ASIA/PHILIPPINES – Seafarers are “ambassadors of Christ”

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Manila – “Filipino seafarers are part of the circle of God’s friends. They defy danger and suffer loneliness for the good of their family and their country. Let us pray that they may continue to be ambassadors and faithful messengers of Christ”, declared Bishop Narciso V. Abellana, at the head of the diocese of Romblon and President of the Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, within the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines . In the Philippines, World Migrant and Refugee Day also coincides with the celebration of National Seafarers Day, that is, those who work on ships, are active or retired seafarers, fishermen or engaged at sea for work reasons. The day reminds us that seafarers “carry out their work with professional competence and a sense of responsibility, remaining strong in moments of temptation and loneliness, inspired by the values of the Filipino culture and the Christian faith”, added Msgr. Honesto F. Ongtioco, Bishop of Cubao, celebrating Mass on September 26, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Cubao, and recalling that about 400,000 of the 1.6 million seafarers in the world are Filipino nationals.
In another message, Father Jerry M. Orbos, missionary of the Divine Word and engaged in pastoral care with seafarers, said: “Today let us pray for our seafarers and their families. May the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael continue to protect, defend and guide us.
May the Lord protect our Filipino seafarers from all dangers: physical, moral and spiritual. May the bond of love and unity with their families remain strong despite the loneliness of their work, the distance and the long separation”, he said. Recalling the experience and difficulties that seafarers and migrants encounter, on the day dedicated to them, Bishop Narciso V. Abellana remarked: “When the ‘different’ tries to fit into a given community, finds difficulties and immediate acceptance. He is looked upon with suspicion. The life of the migrant is not easy, and even more difficult is that of the refugee. There are prejudices and discrimination, even among those of us who claim to be Christians and belong to the Catholic Church”. The Bishop launched an appeal to “be inclusive, not only in the use of language but, above all, in human relationships”, recalling the words of Pope Francis in the encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”. Commenting on the Pope’s Message for Migrants’ Day, entitled, “Towards an ever wider ‘we'”, the Bishop noted that “we are often afraid of diversity; however, diversity can enrich us, it must be welcomed”