexandria uses a beautiful expression to describe John the Baptist’s situation with respect to Jesus: John the Baptist is a lamp that does not shine with its own flame, but with the light of Jesus, the only Son, who glows with the Father’s light.  So John the Baptist only defined himself in relation to his mission, which was to prepare the way for “the one who is coming after me”.  He does not own the Word selfishly; he is an instrument at its service; he is the voice of one crying in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mt 3:3).

In order to prepare hearts for the Lord’s coming, he preached conversion.  John the Baptist’s message achieved its goal and prepared the paths of the Lord: first, through the life witness that accompanied his message as we would say today, “The medium is for him the message!”.  Then, John the Baptist also listened to the people of his times.  He knew the inner sufferings and aspirations of those oppressed people who were awaiting liberation.  He brought them the hope they were waiting for, the hope of the prophets, even if he was in another waiting line with respect to the revelation that came from Jesus’ words and actions.

In John the Baptist’s example, will we be capable today of identifying the aspirations and expectations of our contemporaries in the light of the Word of God?  Will we be capable of revealing Jesus’ presence in our midst, especially to the poor and to people of good will?  Will they in turn be able to recognize Jesus in the message that we announce to them? For us also “is the medium the message”?

In the great biblical tradition, we know that a prophet is neither a magician nor someone who predicts the future in a simple way like in a photo.  His role is to read the signs of the times and, in God’s name, to announce and denounce.  John the Baptist is found in this tradition.  We see these two functions in him.

At the risk of his life, John the Baptist denounced sin, corruption, injustice and debauchery.  John did not hesitate to denounce Herod, the “fox”, for which he would be put to death in the end and give the most beautiful witness of all, the one of a martyr (Cf. Mt 14).  He called for a change in mentality: “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance” (Mt 3:8).  These words are still up-to-date today because we know that also in the maritime and fishing worlds there are still many mountains to lower, ravines to cross and winding passages to straighten.  “What then should we do?” (Lk 3:10), the crowds asked the Baptist, and he sent every one, every category of person, back to his duty in his own profession and lifestyle: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise … Stop collecting more than what is prescribed … Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages” (Lk 3:11-14). Wonderful!

Finally, he proclaimed the Good News that Jesus was already here in our midst, that He precedes us and brings a message of hope to all people of good will and all those who are suffering. He said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened” (Mt 11:28-29).  John the Baptist also had to recognize the proof of Jesus’ messianism in his actions and miracles among the blind, the crippled and even the dead, as well as in his meekness and his forgiveness of sinners (cf. Lk 7:22-23).

To be a Christian, therefore, to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, does not only concern our private life; it must lead also to being committed to building a more just and fraternal society.  We cannot remain in the sacristies. And in this vision we are consoled by Pope Benedict. In our apostolate, we too must maintain the two aspects of the prophetic function: we cannot separate the proclamation of the Gospel and the commitment to justice in favor of integral, human promotion.  Our apostolate is not limited in one sense or the other.  Disincarnated preaching of the Gospel, which would ignore the aspirations to justice and a more dignified life, would not be credible or correct; on the other hand, to reduce the proclamation of Jesus Christ to the sole denunciation of injustices and the system would not be acceptable either, as confirmed at Aparecida by our Holy Father.  Here again the conjunction “and” is a Catholic one: this and that, not this or that.

Today the mission is entrusted to us in particular to continue Jesus’ mission and reveal the Good News of God’s presence, action and love, through His Spirit, in the maritime world where we are also witnesses daily to unjust situations, exploitation and oppressive structures, all those “less than human conditions” (Populorum Progressio, 20), which prevent man from developing integrally.  We will do this by giving witness to the fact that suffering, struggle, death, in a word all the sufferings of life, takes on a new meaning through Christian hope, because the Resurrection gives suffering and the cross their meaning and realization.  There is the “Pascha anastasimos” and the “Pascha sterosimos” – as our Oriental brethren say –, that is Easter of passion and Easter of Resurrection. Only one Easter, therefore, of passion and resurrection.  Our witness can have painful consequences for us, but Jesus and John the Baptist also had to undergo the persecutions of their contemporaries for their disturbing words and actions.

