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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 87, December 2001


“Apostleship of the Sea 
in a new Globalised World”

Rev. Fr Gérard TRONCHE,M.Afr. 
Official of the Pontifical Council

[French summary, Spanish summary]


The world in which the People of the Sea live and work today mayseem to many not to have changed much from what it was when, in 1997, maritime people and members of the Apostleship of the Sea were invited to reflect on their vocation as “Co-Workers with God in Creation”[1]. This was the theme of the XX° World Congress of Apostolatus Maris which took place in Davao, Philippines,in October of that year 1997. 

The issue of true development which should be respectful of both human and natural resources is still relevant today since, as the Holy Father said at the beginning of this year 2001 in his address to the Vatican Diplomatic corps, “if people upset the balance of creation, forgetting that they are responsible for their brothers and sisters, and do not care for the environment which the Creator has placed in their hands,then a world determined by our designs alone could well become unliveable.”[2] 

This should not happen. The Pope himself does not want to believe it will happen and he said so in his message for the 2001 World Day of Peace, two weeks earlier, speaking ofthe “growing hope that relationships between people will be increasingly inspired by the ideal of a truly universal brotherhood”[3]

Dangers and hopes

Economic globalisation has brought the considerable changes that have occurred in the ownership, the financing and the management of shipping and fishing fleets, and in the way that ships are registered and controlled. Globalisation often goes hand in hand with deregulation. “Truly universal brotherhood” is far from being the motor of economic globalisation. Most seafarers whose very profession separates them from their family, their home ground and their home Church, often experience in their work and in their daily lives the harsh consequences of this evolution. It has not only brought problems to crews at sea and on land, it has also brought new problems to shore personnel, to port cities and it has brought problems even to the national economies of many developing countries. 

The new globalisation of trade and commerce has however also provided new opportunities and new means of communication and dialogue, even new opportunities for promoting solidarity. Those can be used in working for a true development, not only sustainable but balanced, which will integrate both the human dimension (social and spiritual) of development and the economic dimension. It is the progress in communications which has made global business possible. This progress in communications should not only benefit economic growth, it should also facilitate its fair and equitable distribution. The very people who want to fight globalisation at all cost are themselves using global systems of communication. Whatever assessment can be made of the two events which took place recently and simultaneously in Davos, Swizerland, and Porto Allegre, Brazil, both the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum could take place in 2001 and they could have the mediatic impact they wanted, only because the globalisation of transport and of communication made it possible! 

The maritime world is vast, theproblems are many, the AOS has long worked in co-operation with other Christian maritime organisations, on the waterfront and through the International Christian Maritime Association, I.C.M.A., for the wellbeing of seafarers and their families. Many valuable initiatives are being undertaken regarding maritime labour by responsible trade-unions, ship operators and international organisations. They have and will contribute greatly to protect and to enhance the rights of seafarers in this new globalised world.

The XXI° World Congress of Apostolatus Maris

“Apostleship of the Sea in a new Globalised World” is the theme of the forthcoming XXI° World Congress of Apostolatus Maris, which will take place in October 2002. The theme was chosen by Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, who has the responsibility for the overall direction of Apostolatus Maris. This was done after consultation with the eight Regional Co-ordinators of the Apostleship of the Sea in the world and several experts, called for a special meeting in Rome on January 29thand 30th, 2001. The XXI° Congress will take place in South America, a Region where no Congress has ever been held in the 80 year history of the Apostleship of the Sea. It was also decided during this meeting that the Congress would be held in Brazil, at Rio de Janeiro. This great port-city has many merits, and especially the merit of being where the historical “Rio Declaration” was elaborated and proclaimed by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, (UNCED), in 1992. This declaration recognises “the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home” and proclaims as the first principle in all global development policies, that “human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development”. This is a good foundation for both pastoral and welfare work anywhere.

