Pope Francis has praised the work of all workers at sea including the estimated 200,000 crew members stuck onboard due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, in a video message on 17 June.
Speaking from the Vatican, Pope Francis brought attention to the current crew change crisis exacerbated by the pandemic. “Long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, fear of infection. All these things are a heavy burden to bear, now more than ever”.
The Pope highlighted the important work seafarers and fisherman carry out daily, made even more significant during the pandemic. “These are very difficult times for our world for we have to deal with the suffering caused by COVID-19. Your work as maritime personnel and fishermen has thus become even more important,” said Pope Francis. “Since [this work] is providing our greater human family with food and primary needs, for this we are grateful to you”.
Speaking to SAS, Guy Platten secretary general of the International Chamber of shipping welcomed the Popes’ message. “The recognition by Pope Francis for the plight of our seafarers who are going above and beyond the call of duty to keep global trade moving is extremely welcome. These men and women are working tirelessly to keep countries supplied with the food, fuel, goods and raw materials that nations rely upon”.
“Governments must act now to avoid a humanitarian disaster. They must act to wavier visa restrictions and classify seafarers as key workers to ensure the health and safety of our heroes at sea,” said Platten to SAS.
Martin Foley, chief executive of seafarers’ charity Stella Maris, told SAS, “We are delighted that the Holy Father has expressed such vocal support for seafarers and their families during this challenging time for them. The Holy Father’s message arose from a meeting a few weeks back between the Stella Maris Regional Coordinators and Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
“The Holy Father’s message will be an enormous source of encouragement and support for all seafarers, not just Catholics, as it reminds governments and all those involved in the shipping industry not to forget seafarers. Seafarers are key workers. They are amongst the heroes of this pandemic. Thank you Pope Francis for reminding the world of this fact!”