However, to be real witnesses to hope who are both credible and reliable, like John the Baptist, it is important for our hope to not be a vague, optimistic, sentiment or desire, but an essential component of our Christian life.  So our pastoral approach will consist in scrutinizing the realities that people live in order to detect in them the “signs of the times” and the seeds of the Kingdom, the “seeds of the Word” (cf. Erga migrantes caritas Christi, 96).  Like John the Baptist who prepared for his mission for a long time, this also implies formation for us, and personal and community reflection.  Therefore, it is important for the Apostleship of the Sea, as an ecclesial Organization, to set aside time – as we are doing during this Congress – for:

  • Listening to the Word of God.  The members should let themselves be nourished and questioned by the Word of God through the interpretation of the Church, but also by deepening it personally and sharing it as a group;
  • Prayer focused on the Eucharist.  In communion with God, in prayer and in the Sacraments (cf. “Sacramentum caritatis”) a group of Christians draws its strength and finds the reason of its commitment;
  • Sharing responsibilities, with respect for each one’s role, in order to respond to the forms of poverty, whether material, spiritual, moral or familiar. Carrying each other’s burdens, welcome and hospitality are, according to St. Paul, the expression of the law of Christ (Cf. Gal 6:2), the law of love.

This is what sustains and enables us to remain faithful, to stay the course, so that our chaplaincy teams will be real, believing communities where all the actors or agents of our ministry will collaborate closely in the service (diakonia) of the people of the sea.

In today’s world, there are many people who are counting on our prayers and many situations that are waiting for our commitment and support.  May the feast of St. John the Baptist be the occasion for us for a new impetus of pastoral charity, which, in his example, will inspire us to be real heralds of the Gospel and to feed the sheep in the maritime world.  Let us be capable of saying to our brothers and sisters, especially the most unfortunate ones, that only God can allow every human hope to be completely fulfilled in the end, and no one to be excluded from the Kingdom and hence from his love and mercy.  If God allows evil, it is to derive a greater good from it.  Here we find the philosophical and theological response to the problem of evil in the world.

Before the immensity of the task, we are aware of our smallness and that we can do nothing by ourselves.  In a few moments, however, we will receive Communion and thus become the “Body of Christ”, according to Saint Augustine’s beautiful expression: “Become what you receive” (Sermon 272).  Then everything will be possible because it is the fulfillment of the promise that the Lord is always with us along the way and that He remains in us: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

With Mary, the Stella Maris, the “Eucharistic Woman”—as the Servant of God John Paul II called her—during this Congress and in our lives, let us give thanks to the Lord for the sea that has already been crossed, the road that has already been traveled, and for all the men and women who have dedicated themselves in and for this apostolate who are now in the ocean of the Father’s love.

We entrust to the Lord our Congress, all those men and women taking part in it, and those who have helped us to carry it out.  Amen.



 Arcybiskupa Tadeusza Gocłowskiego

na zakończenie XXII Światowego Kongresu Ludzi Morza w Gdyni


           Puck, 28 czerwca 2007 r.

 „Ty Jesteś Piotr – Opoka i na tej Opoce

zbuduję mój Kościół (Mt 16,18).

Tymi słowami Chrystusa Rybak z Galilei, Patron Ludzi Morza,

stał się Opoką na której Chrystus zbudował swój Kościół.




Drodzy Prezbiterzy i Diakoni

Siostry i Bracia 

1.  Corocznie wypływaliśmy w dzisiejszą uroczystość na tę Zatokę i corocznie sprawowaliśmy uroczystą Eucharystię w tym porcie, modląc się za Kościół i za Ludzi Morza. Żadna dziedzina powołania do ludzkiej pracy nie została tak wyróżniona przez Chrystusa, jak praca ludzi morza, którym patronuje Piotr – Rybak z Galilei, widzialna Głowa Kościoła. Dotychczas to nasze modlitewne spotkanie na Zatoce Puckiej nie miało tylu i tak niezwykłych uczestników, którzy przybyli do nas ze wszystkich kontynentów z Księdzem Kardynałem Renato Martino, który kieruje dwoma Radami Papieskimi z ramienia Ojca Świętego Benedykta XVI. Przeżywamy bowiem w Gdyni XXII Światowy Kongres Ludzi Morza. To jedyne tego typu wydarzenie w tej części naszego europejskiego kontynentu.