Members of the Apostleship of the Sea are aware that globalisation requires certain things from those who want to offer seafarers a useful ministry in practical, social or spiritual matters. It also imposes a lot on, and it requires a lot from, the people of the sea themselves. A common and co-ordinated effort is required to go anywhere! As a first step, it is necessary to consider how some issues or problems which are already known have become more acute because of economic globalisation, and to consider the areas where it brought new situations with new problems, problems which will have to be faced in the future. 

Globalisation is the context in which, today, the Apostleship of the Sea has to offer its fraternal support to all seafarers, whatever their culture, civilisation or religion, and to provide tens of thousands Catholics from nearly every country of the world, with the specific pastoral care of the Church[4]to which they have a right. Too often there is no more time for them to have a minimum of rest, to phone home, no time to think or to pray… 

Important issues

The international, intercultural and inter-religious environment where seafarers and all maritime people live and work today, as well as the complexity of relationships in the contemporary global industrial and communication system, make dialogue and the promotion of solidarity at all levels, vital to the wellbeing of the People of the Sea. The challenge facing the Apostleship of the Sea is to be, across land and sea, a better instrument of dialogue and promotor of solidarity, it is to be a reliable gangway wherever it is needed, in the Church and society, at the service of the People of the Sea. This is a challenge which calls for a pro-active role of the Apostleship of the Sea and of the Church.

The following issues were selected by the January meeting in Rome, as especially important and urgent for the Apostleship of the Sea to address. 

The first one is the negative impact economic globalisation has on thefamily of seafarers : in spite of a separation which often goes to an unforeseen length, a healthy family relationship has to be maintained between the seafarer and his/her home; the fundamental needs of the seafarer (and the means at his/her disposal) at sea and those of the family left ashore have to be met.

Globalisation often brings also new dangers for, and new attacks on the dignity of the professionals of the sea, in fishing or shipping: cold corporate financial interests often take decisions causing unemployment, allowing the abandonment of unprotected seafarers, the unbridled exploitation of human and natural resources. The dignity of each person should be the basis of true solidarity, while respecting the human rights of seafarers and their families. “The promotion of justice is at the heart of a true culture of solidarity”[5]

The lack of crew cohesion and the greater isolation of seafarers also constitute an important issue. It can be the isolation of the member of a small crew. It can be the situation of a seafarer who sails among many, but who, in a bigger vessel, is alone in his nationality, culture or religion. People look for a person to talk to, for signs of understanding and solidarity: the tools of globalisation which often increase this isolation could also bring new ways of breaking it, new roads of communication and dialogue. 

The management of port infrastructures is also subject to an ever growing competition in the global market. It tends towards an ever faster and cheaper use of people, bringing greater dangers of fatigue and accidents. It can at times deprive many seafarers of a well deserved pause and of the use of port welfare facilities, where they exist. “Seafarers regularly report cases of physical intimidation, confiscation of passports and illegal confinement to prevent any communication with the outside world when the ship is in port”[6]. The place and the role of the Stella Maris Centres for Seafarers, whether inside or outside the port infrastructures, is, for the AOS leadership and those who are running them, an important issue. 

The fast growing Cruise industry also brings new challenges and particular problems. 

When addressing all these issues, the objective of the Apostleship of the Sea is that of connecting land and sea in solidarity; it is a service of the Church whose vocation is to promote a solidarity embracing people of sea and land, seafarers families and maritime schools, ship operators, maritime agents, port authorities and personnel, immigration and customs officers, and even people beyond the port … There may be people among them, unfortunately too many of course, who see maritime activity, or for their company, as only their means to make as much profit as possible for themselves, whatever the cost to other people. But fortunately there are also many people among port personnel and ship operators who feel that they are “in the same boat” with seafarers, especially when they are themselves former seafarers. They are ready, and only wait to be called, to work with or in the Apostleship of the Sea for more justice and solidarity in the maritime world. 

The Apostleship of the Sea has also a special duty towards those, among the People of the Sea, who are called to “witness to their Christian life”[7]in the maritime environment. To do this, it is important to listen to how they relate to their faith, to their Church, in their own way, in the particular environment and circumstances of their life and work: “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”.(Apostolic Letter Motu ProprioStella Maris [8]).

