Piracy: Vatican expresses concern
The Vatican has demonstrated an increasing concern in regards to piracy. A conference organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People – which is responsible for the Apostoleship of the Sea, was opened on Monday 14 February to discuss the provision of better assistance to hijacked sailors as well as their families.
Through the Apostleship of the Sea, better known as Stella Maris, the Vatican has long cared for sailors through initiatives such as providing chaplains to tankers and cruise ships.
Last year’s record number of pirate attacks and hostage-takings has been a source of considerable alarm prompting concerns that the psychological and financial needs of crew members are going largely unmet. This is of particular concern as regards Asians who very often comprise the majority of captured crews.
The Rev. Gabriele Bentoglio, under-secretary in the Vatican’s office for migrants, stated that “While the owners pay soaring ransoms for the recovery of vessels and cargos, seafarers, and their families are paying the highest price in terms of psychological trauma and other consequences,” adding that “Before, during and after their ordeal, very little professional assistance is often offered to these people.”
The Under-Secretary’s comments were underlined by Admiral Pierluigi Cacioppo, vice commander of Italy’s ports, who suggested during the conference that guidelines should be adopted in such a fashion as to create a clear protocol regarding how sailors could be prepared for the possibility of an attack by pirates. The Admiral added that the protocol should also take into consideration how to care for them and their families in the event of capture. Admiral Cacioppo also suggested that the guidelines should take into account the attention required to overcome the trauma of having been attacked and held hostage.
Cacioppo pointed out that in the case of capture sailors are “forced to face precarious situations of extreme hardship, often suffering from hunger, with no economic support for themselves or their families … desperate or resigned while waiting for someone to pay an unjust ransom.”
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to address audience members of the conference on Wednesday 16 February.
Go to the Apostleship of the Sea website