Puck, w swej długiej historii, zawsze związany z morzem, zawsze związany z Apostołami Piotrem i Pawłem, pozostawał w głębokiej więzi z Kościołem i był miastem, które z morzem wiązało swe losy. Dziś Kościół rewanżuje się temu miastu, Kaszubom, rybakom za tę wielowiekową wierność. 

2.  Drodzy uczestnicy kongresu!  Siostry i bracia! Rozpoczęliśmy nasz Kongres w uroczystość św. Jana Chrzciciela, a kończymy w tę niezwykłą uroczystość Świętych Apostołów Piotra i Pawła. Wprowadził nas w tę pracę Poprzednik Chrystusa, a idą z nami na cały świat: do Waszych pięknych krajów Apostołowie Piotr i Paweł. Wasza obecność świadczy o uniwersalizmie Kościoła, który głosi nieustannie Ewangelię, sprawuje Eucharystię i podejmuje Diakonię, i to jest temat naszego Kongresu. Czego świat dziś najbardziej potrzebuje? Nadziei, która płynie z osobistego świadectwa, podejmowanego w klimacie solidarności. Piotr Rybak jest gwarantem przez wiarę i miłość siły jego fundamentu, opoki na której zbudowany jest Kościół. Paweł, wielki podróżnik po ówczesnym świecie mówi w cytowanym dziś Drugim Liście do Tymoteusza: „Pan stanął przy mnie i wzmocnił mnie, żeby przeze mnie dopełniło się głoszenie Ewangelii i żeby wszystkie narody je posłyszały” (2 Tym 4,17). Sprawą niezwykłej wagi jest to, by Pan był przy nas, i my byśmy byli blisko Pana. Ważne są wszystkie struktury socjalne, do których mają prawo ludzie morza. One są gwarantem należnych praw, tak często naruszanych, na skutek egoizmu ludzkiego. Ale nie obronimy człowieka jeśli tego ładu ekonomicznego i społecznego nie oprzemy na Jezusie Chrystusie, który liczy na naszą mądrość, odpowiedzialność i wrażliwość i przez swą Ewangelię jest gwarantem tych wszystkich wartości. 

3.  Siostry i Bracia ! Dlaczego jest z nami Ksiądz Kardynał, są z nami Księża Biskupi, kapłani, apostołowie świeccy? Czy Kościół musi się tymi sprawami zajmować? Odpowiedź na to pytanie daje nam Ojciec Święty Benedykt XVI, który w swej encyklice „Deus Caritas est” pisze: „Kościół jako rodzina Boża, powinien być dziś, tak jak wczoraj, miejscem wzajemnej pomocy i równocześnie miejscem gotowości do służenia wszystkim potrzebującym pomocy, nawet tym, którzy pozostają poza nim” ( DCE n.32). Takim jest Kościół, to znaczy my, którzy jesteśmy Jego Mistycznym Ciałem. Ale to nie może być tylko teoretyczne założenie i dlatego Ojciec Święty w tym samym dokumencie stwierdza: „Kto kocha Chrystusa, kocha Kościół i pragnie, aby Kościół coraz bardziej był wyrazem i narzędziem miłości, która od niego emanuje” (n. 33). 

