Maritime piracy, the Vatican warns exponential phenomenon

The Vatican raises the alarm on maritime piracy. The numbers were released by the Cardinal Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Migrants are actually thinkingnly in 2010 were abducted 1,181 sailors and 53 ships were seized, most of which are off the coast of Somalia. Many are Italian owners. “A crime sneaky, very difficult to deal with, and growing, which is taking shape even more dramatic for the increase in violence against the hostages and the extension of their detention.”

Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants, Vatican hold a special five day world congress on the Apostleship of the Sea. Some 410 people from 71 countries representing the five continents participated. A similar event had never been organized by the Catholic Church.

In introducing the Congress, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio’ spoke of the roots of the Apostleship of the Sea stemming from the mid 19thcentury when Catholic missionaries began accompanying to and from Europe thousands of migrants seeking a better future in the Americas. Since then, apostleship has grown into a worldwide ministry, counting 110 “Stella Maris” centers across the globe.

The conference addressed the  real tragedy through testimonies of victims of piracy -among others Joseph Lubrano, captain of the Savina Cailyn, seized by Somali pirates for eleven months with the 22 members of his crew two years ago – and experts in the management of the negotiations of liberation. It was  also the opportunity to confirm the particular closeness of the Church to the families of the hostages. The Congress, however, the cardinal Vegliò summarized, also addressed some issues relating to social justice in the maritime world, not excluding ‘aspects that are now threatening particularly hard life of seafarers, “about 38 million people, beginning with the working conditions and the economic outlook, particularly in relation to professional fishermen.”

Though he highlighted technical improvements in the shipping industry as “positive factors” Cardinal Veglio’ expressed the Church’s concern for those in the maritime world who are subjected to forms of physical abuse or those required to work for months at sea without contact with their families or Christian communities. In recent years, he said, ships and crews have been abandoned in foreign ports without food or supplies and increasingly restrictive local regulations often prevent mariners from going ashore. Piracy he said, which “causes long term psychological trauma not just for the seafarer but also his family” deserves special attention in and of itself.

With these challenges in mind, the Apostleship of the Sea collaborates with the World Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization advocating on behalf of the welfare and rights of seafarers and fishermen.

Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Fr. Gabriele Ferdinando Bentoglio announced two important Church-sponsored initiatives in defence of people of the sea: the Seafarer’s Rights International (SRI) to promote the rights and legal protection of maritime workers; and the Maritime Humanitarian Piracy Response (MHPR), an inter-agency network to respond to the needs of families and seafarers who have suffered traumatic events such as pirate attacks, kidnappings and armed theft.

Vatican Radio

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