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Message for Sea Sunday

"Life at Sea Is Still Difficult and Dangerous"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 15, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the message for Sea Sunday, which many countries will observe in two days, issued by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Vatican dicastery that includes the pastoral care of seafarers.

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As the Apostleship of the Sea celebrates Sea Sunday 2006, once again our thoughts and prayers go to all the seafarers and fishing communities worldwide, together with those who are involved in cruise ships and yachting.

This year we observe this day with renewed optimism because in February a comprehensive Convention on Maritime Labor Standard was adopted opening the way -- if ratified and implemented -- for the emergence of a new maritime world order that will offer new opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work.

But, on the other hand, we were disappointed that the proposed Convention on Work in the Fishing Sector was not approved during the 93rd ILO (International Labor Organization) Conference, in 2005.

This international instrument would have made all kind of professional fishing a safer and more just workplace. It is hoped that it will be presented again and adopted at the next ILO Conference. It is hence important that AOS members continue to campaign and join forces with local fishermen's organizations to promote the understanding and the adoption of this instrument.

In the meantime, in spite of the fact that the shipping trade is enjoying a period of growth and that the demand for fisheries products is unprecedented, globalization is putting the dignity of the human persons involved in shipping and fishing under heavy strain and life at sea is still difficult and dangerous.

Globalization of labor and finance in shipping, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, but also rigid regulations that do not take into account essential needs of fishing communities, are causing harm to the maritime profession and environment. To alleviate this and to contribute to a new social order, it is essential to establish with and among seafarers and fishing communities relationships of solidarity and cooperation. Solidarity is one of the basic concepts of the Church's social teaching, which is based on the principles of the dignity of the human person and of the common good of all.

Sea Sunday is therefore a reminder for the Apostleship of the Sea to be faithful to its vocation and to keep intact its Christian perspective, which is to put the human being at the centre of all planning and projects, to make a firm commitment especially in favor of the poor and the weak, to promote a sense of brotherhood and solidarity, to share with everyone the hope that evil will not prevail and things can be changed for the better, as it is in the Paschal mystery.

There are many things that contribute to an individual's well-being: good material and working conditions are indeed indispensable but we cannot be guided solely by economic considerations; respect for the social and spiritual dimensions of each person, without which no real and sustainable happiness can be achieved, is also essential.

With this in mind, next year, we shall hold our 22nd AOS World Congress in Gdynia, Poland, from June 24 - 29. One of the conclusions in the AOS Congress of Rio de Janeiro (2002), was that the "globalized maritime industry be given a humane face."

This time we shall go a step further and take this opportunity to discuss and deepen the understanding of our pastoral care, the apostolate's spirituality and its specific contribution to the maritime world.

Let us pray that this will be a time of grace that will enable us to progress in our mission, which is to reach out to all the people of the sea.

On this auspicious day we wish you all a happy celebration, invoking on all seafaring and fishing communities and on all chaplains, pastoral agents and volunteers of AOS the maternal intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary, the "Stella Maris."

May she pray for us, teaching us how to strengthen the bonds of Christian solidarity among us, through proclamation of the Word, liturgy and service.

Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino

+ Archbishop Agostino Marchetto


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