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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 101, August 2006



In solidarity with the People of the Sea

as Witnesses of Hope*


Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO

Secretary of the Pontifical Council

for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People



I am happy and grateful for your invitation, which has given me the opportunity to attend this National Conference. I bring to you all the very cordial greetings of the Pastoral Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, in the first place those of our new President, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who has succeeded to Cardinal Hamao as the head of our dicastery, while remaining also President ofthe Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

This is a special occasion, as I am aware that all the chaplains of AOS–Great Britain, from both England and Wales and the newly appointed ones from AOS–Scotland, are participating in the same National Conference to plan together and collaborate ever more closely in the same mission to seafarers and other categories of maritime people. As it is also the first time that I have been able to be present at your annual conference, I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for all that has been accomplished in the recent years by AOS (England and Wales) thanks to the initiatives taken under the guidance of the Bishop Promoters, the Board of Trustees and of the National Director and his devoted team. You have relaunched and adapted your National Organisation to the needs of the People of the Sea and to the new challenges facing the Church in the maritime world. I realize that all this would not have been possible without this wonderful team of devoted chaplains, lay pastoral agents and volunteers who have made AOS-Great Britain what it is today.  

I would like to say a special word of congratulations and thanks to Captain Anthony Brindle, the Chair of Trustees, for his dedication and commitment in the service of the Church and of the maritime community.With the encouragements and together with the late Bishop Victor Guazelli, by taking innovative initiatives that have made AOS one of the best known seafarersÂ’ mission in the UK, he has been a source of inspiration and a reference to many in this apostolate. Thank you very much Captain Brindle!

As you know, the theme of our next World Congress will be In Solidarity with the People of the Sea, as Witnesses of Hope through proclamation of the Word, Liturgy and Diakonia, which means ‘service’.We have opted for a pastoral theme as we want this Congress to be an opportunity for AOS to reflect on and take stock on what constitutes its content and spirituality. As an organization, you have already started this reflection when you have sought to better focus your pastoral outreach and support to the People of the Sea, by defining the specificity of AOS Mission in Great Britain around the four themes of Mission, Solidarity, Welfare and Hospitality.

One of the present ConferenceÂ’s aims is to prepare for the AOS World Congress next year in Gdynia, Poland, and for my part I have been asked to contribute to your preparation by reflecting with you on how the AOS can Witness to Hope. 

The maritime world as a sign of the time

The AOS is called to witness in a profession that remains today one of the most difficult, demanding and dangerous. You all know through your ministry, that seafarers and fishers face various difficulties and dangers, and that they suffer the negative effects of globalization. In addition to the inherent dangers of seafaring, most of them barely have any social security or protection and they have to face courageously day after day loneliness and exploitation; they are often marginalized and subjected to administrative harassment and sometimes to savage abandonment. We have been witnessing recently the “growing criminalization” of seafarers. There are new dangers like the resurgence of piracy which we thought to be something of the past. Seafarers have also to keep up with new pressures and technologies; they know that for them it is a question of professional survival, on which depends also the one of their family. Even more, very often they cannot raise their voice in protest, as this would mean immediate sanctions or, worse, the end of employment and possibly blacklisting.

These are only a few traits of the difficulties confronting life at sea. To paraphrase the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes), in no other age have we seen such prosperity, wealth and technological advances in the maritime industry and yet countless workers of the sea are in extreme need, as so many of them are faced with new forms of slavery in their living and working conditions (cf. GS No. 4).

This is the milieu in which we are called, as members of the Church, to exercise the Mission, to be evangelizers. Gaudium et Spes expresses without any ambiguity the solidarity of the Church with the whole human family and the indefectible link between the World and the Church. Therefore as “Church we have the responsibility of reading the signs of time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel… we should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which men ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come. ….We must be able to understand the aspirations, the yearnings and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live “ (GS No. 4)

To-day the link and the solidarity of the Catholic Church with the family of the sea is especially manifested by the Apostleship of the Sea, whose mission is to accompany, as members of the Church, the seafarers, fishers and their families and to care for their pastoral and spiritual needs, as well as for those of other categories of People of the Sea.   

