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Seafarers’ charity founded in Glasgow returns to Vatican

The XXII Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea began today in the Vatican’s Synod Hall, focusing on New Evangelisation

By Nida Hamid

New Evangelisation is at the heart of the XXII World Congress of the seafarers’ charity that was founded in Glasgow in 1922.

The XXII Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea began today in the Vatican’s Synod Hall. It welcomed seafarers and their families along with the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, who have said the congress will offer a moment of ‘reflection, prayer and sharing.’

At the congress, entitled New Evangelisation in the maritime world: New ways and means to proclaim the Good News, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, the President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, described the Apostleship of the Sea centres, chaplains and volunteers as ‘a beacon of light for those who have sailed for weeks only in the company of themselves.’

Cardinal Antonio explains to the 400 or so participants gathered in the Vatican’s Synod Hall that the modernisation of maritime industry has made the process of evangelisation more difficult, however, not impossible.

“The New Evangelisation and the Year of Faith invite every chaplain and volunteer of the Apostleship of the Sea to deepen their faith… to go forward to proclaim the Gospel,” he said.

The process of evangelisation can be seen in the work of the Apostleship of the Sea. In 2011, 210 Masses were celebrates on ships and there were 13 AoS port chaplains.


The Apostleship of the Sea was founded at St Aloysius Parish in Glasgow, in 1920, by a small group of laypersons. At that time Britain had one of the largest merchant fleets in the world and employed thousands of British seafarers. In August 1922, Pius XI signed the very first Constitutions of the AoS.

Cardinal Antonio said today ‘we have chosen to be in the Vatican again because we wanted to return to our roots and commemorate the 90th anniversary of Pius XI’s approval of the first constitutions.’

He also further complimented the AoS’s work as ‘the small mustard seed planted 92 years ago has grown and fulfilled Pius XI’s wish.’

The Apostleship of the Sea has always stood by their founding belief that ‘every seafarer deserves fair working conditions, respect for their human rights and the very best we can offer.’ In the beginning, the AoS ran several hostels in all the major port towns which allowed seafarers to stay while their ship was in port, however, in recent years a seafarer is only in port for a few hours. The AoS now provide modern drop-in centres for all seafarers, a place for them to email or telephone loved ones, relax and stock up on essential items for their next trip to sea. At the congress, Cardinal Antonio told delegates involved in the AoS that ‘the Church appreciates your work and is grateful to you for what you do.’


The President of the Pontifical Council ended his speech with a prayer to Mary, the Star of the Sea. The AoS is also known as Stella Maris, meaning Our Lady, Star of the Sea by many seafarers. It is an ancient title for Mary, the Mother of God and as seafarers have traditionally depended on the stars for navigation, they put their trust and faith in the guidance of Our Lady. The speech is ended by the declaration of the opening of the XXII World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea.

The AoS continue to support seafarers in Britain’s largest port and help them in any way they can, they have visited 9904 ships and assisted 198,080 seafarers in 2011 alone. They rely on volunteers and generous donations from their supporters to maintain their work in aiding seafarers around Britain. Through their hard work of helping seafarers around Britain it is clear the Apostleship of the Sea is aiding in the process of the New Evangelisation and strongly celebrating this Year of Faith.


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