Inspired by Pope Benedict XVI, Dirk Demaeght, AoS chaplain and advocate for fishers in Belgium and Europe, speaks out for fishers in the ecological debate. He has submitted a paper to the International Christian Maritime Association website’s Fishers page.
Drawing from the Bible, Catholic theology and the ecological debate, Demaeght says:
It’s our mission to bring Gods Words to the attention of policy makers. Fifty (50) years ago, the Council Fathers emphasized the fact that “the greater man’s power becomes, the farther his responsibility extends”, and that every human activity is to correspond, according to the design and will of God, to humanity’s true good.”(C.S.D. 457)
What, then, he asks, are God’s Biblical principles for responsible fishing? In Demaeght’s view:
The heated ecological debate brings fishermen in disrepute. Fishers, who earn their living at sea, are embarrassed. They cannot respond eloquently, and crawl into their shell. The environmental temperature has an impact on the fishery sector and on the wellbeing of fishing families.
Our fishermen are hunters! It is in their genes. They feel themselves called to sea for hunting food provided for them by God: without fish, no bread! Fishermen strongly believe in God! During religious celebrations for fishing families, a crew brings a fish basket to the altar as an offering. This is testimony of Christian ecological consciousness. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Lord, they are aware that the fruits of their work are given by God. Bringing their own sacrifice of fish is their language to express what they cannot say in words.
We have to make it clear to our people that our Church is strongly committed to address ecological problems. But the Church’s commitment is to much more than the earth and what grows, walks and swims in it naturally. The Church cares also about humanity, family and all aspects of human life, centred on Jesus Christ.
“…, they more than others must face the difficulties of the present time and live the uncertainty of the future, marked by the negative effects of climate change and the excessive exploitation of resources. To you fishermen, who seek decent and safe working conditions, safeguarding the dignity of your families, the protection of the environment and the defence of every person’s dignity, I would like to ensure the Church’s closeness.”
The Pope reaffirmed the commitment of the Catholic Church to the global Apostleship of the Sea and Stella Maris ministries to seafarers, fishers and their families. AoS International is managed by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People.