The growing Shipping and Cruise industry employs an ever bigger number of Catholic Seafarers: Filipinos are in the majority of course, but there are also Polish, Croat, Indians and other Asian or Latin-Americans seafarers. For months on end they are not only away from their families but also from their home parish and from the possibility of attending Mass or receiving the Sacraments… 

If it is true to say that it is detrimental for any Catholic to be deprived for too long of Mass and of the Sacraments, it is certainly as true for Catholic seafarers as much as for people on land. Every effort, therefore, is needed everywhere to provide Catholic Seafarers with what they need most to sustain their Christian living on board, the Eucharist. When fewer priest are available for celebrating Holy Mass on board ships and when seafarers have no time to attend Mass on board or no possibility of going to Church while in port, ship visitors who are also Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are much appreciated in the local Chaplaincies of the Apostleship of the Sea. 

A resolution of the XXth World Congress, following the advice of Cardinal Cheli our former President, agreed to call for a renewal of the Apostleship of the Sea as a membership association, both at the level of a local Chaplaincy and at the national level. This resolution is slowly being implemented. But the day has not yet come for the Apostolatus Maris international network to be transformed into a structured confederation of national associations at world level.

Source of the Commitment of the Apostleship of the Sea to justice and solidarity in/for the Maritime World

This point will be developed mainly with proposals made by Pope John Paul II himself for life in the “new” global village, based on the social doctrine of the Church. The Apostolic Letter written by the Holy Father to celebrate the beginning of the New Millennium[9]is another important source of inspiration for the Apostleship of the Sea. 

“Globalisation, a priori, is neither good nor bad”, the Holy Father says, “it will be what the people make of it”. “If we are faced with a human phenomenon”, said John Paul to the participants of UNIV 2001 University Congress, on April 9, 2001, “this means that it is a ‘sign of our times’ in which one must discover ‘the positive aspects’ and avoid ‘the dangers’”.

For John Paul, the first principle that must govern globalisation is “the inalienable value of the human person, source of all human rights and every social order. The human being must always be an end and nota means, a subject and not an object, nor a commodity of trade” (Address at the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, April 27, 2001). Hence the globalisation of the economy must be followed by the globalisation of genuine human rights.

The Pope had already said several years ago in Centesimus Annus,nr 10, that the principle of solidarity affirms that “the more that individuals are defenceless within a given society, (let us say here, within the maritime world) the more they require the care and concern of others, and in particular the intervention of governmental authority”… 

The third fundamental principle of the social doctrine of the Church according to Pope John Paul which should regulate social interaction in the globalisation process, is the principle of subsidiarity. It is within this frame that “solidarity must be made an integral part of the network of economic, political, and social interdependence which the current process of globalisation is tending to consolidate”. Message on World Day of Peace, Jan 1, 2001. 

John Paul sees a correspondence between the globalization of the economy and the globalisation of solidarity. 

“One of the most notable events of the Jubilee Year in Rome”, records the Holy Father “was the gathering of workers on 1 May, the day traditionally dedicated to the world of work. I asked them to live a spirituality of work in imitation of Saint Joseph and of Jesus himself. That Jubilee gathering also gave me the opportunity to voice a strong call to correct the economic and social imbalances present in the world of work and to make decisive efforts to ensure that the processes of economic globalisation give due attention to solidarity and the respect owed to every human person”.

“Charity of its nature opens out into a service that is universal; it inspires in us a commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being. This too is an aspect which must clearly mark the Christian life, the Church's whole activity and her pastoral planning. A new apostolic outreach is needed, which will be lived as the everyday commitment of Christian communities and groups. This should be done however with the respect due to the different paths of different people and with sensitivity to the diversity of cultures”.

The Holy Father adds in the same Apostolic Letter: “Conscious of the Risen Lord's presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: "What must we do?" (Acts 2:37). We put the question with trusting optimism, but without underestimating the problems we face. We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you! This is a programme which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This programme for all times is our programme for the Third Millennium”. 

