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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Port chaplains witness rise in calls from crews for onboard services

A Liverpool maritime charity is stepping up efforts to deliver church services on board vessels after reporting a rise in demand for spiritual support from crew members.

The Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) offers wide-ranging support to 50,000 seafarers who pass through the River Mersey Ports and berths every year, including church services, sacrament and blessings onboard vessels.

The news comes ahead of Sea Sunday – an annual celebration held on the second Sunday in July – when Christian churches of all denominations remember and pray for seafarers, giving thanks for their lives and work.

During Sea Sunday, charities such as the national Apostleship of the Sea, The Mission to Seafarers and the Sailors’ Society as well as non-denominational groups such as Sea Cadets carry out fundraisers, hold parades, and run awareness campaigns about life at sea.

LSC is an ecumenical partnership between the Apostleship of the Sea (Liverpool) and The Mersey Mission to Seafarers, both bodies being independent of the national and international Missions.

LSC CEO John Wilson said Britain has a heavy dependency on the invisible army of brave seafarers with 95 per cent of everything we consume transported by sea. And with the cruise season well underway, Liverpool is also expected to welcome 58 ships each carrying between 120 and 1350 crew from now until September.

However, many seafarers on board cruise vessels are only permitted up to two hours shore leave making it difficult to attend church services. Crew on merchant vessels, too, are precluded from attending church services, even when in port due to operations on board.

“We are one of the few port cities to have a seafarer welfare centre located in the actual cruise terminal,” said Mr Wilson. “So, we are able to interact directly with seafarers as soon as they leave the vessel. Merchant vessel crew have often been at sea for many days, often weeks, working long hours. Many are people of faith, often desperately in search of spiritual nourishment, and we are witnessing an increase in requests for church services to be delivered on board. This affords seafarers the opportunity to practice their faith in a way many of us take for granted.”

Read more on this story in this week’s Universe.
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Picture: Fr Martin Caddell pictured with Catholic crew members after an onboard Mass. (LSC).