In his message for Sea Sunday 2020, Bishop Promoter for the Apostleship of the Sea Bishop Bosco Puthur has sent a pastoral greeting to seafarers dealing with a pandemic that keeps them at sea for even longer periods than normal.
Bishop Puthur, speaking ahead of Sea Sunday on July 12, said his message took on special significance as the world seeks to respond to COVID-19.
“You are working in particularly difficult circumstances through the COVID-19 pandemic. Your job takes you from port to port around the world over the course of many days, weeks and months,” he said.
“I pray that you will receive good guidance and support to keep you safe and well in these uncertain times.”
The message also seeks to ensure that seafarers know that the Catholic Church in Australia, through its ministries and through the commemoration of Sea Sunday each July, cares for them spiritually, pastorally and in material ways.
“I pray for your families who struggle with many months of separation from you, their loved ones. We are grateful for all that you do,” Bishop Puthur said.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, used Pope Francis’ maritime analogy in a message to seafarers and their supporters, comparing the pandemic to “an unexpected, turbulent storm”.
“We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat are all of us,” he wrote, citing the Holy Father.
Cardinal Turkson criticised what he said was a lack of care for and understanding of the situation faced by those who work on the oceans.
“Despite the fundamental role that seafarers play for the global economy, a role whose great significance and need organisations and institutions tried to uphold during the COVID-19 crisis, current and prevailing legislations and policies simply glanced over them,” he wrote.
“That is why Sea Sunday is an opportunity for us to revisit the role of seafarers, and to recall some of the issues that negatively affect the seafarer’s life and which are aggravated by the suspicion and fear of contamination.”
Ships being unable to enter ports, or at least not allow crews to disembark, are leading to isolation and severe physical and mental stress, Cardinal Turkson said.
Apostleship of the Sea national director Roslyn Rajasingam said in addition to special Masses and prayers on Sea Sunday, the Church in Australia also encourages people to donate to the ministry to seafarers.
“The generosity we experience each year through Sea Sunday Masses is very humbling,” she said.
“We hope and trust that people will be similarly supportive through online giving this year.”
Visit the Apostleship of the Sea Australia website to access resources for Sea Sunday and to donate: www.aos-australia.org
With thanks to the ACBC.