Pope Francis made history with Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) by tweeting for the first time about Sea Sunday on 9th July, a move widely seen as his way of personally reaching out to seafarers on their mobile phones and devices.
The pontiff’s tweet, which went out at 12:30pm read, ‘I entrust sailors, fishermen, and all those in difficulty on the seas far away from home, to the motherly protection of Mary, Star of the Sea’.
Besides the English version of the tweet, there were also versions in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Latin, Polish and Arabic. The tweet in Arabic is particularly poignant given recent media reports about an increase in crew abandonment cases in the Gulf region.
According to the Gulf Times, nearly 100 Indian seafarers are stranded in UAE waters on 22 ships, with distress calls on the rise. Besides Indian crew, there are also seafarers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar and Pakistan on the ships. The paper says the men have not been paid their wages and are living in harsh conditions with a lack of food, fresh water and fuel.
Thousands of churches around the world marked Sea Sunday this year with Mass and prayers for seafarers, their families and those who support them. Proceeds from the Sea Sunday collection in Great Britain will ensure the work of AoS with seafarers and fishermen can continue.
This October, AoS will hold its World Congress in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to explore further ways in which it can strengthen its global network and increase support to seafarers, with a particular emphasis on tackling human trafficking and injustices of fishers.