The Solicitude of the Church

The Second Vatican Council goes further, insisting that the forms of apostolate should be adapted to the needs of the time and that special concerns must be shown “for those among the faithful who, on account of their way of life, cannot sufficiently make use of the common and ordinary pastoral care of parish priests or are quite cut off from it. Among this group are the majority of migrants, exiles and refugees, seafarers, air-travelers, gypsies, and others of this kind… Episcopal Conferences, especially national ones, should pay special attention to the very pressing problems concerning the above-mentioned groups. Through voluntary agreement and united efforts, they should look to and promote their spiritual care by means of suitable methods and institutions. They should also bear in mind the special rules either already laid down or to be laid down by the Apostolic See which can be wisely adapted to the circumstances of time, place, and persons.” (Christus Dominus No. 18)

Regarding the specific mission of the Maritime Apostolate (AOS), the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Stella Maris specifies that the “Work of the Maritime Apostolate is the organization 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” (Art I).

This support of course can take many forms and it is not restricted to any one of them. When we talk of support and pastoral care, we are talking of a whole range of activities, from material help and advocacy to more spiritual or religious ones such as sacramental ministry and Christian formation and counseling. If we were to find a sentence, which would capture an important aspect of the engagement of the AOS in the maritime world, nowadays we could say that its mission is to revive hope among the People of the Sea, Christian hope, of course, and because of this we can understand the reason of the choice of the theme of the next World Congress. 

“A blessing on the man who puts his trust in Yahweh, with Yahweh for his hope” (Jer 17,5)

Every person is in search of happiness and the fulfilment of his life. Seafarers are not different; they have a great yearning for happiness and for a brighter future for themselves and their family and they are ready to put up with a lot and to make many sacrifices in order to achieve that goal.

On the other hand, one of the main factors that causes hopelessness and despondency in the world, today, is the sentiment that humanity is dominated by evil and injustice, which are often consequences of the negation or denial of human dignity. Evil can manifest itself under many different forms and nowadays it is also found in the work place whenever there is exploitation, harassment, violence and injustice. Seafarers, fishers and their families too, are confronted with the problem of evil as they face great difficulties, as we have seen earlier, while carrying out their profession amid great sacrifices, sufferings and insecurity. Very often they are lost and they feel powerless, as they do not know where to look for direction, having lost hope of a better life and future. And we know that it is hope that makes one live and that no one can envisage life without hope: “Blessed be the one who has not lost hope” says the Holy Scripture (Sirach 14: 2). 

To live meaningfully, a person must have some kind of hope, even if it is only a small seed in his heart and it is a great gift if we can give back to someone the hope that he has lost . In any case for the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration for happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1818) 

Witnesses of Hope 

To the early Christians confronted with the society of the gentiles of his time, the Apostle Peter gives this advice:“Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear”(1 Pt 3:15-17). 

Confronted today by a changing maritime world, our specific mission as AOS is to help and serve the People of the Sea, not by patronising them or by acting as masters or teachers but by being witnesses and being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about our hope, by being “witnesses of hope”. Carrying out this mandate faithfully demands generosity, patience, courage and humility.It is true that Christians are not superior to others and that they too are confronted with the same difficulties and uncertainties. But they are Christians Â… keeping in mind the words of St Paul who reminded the Corinthians that like all people, “we often suffer, but we are not crushed. Even if we donÂ’t know what to do, we never give up…” Because “we [Christians] are like clay jars in which a treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. In times of trouble God is with us” (2 Cor 4:7). 

These thoughts are further developed by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in this yearÂ’s Lenten Message, in the following way: “Even in the ‘valley of darknessÂ’ of which the Psalmist speaks (Ps 23:4), while the tempter prompts us to despair or to place a vain hope in the work of our own hands, God is there to guard us and sustain us.  Yes, even today the Lord hears the cry of the multitudes longing for joy, peace, and love.  As in every age, they feel abandoned. Yet, even in the desolation of misery, loneliness, violence and hunger that indiscriminately afflict children, adults, and the elderly, God does not allow darkness to prevail”.

For us Christians, “Jesus Christ” is our “Hope”. This supposes a deep conviction that one will find the fullness of humanity and happiness only in Christ, true God and true man.Our Hope is rooted in the Paschal mystery, in the Risen Christ, who through his passion and resurrection has triumphed over evil and death. The risen Lord is the foundation stone of our hope; his resurrection reopens our hearts to the spirit of hope. The testimony that the world expects from us is that because Jesus has triumphed over evil, sins, hate, injustice, violence and death, these are not fatalities any more and that we too, following in his footsteps, can ultimately overcome them even if we must first go through times of trial and sufferings.

