Pope Francis / Vatican Media

CNA Newsroom, Oct 3, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Marking more than 100 years of helping seafarers around the world, Pope Francis has recognized the role of Stella Maris, the Apostleship of the Sea. 

In a message to participants at the 25th World Congress of the Catholic organization, Pope Francis said: “I join you, and all associated with Stella Maris, in giving thanks to Almighty God for the witness of faith and countless acts of kindness and charity shown by so many chaplains and volunteers over the past century to those who toil on our seas and waterways for the benefit of us all.”

The apostleship was founded in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 4, 1920. A congress was to be held there to mark its 100th anniversary in October 2020, but the date could not be fully celebrated due to the outbreak of the pandemic. 

“Now that you have gathered in person for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is my hope that you will be able to celebrate fully the hundredth anniversary of the founding,” Pope Francis said in his message.

In September 2020, the organization changed its name from the Apostleship of the Sea to Stella Maris, after one of the Latin titles of veneration of the Virgin Mary.

By its own description, the apostleship is the largest ship-visiting network in the world.

“Indeed, from small and humble beginnings, Stella Maris has grown into the widespread organization we see today, providing spiritual, psychological, and material assistance, on ships and ashore, for myriads of seafarers and maritime personnel of diverse nationalities and religious traditions,” Pope Francis said.

The pontiff noted that despite technological advances, many maritime workers not only spend large amounts of time separated from their homelands “but also continue to suffer from a variety of unjust working conditions and other deprivations” in a world where more than 90% of goods are transported by ships. 

Stella Maris therefore should not waver in “drawing attention to the issues which deprive many within the maritime community of their God-given human dignity,” Pope Francis said.

He added that the apostleship thereby puts into practice the words of Jesus: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

The pope concluded with “prayerful good wishes” and a blessing: “Entrusting the chaplains, volunteers, and all associated with Stella Maris to the loving protection of Our Lady Star of the Sea, I impart my blessing as a pledge of fortitude, joy, and peace in Christ the Lord.”