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Not only effort but rights

· ​Message of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the occasion of Sea Sunday ·

In order to understand the extent to which everyday life depends on the maritime industry and the sea, one need only think of the majority of the furniture and IT equipment that is transported by ship; or of the clothing and fruit that is shipped in containers from distant places; and the same is true of oil and gasoline. One might also consider the thriving tourist industry linked to cruises. We cannot forget the role played by the crews of certain merchant ships who, while crossing the Mediterranean, have been at the forefront in helping thousands of migrants.

The message for Sea Sunday – celebrated on 10 July – is addressed to the nearly 1.2 million seafarers of all nationalities, largely from developing countries, who make everyday life easier around the world. The document — signed by Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò and Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, respectively the President and the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People — is meant as an invitation to all, but particularly to the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea, to “be the voice of the workers who live far from their loved ones and face dangerous and difficult situations”, as Pope Francis said at his general audience on 22 January, 2014.

With this message, the Apostleship of the Sea renews its solidarity with seafarers, that their professional and human rights might be respected and protected, bearing in mind that they transport 90% of every type of cargo on board 50,000 merchant ships. The message also contains an appeal to governments and competent maritime authorities to strengthen the implementation of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006, and in particular Regulation 4.4 which aims “to ensure that seafarers working on board a ship have access to shore-based facilities and services to secure their health and well-being”.

On the occasion of the annual celebration of Sea Sunday, the Pontifical Council invites all Christian communities to recognize the extent to which the professions of seafarers and those in the shipping industry are essential to daily life. In conclusion, the Council asks bishops, particularly those of maritime dioceses, to establish and support the Maritime Apostolate as a “visible sign of your affectionate attention to those who cannot receive ordinary pastoral care”.

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