To be “witnesses of Hope”, means in practical terms for us, to testify by our whole life that evil, injustice and lack of meaning in our life will not prevail and that goodness and righteousness will have the final word and will triumph. It is to believe that God is for us and with us and never against us. St Paul is adamant that Christ lives in us and that we shall have a part in Christ’s glory: “God has raised Jesus to life! God’s spirit now lives in you, and he will raise you to life…” (Rom 8:11).

It is our mission to light or rekindle this hope in the heart of our brothers and sisters, to dispel the darkness of despair especially when times are most difficult for them.

To be “witnesses of hope”, we must, ourselves, be first and foremost “men and women of Hope”, by continually nurturing and developing the virtue of hope, especially by establishing a personal relationship with Jesus, through:

- prayer, with particular consideration for the “Our Father”, which is the summary of everything that Christian hope leads us to desire;

- constant witnessing and living continuously in a personal attitude of hope, letting us be guided by it all through our life;

- Bible study, such as lectio divina and other formation: “the Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope”(Romans 15:4);

- participation in liturgical celebrations, where hope is everywhere; in each Eucharist we reaffirm our hope as we proclaim that “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ”. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, too, leads us to hope in God’s mercy (CCC 1490).

We must proclaim what we have experienced and witnessed ourselves. “ We are notheralds of an idea, but witnesses of a person.” (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, March 22, 2006). Because of this you understand that “through proclamation …” is of course part of the theme chosen for Gdynia next year. 

Witnesses together

Hope is a virtue that is meant to be shared with others. If I am convinced that the Good News of Jesus Christ leads surely to salvation and happiness and that it is the great source of hope for the whole of humanity, then I want to share what sustains me and gives meaning to my life with all my brothers and sisters, so that they too are part of it. This however must be done always in an altruistic, humble and disinterested way: “ Give a kind and respectful answer”, writes St Peter, as we mentioned before.

We do this by giving personal and public witness to ensure the presence of the Church in the public arena so as to bridge the separation between the hard realities of daily life and the Good News of Jesus, remembering also these words of Pope Paul VI" Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." (Evangelii Nuntiandi No. 41).

Nobody owns this Mission. It is God’s Mission, which is not restricted in time or space or to an elite. In this Mission, I am never alone, but a member of the mystical Body, the Church. We are all called together as one family (bishops, priests, sisters, laypeople), whether we are ordained or mandated, each at his own level, to be the “visible signs of Christ’s invisible presence in the world”. In Cologne, last Aug. 21, Benedict XVI proclaimed: “It is important to maintain communion with the Pope and the Bishops. They are the ones who guarantee that singular paths are not being sought, but that we are living in turn in that great family of God that the Lord has founded with the Twelve Apostles”.

This mission is assured also by our presence in professional areas (such as port welfare committees, policy and law-making agencies, unions, etc.). Our presence, there, is a constant reminder and witness of this hope that inhabits the Christian faithful, namely that man and woman are created in GodÂ’s image, that they are as persons, at the centre of creation and that this consideration must be the priority in any decision, be it economic, political or connected with security and discipline. In addition, we are called to work ecumenically, engage in inter-religious dialogue and cooperate with every men and women of good will convinced - as we are - that Jesus “has already preceded us” in our Mission field: “He is going before you to Galilee” (Mt 28, 7). 


At the general audience on March 22, in an address before many people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI concluded his speech by saying that our mission is “to gather the nations in the unity of [the Lord’s] love… This is our hope and this is also our commandment to contribute to that universality, to this true unity in the richness of cultures, in communion with our true Lord Jesus Christ".

AOS, to be faithful to this mission of evangelisation today, must never relinquish its solidarity with the People of the Sea and its commitment especially to the poorest and marginalized as they confront and respond to the many challenges of their lives. As a Church organisation we have a specific line of approach, and I believe that we are well within this specificity by being indefatigable witnesses of hope, as we endeavour to transform the maritime world and to “give to globalisation a human face”.

Our vision to create in the maritime world a single human family, where everyone’s dignity is respected and where everyone can envisage a good future for himself and his kin, may seem a utopia and an unattainable dream today, but let us not forget that Abraham became the father of a multitude of nations because, when all seemed hopeless, “ he still had faith in God” (Rom 4:18), he trusted in God and never lost hope.