4.  Wy Siostry i Bracia, którzy modlicie się z nami w tę odpustową uroczystość Ludzi Morza doskonale wiecie co oznaczają te wielkie słowa: Ludzie Morza. Pozwólcie, że przywołam słowa z artykułu „L’Osservatore Romano” – dziennikarza watykańskiego, który w tych dniach tak pisze: „dziedzina, którą się w tej chwili zajmujemy nie ma charakteru marginalnego. Morze jest źródłem utrzymania dla wielkiej części ludności świata. Ponad 40 milionów ludzi żyje wyłącznie z rybołówstwa. W marynarce handlowej jest zatrudnionych ponad milion dwieście tysięcy pracowników, w większości katolików, którzy pochodzą z krajów mniej faworyzowanych w świecie. Drogą morską dokonuje się ponad dziewięćdziesiąt procent światowego handlu. Dodajmy więc, że jest to sektor bardzo szeroki, a równocześnie dotyczy prac najbardziej niebezpiecznych w świecie, jak to nieustannie odnotowują wiadomości dotyczące katastrof morskich i nieszczęść dotyczących życia ludzkiego” (L’Osservatore Romano 23.VI.2007). 

5.  Wy, mieszkańcy ziemi Kaszubskiej, ziem nadmorskich wiecie, co to jest morze, jakie jest jego piękno i potęga. To do Was dziś przybyli uczestnicy Kongresu, by cieszyć się Waszą wiarą, Waszą tradycją, Waszą więzią z Kościołem. Współczesny Następca Piotra Rybaka papież Benedykt XVI pisze w swej książce: „Morze, jako zdumiewająca i w swym majestacie podziwiana potęga, przede wszystkim jednak budząca lęk, jako antypody ziemi i życiowej przestrzeni człowieka. Stwórca wyznaczył morzu granice, których nie wolno nam przekraczać: nie może pochłonąć ziemi” (Jezus z Nazaretu, Kraków 2007, s.203). Z tą rzeczywistością związał Chrystus swój Kościół, który, jak okręt płynie po morzach i oceanach świata. Sternikiem tego okrętu jest sam Chrystus. Musimy dbać o piękno i bezpieczeństwo tego okrętu. Musimy zaufać Boskiemu Kapitanowi tego Okrętu. Chcemy kochać Kościół. Razem z Wami mówimy naszym Siostrom i Braciom, którym służymy w Waszych Krajach na całej ziemi, że Chrystus, ten Boży Nawigator wyznacza nam pewną drogę i sam jest Drogą, którą oświetla Gwiazda Morza, tak bliska sercu Ludu Kaszubskiego.

 Tą wspólnotą wiary i miłości chcemy nadal pozostać we współczesnym świecie, by w ten sposób przez nas dopełniło się głoszenie Ewangelii i żeby wszystkie narody je posłyszały. Amen.



H.E. Mgr. Jabulani Nxumalo, OMI

AOS Bishop Promoter, South Africa

Mary the Daughter of Abraham 

This season, the liturgy proposes to us the reading of the Abraham Cycle: the call, his journey, God’s promise to him and his covenant.  Abraham comes from the obscurity of history in the sense that by the very fact that God calls him, God creates a new man, a principle, a point of depart for the story of faith in the one true God.  Abraham’s journey is a process in the emergence of pure faith in God in the story of the human race.

At this point of our reading, we encounter Abraham at the moment of a long  journey,  an unfolding of the  response to God’s call, and invitation to leave his country to a new country, a land of promise. To put our reading in context, we learn that Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans as the Lord had told him (Gen.12:1 – 12). This is a key statement and comment on Abraham’s action. There was no hesitation, wrangling or argument. “So Abraham went as Yahweh had told him.”  Its done as told. The next statement, chapter 12:9 “The Abraham made his way stage by stage towards the Negev.” Abraham traversed the very country he had been promised to inherit, he leaves it behind, and goes to the Negev.

 This movement and journey are the unfolding of the response to the call, and this journey is both geographical and an internal spiritual journey. But the most important is the internal spiritual journey along which we all have been called to travel. Up to this point there is no explicit comment on the part of the author about the faith of Abraham. Abraham’s journey, by implication, is not simply a geographical translocation by a journey through the mystery of life and relationship with God.

