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History of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS)


The beginnings of pastoral care of seafarers, can be seen in the second half of the 19th century. Although, over the centuries various marine environment initiatives were noted, even before 1900, various "missions of the sea people" under different auspices operated, caring for the spiritual, social and material well-being of crews, visiting such ports as London, Montreal , New York, New Orleans and Sydney.

At the end of the 19th century in many British ports, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul carried out an official program visiting ships. Over time, these initiatives increased their momentum. In 1899, Fr. Jospeh Egger created a special maritime branch of the Society of Prayer instilling in this way the first "branch" of pastoral care for seafarers.

New impetuses in the development of pastoral care for seafarers appeared in 1920 in Scotland, where Arthur Gannon and Peter Anson indicated a need for truly apostolic work for seafarers.

On the 4th October 1920 the first meeting of the Apostolate of the Sea took place in Glasgow. The Apostleship of the Sea was defined as an association of Catholics - men and women - joined together in prayer and work for the greater glory of God and the spiritual welfare of seafarers around the whole world. It was then that the emblem for the Apostolate of the Sea was created - a badge depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus in an old-fashioned anchor.

Then, on April 17, 1922 Pope Pius XI approved the document Apostleship of the Sea for Catholic Seafarers, which became the cornerstone of the organization of the Apostleship of the Sea. The above document was accompanied by a letter by Cardinal Gaspari, which included words of encouragement by Pius XI, expressing confidence that "this noble venture, supported by a zealous effort of clergy and laity will spread along the sea coasts in both hemispheres."

In 1927 the First International Congress was organised in Normandy in Port-en-Bassin. The president’s headquarters was moved from Glasgow to London. And in 1931 the Second International Congress was held in London, during which there was talk about the need to create the Apostolatus Maris Internationale Concilium (AMIC), headquartered in London, which was eventually created in 1934. April 30, 1942 saw the establishment of the long-awaited Centre in Rome.

On May 30, 1942, Pope Pius XII put the pastoral care of seafarers under the leadership of the Consistorial Congregation, thereby strengthening the bond between the Apostleship of the Sea and the Roman Curia.

On May 20, 1946, the SC International Council, still chaired by Arthur Gannon at its headquarters in Glasgow, asked to Pope Pius XII for the establishment of canonical structures, so that the council could better serve seafarers.

In 1952 Pope Pius XII created the international General Secretariat for management of the Apostleship of the Sea (SGIAM) under the protection of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. Also that year, Apostolatus Maris was established with a view to working with seafarers. On October 23, 1957, Pope Pius XII approved the special constitutions submitted by the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. Thus was established the work of a spiritual family, which provides all possible assistance to seafarers from the Church.

The next pope, who with great joy supported the pastoral care of seafarers, was John XXIII. Welcoming the participants of the Fifth Conference of the International Secretariat, on 25 October 1961, he stressed that the Apostleship of the Sea is undoubtedly a providential instrument for "the moral life and a solid human and religious formation"

The next stage of development of the ministry run for the benefit of seafarers was the adoption of those involved in work at sea - sailors and fishermen - under the care of the Pontifical Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. In 1970 Pope Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People - Pontificia Commissio de spiritualis Migratorum atque Itinerantium Cura – with the aim of pastoral care of "people on the road", such as migrants, refugees, refugees, displaced people, fishermen, sailors, travellers, etc.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus", under which the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People was raised to the rank of a new organization of the Roman Curia, the independent of the Congregation of Bishops. This meant progress towards sovereignty of the Council, which was made legally equal with other departments of the Roman Curia. It is autonomous in decision-making and administrative matters.

The next important date in the development of the AOS institution DLM is 31 January 1997, when John Paul II, in order to meet the challenges of the pastoral care of the people working in commercial shipping and fishing, their families, as well as the ports and all employees travelling by sea, updated the standards introduced by Pope Paul VI in 1970, announcing the motu proprio apostolic letter "Chaplaincy of Seafarers". It is worth noting that no pope had never before issued a document specifically for the Apostleship of the Sea. The Holy Father John Paul II in this letter clearly reminded that the Christian seafarers are primarily activists, and not just beneficiaries of the maritime apostolate.


Ten years earlier, during a homily he gave on June 11, 1987 at Kosciuszko Square in Gdynia, he said: "Remember that you are ambassadors of your own nation and promoters of the values ​​by which it lives. This requires of you a strong moral stance when in contact with the atheistic influences, with its waves of corruption and depravity."

The pope therefore appreciated the work of not only the AoS, but also stressed the need for constant care for those whom it serves and their families. Significant are his words: "I ​​now turn to those who wait for your return sometimes for months: mothers and fathers, wives, daughters and sons, friends and acquaintances. Let the Christian spirit reign in your homes, Christ's Peace, love and mutual trust. May spiritual, prayerful relationship relieve a longing of separation and create a special feeling of confidence, which facilitates work and helps to overcome difficulties".

The Holy Father Benedict XVI also showed an interest in the work and the situation of migrants, among them sailors, fishermen and their families. On 5 June 2005, during the Angelus, he said: "I ​​turn my thoughts towards those who are far from their homeland, and often also from their families, and, I hope that along their road, will always meet friendly faces and welcoming hearts that can sustain them in the difficulties of everyday life. "

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by Dr. Radut.