As I conclude, I invoke on us all the maternal intercession of Most Holy Mary, the “Stella Maris”, in whose hands we place our assembly. 

Our Lady of Hope, pray for us! Bright Star of the Sea, guide us!




         Dans son introduction aux travaux, S. Exc. Mgr Agostino Marchetto a déclaré que puisque « lÂ’un des objectifs de cette Conférence est de préparer le Congrès Mondial de lÂ’Apostolat de la Mer à Gdynia, en PologneÂ… sa contribution à cette préparation consistait à réfléchir sur la façon dont lÂ’Apostolat de la Mer pouvait témoigner lÂ’espérance ».

         Il est ensuite passé à la description du contexte maritime aujourdÂ’hui, dans lequel lÂ’Apostolat de la Mer est appelé à lire les signes des temps et apporter un témoignage inlassable au Royaume de Dieu. Pour cela, il est essentiel de comprendre les aspirations, les désirs de ce milieu et les formes dÂ’apostolat qui seraient adaptées aux besoins de lÂ’époque.

         Le soutien et lÂ’attention pastorale peuvent revêtir de nombreuses formes, mais si nous devions trouver une phrase pour résumer les aspects essentiels de lÂ’engagement de lÂ’Apostolat de la Mer en reprenant un langage maritime, nous pourrions dire que sa mission est de faire revivre lÂ’espoir parmi les Gens de Mer.

         La confrontation avec le mal et lÂ’injustice provoque une perte dÂ’espoir et le découragement. Or, pour que sa vie ait pleinement un sens, une personne doit avoir une lueur dÂ’espoir, même si ce nÂ’est quÂ’une petite graine dans son cÂœur. Pour nous, chrétiens, « Jésus-Christ » est notre « Espérance ». Le Seigneur ressuscité est la pierre de fondation de notre espérance ; sa résurrection ouvre nos cÂœurs à lÂ’esprit dÂ’espérance. Aux premiers chrétiens confrontés à la société des païens de lÂ’époque, lÂ’Apôtre Pierre donne ce commendament : « Soyez toujours prêts à la défense contre quiconque vous demande raison de lÂ’espérance qui est en vous. Mais que ce soit avec douceur et respect, en possession dÂ’une bonne conscience » (1 P 3, 15-17).

         Nous sommes tous témoins ensemble, en partageant la Bonne Nouvelle avec tous ceux qui peuvent ranimer lÂ’espoir chez nos frères et sÂœurs. Toutefois, dans cette mission, nous ne sommes jamais seuls, mais une partie du Corps mystique, lÂ’Eglise.

         Pour être fidèle à sa mission dÂ’évangélisation aujourdÂ’hui, lÂ’Apostolat de la Mer ne doit jamais renier sa solidarité avec les Gens de Mer et leurs spécificités, dans la mesure où celle-ci encourage à transformer le monde maritime et à « donner un visage humain à la mondialisation ». 

Témoins ensemble

         LÂ’espérance est une vertu qui a besoin dÂ’être partagée avec dÂ’autres. Si je suis convaincu que Jésus-Christ est la Bonne NouvelleÂ… alors je veux partager avec tous mes frères et sÂœurs ce qui me soutient et donne un sens à ma vie, afin quÂ’eux aussi y aient part. Cela doit toujours être fait, cependant, dÂ’une manière altruiste, humble et désintéressée : « Que ce soit avec douceur et respect », écrit saint Pierre.

         Nous pouvons faire cela en apportant un témoignage personnel pour assurer la présence de lÂ’Eglise dans lÂ’arène publique afin de jeter un pont entre ce qui sépare les dures réalités de la vie quotidienne et la Bonne Nouvelle de Jésus, en nous souvenant aussi de ces paroles de Paul VI : « LÂ’homme contemporain écoute plus volontiers les témoins que les maîtres, ou sÂ’il écoute les maîtres, cÂ’est parce quÂ’ils sont des témoins » (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n° 41).

         Personne nÂ’est propriétaire de cette mission. CÂ’est la mission de Dieu, qui nÂ’est pas assujettie au temps ou à lÂ’espace ou à une élite. Dans cette mission, je ne suis jamais seul, mais je suis un membre. Nous sommes appelés tous ensemble comme une unique famille (évêques, prêtres, religieuses, laïcs), car nous avons été ordonnés ou mandatés, chacun à notre niveau, pour être le « signe visible de la présence invisible du Christ dans le monde ». A Cologne, le 21 août dernier, Benoît XVI proclamait : « Il est important de conserver la communion avec le Pape et avec les Evêques. Ce sont eux qui garantissent quÂ’on ne recherche pas des sentiers privés, mais au contraire quÂ’on vit dans la grande famille de Dieu que le Seigneur a fondée avec les douze Apôtres ».