 Today’s  reading  displays the dialogue between God and his servant Abraham along the journey. This is one of the stages of Abraham’s journey. The Lord promises Abraham, once more, that his progeny will inherit the land.  He dialogues but he listens to the mystery in which he has been made to journey and travel with clear answers. The mystery unfolds  through the dialogue as he listens to the Word of God. There is a spiritual exchange of thoughts between God and his servant. This leads to a breakthrough which is faith in the Word of the Lord. The author of Genesis writes: “Abraham put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.”(Gen. 15:6).

To describe Abraham’s faith one could borrow Richard Rhor’s apt words when he says of the faith of Job in God: “I know I don’t have a chance” says Job “I know God is right somehow; I do not understand how in this instance he is right. I am willing to wait.” (Job and the Mystery of Suffering, 2004, p. 74). The climax of the journey as we know is the “Aqaeda” the binding of Isaac. The Lord asked him to sacrifice his only beloved son, Isaac. That was the climax of the test of his faith and the elevation of Abraham as the Father of all believers. He is unique.

 Having looked briefly at Abraham’s journey of faith, we now pass on to the new dispensation and we come across Mary the Mother of Jesus and Our Mother in faith. She is the only person, either in the Old Testament or in the New Testament who is the true daughter of Abraham, whose faith matches his faith. Try and inquire the Scriptures and find out if you could ever  find a person even among the prophets, with such a unique faith as that of Abraham. Abraham is the model of faith for he believed in God. But no one else, in the Old Testament dispensation stands out like Abraham, even Moses, in spite of his great achievements as the servant of God, a man who saw God face to face, as it is said. However, in the New Dispensation we encounter a woman in the name of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is the model of faith and the first disciple of Jesus in the New Testament. She is the daughter of Abraham par excellence.

But what about Moses, a great man who delivered Israel from bondage? We read the story of the rebellious people against Moses and the story of the water from the rock. The Lord had commanded him to command the rock to release water for the people to drink.  Moses struck the rock twice with hesitation, for he doubted. The Lord reproached him for his lack of faith and not having firm trust in him (Numbers 20:6 -13).

Once again just compare the story of Zecharia and Mary, the stories of annunciation of the births of John and Jesus respectively. We might say that Zecharia stands in contrast to Abraham in his reaction to the Angel Gabriel. The declaration of the angel did not make any sense to him and could not believe even though the message came from God. He lacked the virtue of the quality of faith of Abraham. Abraham believed what the Lord had said he would do.

St Paul says in the Letter to the Romans: “Against all hope Abraham believed that he would still be the father of many nations on the ground that God’s promise would be fulfilled: ‘Your offspring will be so many like the stars of heaven. And Abraham’s faith did not become weak although he was aware this his bodily strength was gone and was about one hundred years old, and his wife Sarah could not have children anymore.” (Rom. 4:18 – 19). Zechariah stands in contrast to Abraham in the matter of faith.

Six months later the Angel appeared to Mary and announced to her that the Lord has favoured her and that she would become a mother of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary just believed: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.”  Mary’s faith, like the faith of Abraham, allows free space for the action of God in her life though she did not understand what was going one. The words of Job could be modified and rendered thus: “I know God is right somehow; I do not understand how in this instance it will happen. But I know he will fulfil his Word.” This is Mary’s faith. She is praised and lauded by her cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah: “Blessed are you for you believed what the Lord would do.” (Luke 1:45).  Mary’s journey was like that of her ancestor Abraham, it was  not a geographical translocation, but the journey of the heart. Her journey is the journey of the Word  which unfolded in her heart and life. She listened to words and events and kept them in her heart. She lived by intense interior reflection. If Mary does not understand at all the mystery of Jesus, her intelligence and memory enter the process of gradual maturation in the understanding of  the life and the mission of her Son; she welcomes the Word of God.

The Story of the Faith of  Abraham and the Story of the Faith of Mary are our stories of the journey of faith.



