Pope Francis has been busy this year hosting Bishops from many Bishops Conferences around the world. He also travelled to half a dozen countries including the United Arab Emirates, which made him the first Pope to visit an area in the Arabian Peninsula. He also had many meetings, audiences and visits within the Vatican, around Rome and within Italy. And this is only the middle of the year!
Despite his busy schedule, Pope Francis also managed to give a speech on the 27th of June 2019, at an audience with representatives from the Stella Maris European Region. The Pope was touched by the work of the Apostleship of the Sea and after he finished reading his written speech, he added:
“Before concluding, I would like to say a word about peace of heart. Many sailors approach or come to see chaplains and priests with problems of conscience that make them suffer greatly, problems that they have never had a chance to bring up in those circumstances, so far from home, far from their native land, and in the situations that we have described (in the speech). Dialogue with a chaplain may well open up new horizons of hope. So I would say to you: be merciful, be merciful. And to favour that mercy, I grant to all chaplains of sailors the same faculties I gave to the Missionaries of Mercy. In this way, you will be able to bring peace to so many hearts.
As Fr Bruno Ciceri CS, Director, Apostleship of the Sea International, explained after the speech, “Pope Francis has asked us to be merciful. Our ministry should always bring peace to so many seafarers’ hearts!”
What does this mean for us in Australia? Pope Francis is encouraging our ship visitors, chaplains, centre managers and volunteers to be welcoming to the seafarers that come to our ports. We are called not only to provide material and practical help but to also offer real mercy and pastoral care that brings seafarers inner peace and authentic hope.