“In our own time, there are so many needs which demand a compassionate response from Christians. Our world is entering the new millennium burdened by the contradictions of an economic, cultural and technological progress which offers immense possibilities to a fortunate few, while leaving millions of others not only on the margins of progress but in living conditions far below the minimum demanded by human dignity… Now is the time for a new "creativity" in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by "getting close" to those who suffer, so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters”. 

“The social question has now assumed a global dimension: the ethical and social aspect of the question is an essential element of Christian witness: we must reject the temptation to offer a privatised and individualistic spirituality. Intense prayer does not distract us from our commitment to history: by opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan”. 

To those who think that this is an overwhelming task, the Pope gives a concrete response: “To promote a global culture of those moral absolutes that are the rights of the person”, he told participants in the UNIV 20012 University Congress, April 9, 2001, “it is necessary that each Christian begin with himself, making the effort to reflect in each of his own thoughts and actions the image of Christ, because the world is changed by holiness”.


All those engaged in the Apostleship of the Sea around the world will wish to answer the call of the Holy Father, to open their hearts to the love of God, and thus to become capable of “shaping history”. It is not a small challenge! “Let our hearts ring out with the words of Jesus when one day, after speaking to the crowds from Simon's boat, he invited the Apostle to "put out into the deep" for a catch: "Duc in altum" (Lk 5:4). Peter and his first companions trusted Christ's words, and cast the nets. "When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish" (Lk 5:6).Duc in altum!These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (Heb 13:8). 

The Apostleship of the Sea therefore has not to be afraid, but to look ahead confidently, and "put out into the deep". Trust in the words of Christ and obey Him : Duc in altum! 

[1] Acts of the XX° World Congress: People of the Sea, Co-Workers with God in Creation, Vatican City, 1998
[2]Papal address to Vatican Diplomatic Corps, 14/01/2001
[3]Papal message for World Day of Peace, 01/01/2001
[4]Apostolic Letter Stella Maris, art 1.
[5]Pope’s Message for the 2001 World Day of Peace
[6]Merchant Seafarers’ working and employment conditions, C. Battut, Economic and Social Council, France
[7]Stella Maris art 1
[8]Art 2
[9]Novo Millenio Inuente, January 6, 2001


"L'Apostolat de la Mer à l'heure de la globalisation"


L’auteur souligne d’abord que l’AM partage avec le Saint Père "l'espoir grandissant de voir que les relations entre les peuples seront de plus en plus inspirés par l'idéal d'une vraie fraternité universelle".

La globalisation économique a apporté les grands changements qui ont transformé la propriété, le financement et la gestion des flottes de pêche et de commerce. La plupart des marins font souvent, dans leur travail et dans leur vie quotidienne, l'expérience des dures conséquences de cette évolution.

La nouvelle globalisation du marché et du commerce a aussi fourni de nouvelles opportunités et de nouveaux moyens de communication et de dialogue, et même de nouvelles opportunités de promouvoir la solidarité. Ce progrès dans les communications ne devrait pas profiter uniquement à la croissance économique, il devrait aussi faciliter sa distribution honnête et équitable.

"L'Apostolat de la Mer à l'heure de la globalisation" : tel sera le thème du prochain XXIème Congrès mondial d'Apostolatus Maris, à Rio de Janeiro, en octobre 2002, ville de la fameuse Déclaration historique de Rio par CNUCED en 1992.

La globalisation est le contexte dans lequel l'Apostolat de la Mer doit aujourd'hui offrir son soutien fraternel à tous les marins, quelles que soient leur culture, leur civilisation ou leur religion, et assurer aux dizaines de milliers de catholiques de presque tous les pays du monde, le ministère pastoral spécifique de l'Eglise auquel ils ont droit.

Le défi devant lequel l'Apostolat de la Mer consiste à être, à travers terre et mer, un meilleur instrument de dialogue et de promotion de solidarité ; il doit être une passerelle fiable partout où cela est nécessaire, dans l'Eglise et dans la société, au service des Gens de la Mer. 