S.E. Mons. Józef KOWALCZYK

Nunzio Apostolico in Polonia


Esci dal tuo paese, dalla tua patria
e dalla casa di tuo padre, verso

il paese che io ti indicherň (Gen 12, 1) 

1. Saluto cordialmente i Superiori del Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti, l’Arcivescovo Metropolita di Gdańsk, Mons. Gocłowski, gli organizzatori e tutti i partecipanti a questo Convegno. Durante questa Celebrazione Eucaristica, alla quale partecipano i rappresentanti dei vari ambiti dell’Apostolato del Mare di tutto il mondo, siamo invitati a meditare sul brano tratto dal Libro della Genesi, che nel suo contenuto esprime l’essenza della condizione dell’uomo. Il brano scritturistico intende sottolineare la relazione diretta esistente tra Dio e l’uomo: questo č la condizione privilegiata cui la natura umana č chiamata: essere in relazione con Dio. Dio, nella logica del Mistero dell’Incarnazione, si rivolge sempre all’uomo con pieno rispetto, considerando la sua libertŕ e non stravolgendo le di lui capacitŕ cognitive. Ma Iddio č essenzialmente Padre: dirige la vita dell’uomo, abbracciandola nel Suo Mistero d’amore. “Esci dal tuo paese verso il paese che io ti indicherň”: questa parola rivolta ad Abramo č spesso la parola che Dio rivolge anche a voi, uomini del mare. Siete voi, piů di chiunque altra categoria su questa terra, chiamati a lasciare le vostre terre e andare, navigare, sperare. Siete trascinati dalla forza del mare: “navigare necesse est”, dice la gente del mare!

2. “Abramo levň la tenda per accamparsi nel Negheb”. Questa levarsi-andare-ristabilirsi rappresenta la condizione necessaria in Abramo per realizzare il piano divino. E anche noi cristiani, uomini e donne, siamo chiamati a questo paradigma della vita cristiana ogni qual volta ci leviamo in ascolto della Parola per stabilirci nella Volontŕ divina. E proprio qui, a Gdynia, non possiamo non rievocare quell’avvenimento storico, avvenuto esattamente 20 anni fa, l’11 giugno 1987, quando il Servo di Dio Giovanni Paolo II visitava questa cittŕ portuale ed il successivo 12 giugno, a Gdańsk, dove per la Santa Messa papale si riunirono qualche centinaio di migliaia dei fedeli, momento storico che ridette vita a Solidarność. Gli abitanti di questa bella cittadina giudicano il mare una forza naturale che fa parte della loro vita, del loro ambiente e con il quale convivono bene. Dal mare viene il lavoro, la ricchezza, da questi fondali viene l’ambra, pietra preziosa di queste regioni baltiche! Agli abitanti di questa cittŕ č venuto un Pescatore: Giovanni Paolo II. Egli nella circostanza della sua visita ebbe a dire: “Il mare parla senza parole. Parla con il linguaggio di sconfinata lontananza. Parla anche del linguaggio dell’abisso”. Ma Giovanni Paolo II, nella sua anima di fine poeta, sempre perň ebbe modo di raggiungere lo scopo pastorale preciso, cioč parlare al cuore e alla vita degli uomini concreti, incarnati in una storia. Disse in quell’occasione: “L’uomo della civiltŕ odierna č minacciato dalla malattia della superficialitŕ, dal pericolo di banalizzazione. Bisogna impegnarsi per ricuperare la profonditŕ, quella profonditŕ che č propria dell’essere umano” (11 giugno 1987). Il Papa ha parlato poi della specificitŕ del mare che tanto ha a che fare con la vita dell’uomo. Ha parlato della profonditŕ della veritŕ, della libertŕ, della giustizia e della pace. E chi sono gli uomini del mare? Pescatori, marinai, lavoratori dei cantieri navali, marittimi, portuali, lavoratori sulle navi turistiche e mercantili, gente della marina di guerra. La Chiesa vuol essere vicina a tutti loro, come alla gente che č in viaggio e lavora in circostanze particolari. E fu proprio il grande figlio di questa terra, il Servo di Dio Giovanni Paolo II, a voler promulgare un documento speciale, “Stella Maris” (L’Osservatore Romano N. 4-5/1997), nel quale delineava la cura pastorale della gente del mare.

