Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Communique' 22 November 2002
In order to fulfil the mission entrusted to it by the Popes and reaffirmed most recently in the Apostolic Letter Stella Maris, 1997, the Apostleship of the Sea has, for more than eighty years, carried out its programme to ensure for seafarers and their families the specific practical, spiritual and pastoral support they need.
The final Document of the XXI World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from September 29 to October 5, 2002, bears witness to this. That Congress was convoked by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People to examine the problems which the process of globalization presents to seafarers and their families, in merchant navies, in the fishing sector – both small scale and industrial – and in the leisure-cruise industry. Additionally, the Congress proposed suitable objectives and pastoral plans in order to respond to new situations.
There is however a further category of professional seafarers who can be included among the "migrants and itinerant people" for whom this Council has care and to which events like the Vuitton and Americas Cup draw our attention. Competitive regattas bring hundreds of yachtsmen and yachtswomen, together with their families and support groups and accredited journalists, and require them to live away from home, sometimes for periods ranging from three to six months. In the case of the current Vuitton and Americas Cup regatta we are talking of Auckland, New Zealand, a very long way from home for the majority of participants. And it appears that this type of international event is destined to become more frequent in the years ahead.
The Church is already present at such events, in particular by way of the existing parishes in the harbour towns where the events take place. Christians participating in the sporting event can attend these parishes. Nevertheless a number of questions need to be asked: do the people involved know where they can turn for the advice and support they may need, given the unfamiliar situation in which they find themselves? How visible is the Church in such situations? Is everything left to ‘chance’, or are there planned programmes drawn up with the same kind of thoroughness seen in the preparation of the competitions themselves?
In these situations there are people, many of them Catholics, who need the precise pastoral attention for which the Apostleship of the Sea was founded. This could be a first step towards greater attention to the rapidly expanding world of yachting and coastal leisure-craft navigation. Today, this sector too must be reached by the Apostleship of the Sea.
The worldwide network of the Apostleship of the Sea seems well suited and equipped to work in this direction. However, a "programme drawn up with the same kind of thoroughness seen in the preparation of the competitions themselves" needs in the first place a study of the actual regatta environment, and so we are beginning to do this with the current Vuitton and Americas Cup.
The President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People has therefore entrusted the task of conducting this inquiry to the head of the Maritime Sector of the Pontifical Council.
The first phase of the research (November-December 2002) will consist of contacting people who can help in understanding the environment because they are close to the various competing teams and those accompanying them, and would therefore be able to report on what actually happens on the pastoral level. Those concerned will be the local parish priests and chaplains – of the Apostleship of the Sea and of other member groups of the International Christian Maritime Association (I.C.M.A.) – and the journalists who in the past have covered such events or are now doing so.
The second phase will involve opening a dialogue during the Vuitton Cup Final (January 2003) with the Local Church, the Record Management, the Media and the Support Groups, introducing them to the Apostleship of the Sea and its ministry among seafarers and itinerant people.
It is hoped that the information, suggestions, proposals or offers of help received during these two phases can enrich the reflection already begun by this Pontifical Council on how to proceed with helping diocesan Bishops in particular to "determine the most suitable forms of pastoral care for maritime personnel" (Stella Maris, art. XII, 2.1). It will also help the worldwide leaders of the Apostleship of the Sea "to offer assistance to all who are involved in this pastoral work" (ibid., 1.4).
May Mary, Star of the Sea, guide all seafarers so that in their travels they may experience the fraternal support of the Apostleship of the Sea.