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

Calming consciences: Pope gives seafarer chaplains special powers

Pope Francis gave priests who minister to seafarers special permission to grant absolution for sins that usually would require the intervention of a bishop or the Vatican itself.

“I want to say something about peace in one’s heart,” the pope said on 27th June during a meeting with chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea working at European ports.

“Many seafarers come or will come to priest chaplains with problems on their conscience that make them suffer a lot because they have never had a chance to deal with them,” the pope said, departing from his prepared text.

“In these situations, far from home, from their countries, in these situations that we have described, perhaps a dialogue with the chaplain will open a horizon of hope,” the pope said.

“Be merciful. Be merciful,” Pope Francis told the chaplains.

“To help you with this mercy,” he said, “I concede to all seafarer chaplains the same permissions that I gave to the ‘missionaries of mercy’ so that you can help many hearts find interior peace.”

The “missionaries of mercy” were priests chosen by the Vatican for the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy to preach about God’s mercy and, especially, to encourage Catholics to rediscover the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation.

In a permission later extended to all priests, Pope Francis granted them the power to absolve penitents who regretted having an abortion or playing a role in someone’s decision to have an abortion. He also authorised them to lift some penalties imposed by Canon Law.

Through the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea, the Catholic Church gives support and solace to a group of workers facing constant danger and frequent exploitation, Pope Francis told the group.

Picture: Seafarers and other worshippers from Carna, Ireland, are seen in 2016 during the annual pilgrimage to MacDara’s Island to celebrate Mass in honour of St MacDara, patron saint of fishermen. Pope Francis has granted Apostleship of the Sea chaplains broader permission for granting absolution to those working far from home. (CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters).