“Evangelisation in seafarers’ ministries is closely related to all our faith communities’ witness to Christian unity. Christian unity, expressed as ecumenism, is the face and identity of ICMA”.
Father Bruno Ciceri, representative of Apostleship of the Sea / Stella Maris in the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People and member of the ICMA Executive Committee, addressed the Odessa Regional Conference of ICMA. He spoke of New Evangelisation and Ecumenism.
Established in 1969, ICMA grew from new hope for demonstrations of Christian unity after Vaticanum II. ICMA heralded the end of much enmity and conflict among denominations involved in ministries to seafarers. At that time, IMO and the International Labour Office and the industry in general were keen to cooperate with Christian partners and to hear the voice of the church, if Christians can speak with one voice. For both the church and the industry, ICMA has lived up to these expectations. It has bridged the schisms between the faith traditions and has been actively involved in IMO and ILO, having made significant contributions to conventions like MLC2006.
ICMA fostered solidarity and unity at a time when its individual members operated in competition with one another for the custom of seafarers. ICMA facilitates sharing of resources, establishment of ecumenical centres and inspires respect for the theological traditions in Christian faith.
Sakari Lehmuskallio, at the time Chair of ICMA, once said at an AOS World Congress in Brazil that ICMA members should “interact in friendship”, highlighting the personal relations that encourage ecumenical working.
While we strive to speak with a single Christian voice, it is required that we also act accordingly for the benefit seafarers, fishers and families. In reality, complete unity in our witness to Christ is not yet complete. Often the problem lies not with ICMA members’ managements, but at port level. Personal differences between local chaplains and volunteers sometimes complicate relations. Not enough people know and follow ICMA’s agreed Code of Conduct. Father Ciceri urged chaplains to meditate on the Code of Conduct. We should be inspired by it, have it framed in every centre, but most of all installed in our hearts, Father Ciceri said. We are tempted to proselytise (to make seafarers members of our own denomination). Let us be directed by the spirit of ICMA’s Code of Conduct.
We should serve all seafarers without discrimination. We should fight prejudice, intolerance and injustice of any kind. Let us respect diversity, and develop what unite us rather than emphasise too often what divides us.
We should get to know one another personally. Good personal relations help. Try to develop an understanding of the doctrines of other churches. Often we judge one another with no regard to another’s loyalty and faithfulness to the own church and tradition. Let’s make an effort to know more. Learn to be honest and to discuss problems with one another rather than to harbour suspicions. Address small problems in good time to prevent them from getting out of hand.
May the Holy Spirit guide us in reconciliation and help us to be sign of hope and consolation.
Our beginings are borne from the need to preserve the faith of seafarers. Be bridge builders. Embrace one another. Connect people. Connect seafarers to churches and to support services. Ask: What do seafarers encounter in us? Do they find in us a faith that is relevant for them and affects their life? If seafarers were to ask: Why do you do this for me?, we have achieved our goal. There is no reasonable answer to this question other than faith and our relationship with God and his people. We do not get personal benefit. We build bridges from the church to the seafarer. We bring toe gospel to their troubled life, we bring the gospel to their celebrations, and we bring the gospel to the industry.
Our common action speaks louder than words. Let s be messengers of one new humanity in Christ.