Apostleship of the Sea: Eight Indians attend world congress
By Matters India Reporter
Kaohsiung City: Seven priests and a bishop from India are among 252 delegates from 52 countries attending the 24th world congress of the Apostleship of the Sea now underway in Taiwan.
The October 1-6 international meet at the Ambassador Hotel in Kaohsiung City is deliberating on the theme “Caught in the net.”
The theme was chosen to expresses the Church’s concern not only for the common good but for the people as human beings and for their fundamental rights.
Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, says the congress aims to bring together active members of the Apostleship of the Sea to understand realities around the world. They would listen to qualified speakers and share their commitment and work among seafarers.
The first day of the congress affirmed the Church’s maritime charity and continuing support to seafarers and fishermen.
A message from Pope Francis on the opening day urged delegates to become the Church that harbors the mystery of God that can attract people to him.
Taiwan’s vice president Chen Chien-jen, who opened the congress, said that the government appreciates the Apostleship of Sea, especially its service to fishermen and seafarers, some of them recruited from developing countries that have no means to protect their rights.
Max Schmid of the Environmental Justice Foundation, an NGO based in the United Kingdom, narrated the effect of illegal fishing on fishermen, especially those with no work contracts. There have been cases of fishermen confined to their vessel, becoming victims of sexual and violent abuse and even executions at sea. He lauded the work of the Church’s work in ports around the world to secure justice for seafarers where fishermen had suffered abuse.
In his opening address, Cardinal Turkson noted that around 38 million people are engaged in fisheries in the world and 90 percent of them are in small scale industries, largely located in Asia and Africa.
Abuses are still present in the fishing industry, including forced labor and human trafficking. Exacerbating the problem is the practice of some fishing vessels being at sea for months or years, making it difficult for fishermen to report abuses, the Vatican official said.
The Ghanian prelate told the delegates that their travelling to Kaohsiung provided them an experience of being uprooted. This would be vital for their reflections on the lives and problems of fishermen who often lead an uprooted existence, he added.
The work of the Congress was essential, said the cardinal, both to better understand the lives of those who depend on the sea but to see how they can benefit from the evangelizing work of the Apostleship of the Sea.
During the opening Mass, Cardinal Turkson expressed the hope that in the ministry chaplains ‘would always have the right words to assure [seafarers and fishermen] of God’s solicitude for them.’
Cardinal Turkson proposed encouraging bishops of countries without chaplains for the ministry to establish an outreach. He wants the apostleship to encourage their home countries to implement the International Labour Organisation’s Work in Fishing Convention.
The Cardinal underlined the need for fishermen to have the friendship of the chaplain or volunteer, to have a place to relax away from their vessel, a place to pray and regain their spiritual strength, to be given the chance to contact their families, to rest, to unload their burdens.
Nearly 90 percent of world trade is transported by ship, and more than 100,000 ships visit British ports each year. Danger and loneliness are part of a modern seafarer’s life. They spend at times up to a year away from home, separated from their family, often working in harsh conditions.
Apostleship chaplains and ship visitors welcome seafarers to their shores and provide them with pastoral and practical assistance. They recognize them as brothers with an intrinsic human dignity which can be overlooked in the modern globalized maritime industry, the cardinal explained.
The Indian delegates are Bishop Oswal Joseph Lewis of Jaipur and Fathers Claudius Cordia from new Mangalore port, Johnson Chiramel from Cochin port, Paulraj from Chennai port, George Mathew from Sikka Jamnagar port, Gujarat, Roque Noronha from Kolkata port and Ramseh Baliarsigh from Pardip Port, Odisha.
“It is a great occasion for me to participate in the World Congress which definitely give me better knowledge to work for the welfare of the migrants and refuges and seafarers,” Father Baliarsingh, said.
The Apostleship of the Sea, also known as Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), is an agency of the Catholic Church. It was founded in Glasgow, Scotland, in the early 20th century and it provides pastoral care to seafarers through chaplaincies in ports in all continents of the world.
The agency provides practical and pastoral care to all seafarers, regardless of nationality, belief or race. Its port chaplains and volunteer ship visitors welcome seafarers, offer welfare services and advice, practical help, care and friendship.