Pope Benedict XVI blessed the Catholic ministry to seafarers at the largest ever World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea, held last month in the Vatican City. In the first audience with a pope since the dedication of the AoS 90 years ago, the more than 400 delegates and guests of the 23rd Congress were witness to the Holy Father’s re-commitment of the Church to this vital ministry.
The Congress will be remembered for its magnitude, its venue, its worship, fellowship and deliberations. Themed “New Evangelisation”, the Congress considered new ways of witnessing to God in contemporary society where faith is reviled and rejected as irrelevant.
The opening mass was held in the iconic St Peter’s Basilica, moving from there to the John Paul VI Synod Hall for general assembly. The daily celebration of the mass took place in full view of the magnificent sculpture The Resurrected Christ. Delegates were treated to a private tour of the Vatican Museum, highlighting the Sistine Chapel.
The Congress heard presentations on the theology of New Evangelisation from His Excellency Msgr Rino Fisichella, President of the Ponticical Council for New Evangelisation and from Reverend Hennie la Grange, General Secretary of the International Christian Maritime Association, on New Evangelisation’s ecumenical application. Seafarers rights were addressed by Ms. Deidre Fitzpatrick from Seafarers Rights International and Dr. Peter Swift , Chair of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, made a moving presentation on the scourge of piracy. David Cockroft, Secretary General of the International Transport Workers Federation, spoke on the challenges and opportunities facing AoS, and Dr. Cleopatra Dumbia Hendry, Director of the Internatonal Labour Standards of the ILO, presented MLC 2006 as an instrument for promoting seafarers welfare. The Congress celebrated World Fishers Day on 21st November by dedicating the day to fishers issues including discussion of the Convention on Fishing.
The Congress, packed with memorable highlights from start to finish, had two very deeply moving moments which delegates will not forget.
- The Master of a vessel held captive by Somali pirates for almost a year, came to tell his story of faith, endurance and compassion. He spoke of his deep concerns for his crew, his personal terror, and of his forgiveness for the pirates. The standing ovation lasted several minutes.
- And on the final day the Congress moved to the papal palace for a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI, receiving his blessing for AoS and the Catholic ministries to seafarers.
Father Bruno Ciceri, Antonella Farina and the team have delivered a monumental event in the life of the Apostleship of the Sea. The Congress has again proven the AoS is a vibrant and dynamic organisation in the ministry to seafarers, and this Congress will, no doubt, inspire the Stella Maris network to even greater things. ICMA congratulates the Apostleship of the Sea upon delivery of this showcase event for faith-based care to people of the sea.
You can download the presentation of the ICMA General Secretary, Reverend Hennie la Grange, “New Evangelisaton in Ecumenical Context”, from our Publications page.