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Homily of Holy Father John Paul II delivered to the People of the Sea in Gdynia, 11 June 1987

Benedicite maria et flumina, Domino. (cf: Dn @ 3, 78.74)

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The Sea … it addresses man with specific speech. First of all it speaks a language of boundlessness. It is there, from the mouth of the Vistula River where the space opens, the space defined by the sheet of the Baltic Sea, endless distance that cannot be covered by human eyes.

Largeness of water, more uniform, as it were, from land areas. The unpopulated and uninhabitable area, though largely open and that beckons man. It beckons people. It beckons nations. Those who follow this call are named the People of the Sea. On more than one occasion in the history our nation has been asked to account for this call: Have Poles followed the call? Have they sufficiently responded to it? Have they searched security of their welfare and their rights among all nations of this globe?

It is across this endless distance that opens in front of a man standing on shore, and also that is out of sight of a seaman sailing across this largeness a route leads to many locations, countries and continents all over this world. To many peoples and nations.

The call of the sea encounters the fate of all inhabited lands. Not only does the sea separate those lands and keep them far away – but it also relates them.

Indeed. The sea tells men about necessity of seeking one another; about a necessity for encounters and cooperation; about a necessity of solidarity: interpersonal and cross-national one.

How significant is the fact, that this very word – “solidarity” – was voiced right here, at the Polish seaside.

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And that this very word was voiced in a new way which, however, confirms its primeval content.

Doesn’t the future of man on this earth, among all lands and seas, confirm necessity of its meaningful content? May the world, this huge and ever growing human family, endure and develop among the ever increasing adversities of the West versus the East? The North versus the South? Unfortunately, our contemporary world has been differentiated and separated in this way.

May the future, a better future, grow out of increasing differences and adversities in the way of mutual fights? Through a struggle of one system against another; of one nation against another nation; and finally, of one man against another man?

In the name of the future of man and humanity this very word of “solidarity” had to be voiced. Today this word flows in a large wave throughout the world that understands that we may not live following the principle “everybody against everybody”, but only in compliance with the principle “all with all”, “all for all”.

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Solidarity must precede the fight. Precede the fight. Then humanity may survive. And every nation in the large human family may survive and develop.

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I said: solidarity must precede the fight. Let me add: solidarity also triggers the fight. However, it is never the fight against the others. It is not the fight that envisage the other man as an enemy to be destroyed. This is the struggle for man, for his rights, for his real progress: the struggle for a more mature shape of human life. The human life on this earth becomes “more human” only when it is governed by truth, freedom, justice and love.

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Significance of the sea. It addresses us without words. It speaks the language of an endless distance. It also speaks the language of the depths.

It is at the sea shore that Saint Augustine used to ponder on unfathomable mystery God is – and also on a mystery man is.

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Man of contemporary civilisation is endangered by an illness of superficiality, threatened by trivialities. We should work to regain the depths – the depths that are inherent to human beings. The depths that invoke his mind and his heart like the sea does. These are the depth of truth and freedom, justice and love. The depth of peace.

Today’s gospel leads us to the Sea of Galilee. The Apostles were fishers, the people of the sea - though the Sea of Galilee is not particularly large water area - and naturally Christ often stayed with them at the sea shore and amongst the sea.

The sea became a particular place for encounters of man with God. The place touched by the foot of Saviour of world. The place on which a significant chapter of the history of redemption was written.

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Within this context I wish to address now very special words to the People of the Sea.

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I mean fishers, seamen, shipyard workers and all who work in ports or on board fishing boats, passenger and cargo vessels of all types, those who serve on board naval ships or submarines. You have bound your lives and the lives of your families with the sea. It is the sea that exercises a decisive influence over accomplishment of your human and Christian vocation, over the shaping of your personality and your conduct.

Your work, enjoying well deserved recognition among the society, is a heavy labour, requiring much dedication and sacrifice, frequent and very often long separation from your families, from your friends; requiring to display fortitude, courage, valour, cooperation in solidarity with others when exposed to hazards and difficulties. The sea is, as it were, the workshop for your daily work. It is sometimes an ominous and dangerous element. As you know well the sea claims many victims. How many family tragedies does it evoke? Let’s remember all deceased and also orphaned families in our prayer.

The sea allows better understanding of human weaknesses and limitations – and omnipotence of God; it allows to notice the worth of land, the need of other man, to appreciate family ties and the sense of togetherness, also the sense of parochial community and the vicinity of our neighbours.

Not one of you feels that the power and endless spaces of the sea facilitate your contact with God. It is a known saying” “He who cannot pray should go to sea!” In order to maintain one’s sense of identity, in order to maintain cordial family ties, and in order not to yield to your weaknesses you must pray, you must be people of prayer.

May you find the strength and power in prayer in times of loneliness and longing.

Fortunately, every Sunday the People of the Sea may listen to the Holy Mass specially transmitted for them from Gdańsk and participate in It; fortunately there is a special Apostleship of the Sea in Gdynia and Gdańsk; fortunately, that for four years now there has been “Stella Maris” club at the Church of Fathers Redemptorists. I also know that the Polish seamen enjoy apostleship centres scattered throughout the world. I express my joy from the fact that you have good reputation in these centres.

Remember that you are ambassadors of your Nation and spokesmen of the values represented by your Nation. This requires from you resolute moral attitude when facing atheist influences, surges of immorality and depravation.

May I now address all those who often for months are looking forward to your homecoming: to mothers and fathers, wives, daughters and sons, friends and acquaintances. May the Spirit of Christianity be present in your homes. May spiritual and prayerful ties relieve the longing of separation and create the sense of confidence that facilitate the work and help overcome difficulties.

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I rejoice that I have this opportunity today to find myself at the Polish seaside, in the Gdańsk Pomeranian Region, in the whole TriCity.

I greet Gdynia as the first city. Although I grew up on the Polish homeland far away from here I grew up in parallel to this City that became a symbol of our second independence. Together with the whole my Nation I keep feeling gratitude to those who created this City and this Baltic port from the very bare land, just out of nothing. My special thoughts go to the great Polish citizen, engineer Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski and also to all his co-workers. They represented that generation who, after many years, once again understood that access to the sea is a vital element of Poland’s independence. One of very important elements. Gdynia became an expression of the Nation’s new willingness to live. An expression convincing and effective.

Walking on the waves of the Sea of Galilee Jesus says to the Apostles: “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid! (Mt 14.27).

And then he tells Peter to come to Him across the water covering the distance and the depths, unattainable attributes of the sea.

And when Peter took fright of the force of the wind and began to sink, he cried: “Lord! Save me!” (Mt 14.30) Jesus put out His hand saying: “Man of little faith! Why did you doubt? (Mt 14.31).

I wish, dear Brothers and Sisters, that this biblical event from the Sea of Galilee stayed with you, people of the Baltic Sea, people of the Polish sea and of the Polish Pomeranian region.

Do contemplate that event within the context of our history, within the context of this century, within the context of these 80s …

Jesus says: “Courage! It is I; do not be afraid!
“Why did you doubt? It is I …
“Lord! Save me!
It is I …

On behalf of the whole of our history, on behalf of the whole of the history of this land: the Pomeranian and Littoral regions and the Polish sea we answer together with Simon Peter:
You are.

“Truly, you are the Son of God” (Mt 14.33)

Amen.



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by Dr. Radut.