Stella Maris, the Church’s apostolate to seafarers, reaffirmed their commitment to seafarers’ rights at their conference last weekend, especially Ukrainian sailors affected by the ongoing conflict.
Formerly known as the apostleship of the sea, Stella Maris held the charities 25th World Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, from 3 to 5 October. Nearly 200 delegates, consisting of chaplains, coordinators, volunteers and Vatican officials, were told of “increasing demands for mental health support from Ukrainian seafarers and their families”.
Father Bruno Ciceri, the international director of Stella Maris, told the congress many Ukrainians were suffering “trauma” as a result of the ongoing invasion of their country, causing the charity to offer a new programme of mental health support from professional psychologists in the country. Around 76,000 Ukrainians were part of maritime industries before the beginning of hostilities in February of this year.
“The platform will provide a program of remote, ongoing psychological consultation for those most in need,” he said. Providing over 1,000 chaplains and volunteers to seafarers and maritime workers in need, Stella Maris, founded in Glasgow in 1920, is active in 330 ports across 60 countries worldwide. Congress delegates also discussed new strategies to highlight “injustices and abuses taking place within the maritime and fisheries sectors, including abandonment of seafarers, modern slavery and trafficking” at the congress, originally scheduled for 2020.
The head of the Ukrainian Catholic community in the UK has asked the people of Britain and Ireland “to pray and to continue to stand with Ukraine” as the war continues to escalate. Describing Ukranians as “a strong and brave people literally struggling for their survival” Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family stressed the urgent need for prayer from all “people of good will”.
His appeal came as the 2022 International Workshop of Justice and Peace Europe appealed urgent action to prevent further militarisation internationally. Sixty delegates and guests from more than twenty countries were welcomed to Assisi, Italy, by the President of Justice and Peace Europe, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor. The workshop noted the “just cause of self-defence” but warned against allowing “legitimate defence” to turn into “revengeful action.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Bishops have called on civil authorities on both sides of the border to implement an all-island approach to refugees from Ukraine and to asylum seekers.
The matter was discussed at their autumn general meeting where the bishops welcomed the appointment of Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Eparchy of the Holy Family in London as Apostolic Visitator for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic faithful living in Ireland.
More than 54,000 Ukrainians who have been forced to flee from their country are now living in the Republic of Ireland. There are also currently over 15,000 people seeking asylum in Ireland, of whom over 3,000 are living in the much-criticised system of direct provision.
During their meeting, bishops assured all refugees and asylum seekers of their concern. They expressed the hope that more people seeking refuge could also come to Northern Ireland and urged the civil authorities to seek to address this matter on an all-island basis.