Les problèmes suivants sont prioritaires pour l’Apostolat de la Mer et seront étudiés au XXI° Congrès : l'impact négatif de la globalisation économique sur la vie familiale des marins, les nouveaux dangers et attaques à leur dignité d’hommes et de professionnels de la mer, le plus grand isolement du marin en équipages multinationaux et multireligieux, la compétition dans la gestion des infrastructures des ports où les Centres Stella Maris doivent garder une place, le développement de l’industrie de la croisière.

L'industrie du transport maritime et de la croisière conduit sur nos rivages un nombre toujours plus grand de marins catholiques Il faut trouver une solution pour leur assurer la nourriture spirituelle à laquelle ils ont droit, en particulier l’Eucharistie, même avec le manque de temps ou… de prêtres, et développer le ministère des Ministres extraordinaires de l'Eucharistie.

L’auteur développe ensuite, à partir de documents pontificaux et en particulier la Lettre Apostolique Novo Millennio adveniente, quelles sont les sources et les vecteurs de l'engagement de l'Apostolat de la Mer pour la justice et la solidarité dans et pour le monde maritime

"El Apostolado del Mar a la hora de la globalización"


El autor subraya, en primer lugar, que el AM comparte con el Santo Padre "la esperanza creciente de ver que las relaciones entre los pueblos estarán cada vez más inspiradas por el ideal de una verdadera fraternidad universal".

La globalización económica ha conllevado grandes cambios que han transformado la propiedad, la financiación y la gestión de las flotas pesqueras y del comercio. La mayor parte de marinos, en su trabajo y en su vida diaria, experimentan con frecuencia las duras consecuencias de esta evolución.

La nueva globalización de los mercados y del comercio ha aportado, también, nuevas oportunidades y nuevos medios de comunicación y de diálogo, incluso nuevas posibilidades para promover la solidaridad. El progreso en las comunicaciones no debería redundar en beneficio solamente del crecimiento económico, sino que debería facilitar su distribución honesta y equitativa.

"El Apostolado del Mar a la hora de la globalización": éste será el tema del próximo XXI Congreso mundial de Apostolatus Maris, que se celebrará en octubre de 2002, en Rio de Janeiro, la ciudad de la famosa Declaración histórica de la CNUCED en 1992. La globalización es el contexto en el que el Apostolado del Mar debe ofrecer hoy sus apoyo fraterno a todos los marinos, sea cual sea su cultura, su civilización o su religión, y asegurar, a las decenas de millones de católicos de casi todos los países del mundo, el ministerio pastoral específico que la Iglesia les debe.

El reto, al que el Apostolado del Mar debe hacer frente, consiste en ser, por tierra y por mar, un instrumento siempre mejor de diálogo y de promoción de la solidaridad; debe ser una escalerilla fiable para todo aquello que sea necesario para el buen servicio de la gente del mar, tanto en la Iglesia como en la sociedad.

Los problemas que son prioritarios para el Apostolado del Mar, y que deberán ser estudiados por el XXI Congreso, son éstos: el impacto negativo de la globalización económica sobre la vida familiar de los marineros; los nuevos peligros y ataques a su dignidad de personas y de profesionales del mar; el siempre mayor aislamiento del marino en dotaciones multicinacionales y multirreligiosas; la competencia en la gestión de las infraestructuras portuarias donde los centros Stella Maris deben conservar su puesto; el desarrollo de la industria de cruceros.

La industria del transporte marítimo y de cruceros lleva a nuestras costas un número siempre creciente de marineros católicos. Hay que encontrar soluciones para asegurarles el alimento espiritual al que tienen derecho, en particular la Eucaristía, aún cuando escasea el tiempo o los sacerdotes, y desarrollar el ministerio de los Ministros Extraordinarios de la Eucaristía.

El autor desarrolla, a continuación, partiendo de los documentos pontificios, en particular la Carta apostólica Novo millennio ineunte, cuales son las fuentes y las líneas de fuerza del compromiso del Apostolado del Mar en favor de la justicia y de la solidaridad con todos en el mundo marítimo.