3. Desidero esprimere la mia gioia e gratitudine per il fatto che il Congresso Mondiale dell’Apostolato del Mare ha luogo a Gdynia, una cittŕ-simbolo, che, avendo soltanto 81 anni, č giovane nei confronti di altre cittŕ polacche, ma č diventata simbolo eloquente della lotta per l’uomo e i suoi diritti. Ho appreso con attenzione e soddisfazione il tema di questo Congresso Mondiale: “In solidarietŕ con la gente del mare, come i testimoni della speranza, mediante la proclamazione della parola, la liturgia e la diaconia”. Esso ha nella sostanza la problematica missionaria per eccellenza, dato che proprio gli uomini del mare sono chiamati a portare alla gente la speranza mediante la parola, la vita sacramentale e la testimonianza dell’amore. Questa č una concreta realizzazione della fondamentale missione cristiana tramandataci dallo stesso Signore. L’essere testimoni di Cristo Risorto mediante la parola della testimonianza, mediante l’esemplare vita religiosa e mediante la sensibilitŕ ai bisogni dell’uomo, č questa la risposta immediata dei cristiani alle ansie dei nostri contemporanei. Voi avete un influsso particolarmente su due ambienti: sui vostri colleghi di lavoro e su quanti incontrate nei porti del mondo. E ambedue gli ambienti esigono una testimonianza cristiana autentica e visibile.

4. Perň, cari uomini del mare, penso a voi con una stima tutta particolare, quando mi rendo conto delle condizioni talvolta precarie della vostra vita e del vostro lavoro, che inevitabilmente si proiettano anche sulle vostre famiglie, sulle vostre mogli e sui vostri figli. I partecipanti al Congresso, venuti da tutto il mondo, lavorano e vivono in condizioni molto differenti da luogo a luogo. Sempre perň vivete per le famiglie, che certamente sentono la nostalgia per la vostra lontananza fisica. E questo esige da parte vostra una rinnovata e continua determinazione nella salvaguardia dei vincoli familiari e della fedeltŕ, forza umana e cristiana che rende autentico e maturo il vostro amore.

5. Con stima e gratitudine mi rivolgo, infine, ai Cappellani e agli operatori laici dei Centri “Stella Maris”. Una casa lontano da casa: questo vostro motto, cari amici, esprime molto bene la vostra solidarietŕ con la gente che vive lontano dagli affetti domestici ed č esempio di caritŕ cristiana per noi tutti. Ogni uomo vi č vicino, perché in ognuno vedete Cristo. E ne date prova ricevendo nei Centri gli uomini del mare, indipendente dalla loro nazionalitŕ, lingua e religione. La sollecitudine non si riduce esclusivamente per i bisogni spirituali, ma anche per le questioni sociali, umane e culturali. Spero che nei lavori del Congresso possiate affrontare l’enormitŕ di questi problemi, certo che lo scambio delle esperienze potrŕ concorrere ad un rinnovato slancio e rilancio dell’attivitŕ di questi benemeriti Centri pastorali.

Cari uomini del mare, in senso largo! Nel Vangelo di oggi Cristo mette grandi esigenze e rinnovate speranze riguardanti i nostri rapporti con gli altri. E la veritŕ, il rispetto per l’uomo, la solidarietŕ con Lui sono sempre i pilastri fondamentali. Sono i valori, questi, che sono vicini e condivisi da ogni uomo. Queste virtů naturali acquistano un valore particolare quando vengono alimentate dall’amore evangelico. E l’uomo contemporaneo ne č particolarmente sensibile. Che ogni nave, ogni porto diventino per voi occasione per portare la speranza mediante la parola, il comportamento religioso e la benevolenza pratica nei confronti dell’uomo a motivo dell’amore di Dio.

Infine, rinnovando la mia gratitudine per l’invito odierno, formulo i piů fraterni voti augurali perché questo Convegno incoraggi ed alimenti di cristiana speranza la missione dei cappellani e dei volontari nel loro impegno pastorale. Amen.