Cardinal Urges Help for Fishermen and Kidnapped Seafarers

Vatican’s Refugee Council President Made Appeal at Apostolate of the Sea Meeting in Rome

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A senior Vatican official has called on societies not to ignore the plight of many fishermen and their families, and to remember seafarers captured by pirates.

Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, was speaking Jan. 21 at the inauguration of the annual meeting of the Co-ordinators of the Apostolate of the Sea, currently being held in Rome until Jan. 24.

“We cannot ignore the pitiful situation in which many fisherman and their families live”, he said, adding that “we offer a special thought for those seafarers who are still being held hostage by pirates, and for their families who await their release”.

The cardinal called on chaplains “to give all possible support” to those who are experiencing the drama of kidnapping at sea, and to show their families “the loving face of the Church”.

He recalled that Blessed John Paul II had urged the promotion of an ecumenical spirit in the maritime world, to encourage co-operation and mutual co-ordination of projects involving the episcopal conferences and local ordinaries, adapting them to the current scenario.

In view of the phenomenon of the opening of new trade routes and the merging of companies in order to maximise efficiency and profit, the cardinal emphasised the need to strengthen solidarity between nations and to share resources.

To guide the activity of the Apostolate of the Sea more effectively, the Pontifical Council has divided the world into nine regions: North America and the Caribbean, Latin America, Indian Ocean Africa, Western Africa, Europe, South Asia, South-East Asia, Arab Gulf States and Djibouti.

Speakers at the meeting include experts in the field of maritime services and pastoral work at sea. One topic for discussion will be how human trafficking affects a growing number of fisherman who are victims of forced labour on sub-standard ships and many violations of their rights.

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