Launch of Apostleship of the Sea
posted on 25 June 2003
SEAFARERS' CHARITY RELAUCHED BY CARDINAL MURPHY-O'CONNOR
The maritime industry today (Wednesday) celebrated the relaunch of the 81-year-old Catholic seafarers' charity Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Speaking at the launch Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said:
“Speaking as a rather unaccomplished, and only very occasional sailor of dinghies in Portsmouth Harbour, may I begin by expressing, very sincerely, my huge admiration for that illustrious, and to many of us rather mysterious, group of men and women we call seafarers.
' From the beginning of sea voyages by coracle to the modern day giant container-ships, oil tankers, ferries and cruisers you have been criss-crossing the seas and oceans for centuries. And I suspect that in a world of ever-more competitive margins, and speed of technology and communications, the pressures on seafarers are growing, not diminishing.
'However much you love the sea, and life aboard, there are very particular stresses which bear upon seafarers and their families. Our vast oceans still present an enormous challenge to those whose livelihoods are bound up with seafaring.
'Perhaps today the challenges are less to do with braving the elements, as coping with the complications of a life lived amidst a small group and far away from loved ones. On board ship, often for extremely long periods, life and work become virtually indistinguishable. Opportunities for rest and recreation ashore are too infrequent – often measured in hours rather than days in the course of a contract of many months.
'Frankly this means real hardship. To live any meaningful social life aboard, to maintain a healthy and balanced mental and spiritual outlook on life and work, to adapt to the loneliness and yet play a part in the team-building which is so necessary for the health and safety of the group, demands huge discipline and self-sacrifice.
'I hope very much that all of us here today, and all those responsible for the moral and spiritual welfare of seafarers – employers, trades unions, legislators – recognise two things: first - the bravery, dedication and professionalism of the 21st century seafarer, for which so many have reason to be grateful, even if few of us stop to reflect on that fact very often; and second – that the Apostleship of the Sea is as important, I suspect more important than ever, in maintaining and feeding a moral and spiritual balance in the lives of a uniquely challenged group of workers, on whom the hub of global trade quite literally turns.
'In other words what our seafarers do for us is vital. So too is what ships visitors and chaplains do for them.
The world of commerce, like any part of our enormously complex world exhibits more than one identity, more than one face. Today we are celebrating and recommitting our resources, our energy and our support to the human face, the holy identity of one part of that fast-moving, wealth-creating world.
'On Palm Sunday I gave the last in a Radio 4 broadcast series for Lent entitled the Human face of God. We are the human face of God, and we discover the depth of ourselves, and the depth of God’s compassionate tenderness, when we allow his loving gaze to touch us, to penetrate us and to begin to change us.
'God moves, we know, in mysterious ways. Recalling some of my wobblier moments on a dinghy in Portsmouth Harbour I know that the mystery which is God is a mystery very much present to those who face the loneliness and the challenge of life at sea. In the vastness of the oceans we catch a glimpse of the infinite vastness which is God’s love for us. But it is in the friendship and love we offer one another, in good times and bad, that we experience most tangibly what it means to be truly human.
'That is what the Apostleship we are re-launching today is about. It is about offering friendship. I am particularly delighted that the Apostleship of the Sea is living proof that by working ecumenically, particularly with our Anglican and Free Church brothers and sisters, and through increasing the collaboration of lay and ordained ministers, we can achieve so much more together. Ecumenism is a distinguishing mark of maritime ministry around the world and an example of what can be achieved in furthering the visible unity of the Church, to the benefit of the poor and the marginalized.
'I am very pleased indeed to see so many friends here today and I would like to thank you for coming and for all your support for this important ministry.'