En su introducción a las trabajo, S.E. Mons. Agostino Marchetto declaró que “puesto que uno de los objetivos de la Conferencia presente es la preparación para el Congreso Mundial del A.M. que se celebrará el próximo año en Gdynia, Polonia Â… ésta ha sido su aportación a dicha preparación, reflexionando sobre la manera en que el A.M. puede atestiguar la esperanza”.

Asimismo, describió como el actual contexto marítimo necesita de la aportación del A.M. para leer los signos de los tiempos y dar testimonio infatigable del Reino de Dios. Para realizar esto es esencial entender las aspiraciones, los anhelos de este entorno, y las formas de apostolado deben adaptarse a las necesidades del momento.

El apoyo y el cuidado pastoral pueden tomar muchas formas, pero si tuviéramos que encontrar una frase capaz de resumir los aspectos esenciales del compromiso del A.M. en el mundo marítimo, podríamos afirmar que su misión es la de reavivar la esperanza entre la Gente de Mar.

La confrontación con el mal y la injusticia causa desesperación y desaliento. Para vivir una vida llena de significado una persona debe poseer alguna forma de esperanza, aunque sea sólo una pequeña semilla en su corazón. Para nosotros los cristianos, “Jesucristo” es nuestra “Esperanza.” El Señor resucitado es la piedra sobre la quella se funda; su resurrección vuelve a abrir nuestros corazones al espíritu de esperanza.

A los primeros cristianos, enfrentados con la sociedad de los gentiles, el Apóstol Pedro da el siguiente mandamiento: “Estad siempre preparados para responder a cualquiera que os pida razón de la esperanza que tenéis, pero hacedlo con humildad y respeto” (1P. 3, 15-17).

Todos juntos somos testigos que compartiendo la Buena Noticia podemos volver a encender la esperanza en nuestros hermanos y hermanas. Sin embargo, en esta misión nunca estamos solos, puesto que somos parte del Cuerpo místico, la Iglesia.

Para que el A.M. pueda ser, en la actualidad, fiel a esta misión de evangelización no debe abandonar su solidaridad hacia la Gente de Mar y su especificidad, mientras se esfuerza por transformar el mundo del mar y “dar a la globalización un rostro humano”. 

Testigos juntos

La esperanza es una virtud que se tiene que compartir con los demás. Si estoy convencido de que la Buena Noticia es JesucristoÂ… entonces querré compartir aquello que me sostiene y da sentido a mi vida con todos mis hermanos y hermanas, de modo que también puedan formar parte de ello. Sin embargo, es necesario llevar a cabo esta acción de forma altruista, humilde y desinteresada: “Dad una respuesta amable y respetuosa”, escribe San Pedro.

Lo hacemos dando testimonio, personal y público, para asegurar la presencia de la Iglesia en la arena pública, a fin de acortar la separación entre la difícil realidad de la vida cotidiana y la Buena Noticia de Jesús, recordando también estas palabras del Papa Pablo VI: “El hombre contemporáneo escucha más a gusto a los que dan testimonio que a los que enseñan, o si escuchan a los que enseñan, es porque dan testimonio” (Evengelii Nuntiandi, No. 41).

Nadie posee esta Misión. Es la Misión de Dios, que no se limita a un periodo de tiempo o a un espacio o a una elite. En esta Misión nunca estoy solo, sino que soy un miembro. Estamos todos llamados, como familia (obispos, sacerdotes, hermanas, seglares), si nos han ordenado o nos han asignado un mandato, cada cual en su propio nivel, a ser “el signo visible de la presencia invisible de Cristo en el mundo”. En Colonia, el 21 de agosto de 2005, Benedicto XVI proclamó: “Es asimismo importante conservar la comunión con el Papa y con los Obispos. Son ellos los que garantizan que no se están buscando senderos particulares, sino que a su vez se está viviendo en aquella gran familia de Dios que el Señor ha fundado con los doce Apóstoles”.

*Talk on the occasion of the AOS GB National Conference, 7- 9 June 2006