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COVID-19: Pope encourages seafarers amid difficulties



POPE Francis has thanked maritime personnel and fishermen for their important contribution to feeding humanity, and recalls the difficulties they endure amid COVID-19 pandemic.

  In a video message sent Wednesday to the Apostleship of the Sea, Pope Francis recognised the difficulties facing seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  He expressed gratitude for their help in feeding humanity despite the risks involved.

  “Your work as maritime personnel and fishermen has thus become even more important,” he said, “since it is providing our greater human family with food and other primary needs.”

The coronavirus pandemic, said the Pope, has forced vast changes upon seafarers, leading them to make many sacrifices.

  “Long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, and fear of infection,” he said, are a heavy burden to bear.

  Anywhere between 150,000 and 200,000 seafarers are currently stranded at sea, according to the UN’s labor agency.

  The International Labor Organization (ILO) said recently that lockdown measures have prevented healthy maritime personnel from disembarking. Many completed their tours months ago but were forced to stay aboard.

  Mental health issues and physical exhaustion, ILO said, are affecting many.

  In his message, Pope Francis addressed suffering seafarers directly.

  “Know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten,” he said. “Your work at sea often keeps you apart from others, but you are close to me in my thoughts and prayers, and in those of your chaplains and the volunteers of Stella Maris.”

  The Pope reminded them that Jesus’s first disciples were fishermen, something they should take comfort in.

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