SEA SUNDAY 2023 MESSAGE The Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has designated the s […]


The Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has designated the second Sunday in July as “Sea Sunday” and has called on pastors and laity around the world to pray for seafarers. The Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move also invites you to pray for seafarers and their families.

Over the past few years, our Sea Sunday message has focused on the situation and needs of seafarers coming to Japan’s ports. Surrounded by the sea, Japan has many people involved in and working in ports. Ports are a key source of energy supplies and transportation of goods, and are important workplaces that support the national economy. We must recognize that this industry plays an important role in the stable transportation of import and export cargo. Ports are points of contact for trade and windows on the world that support our lives.

Therefore, the core members of the Seafarers’ Pastoral Committee thought it would be good to broaden this year our horizons and share the experiences of those who work in Japan’s ports. Their stories help us understand and appreciate the importance of ports, the gateways to communication with the sea and other countries.

Here we introduce the voices of people who work in ports. Their stories contain memorable points.

One person spoke of foreigners who buy items in Japan for resale in other countries without making customs declarations. He said that such illegal activities may be due to poverty and low salaries. Inspired by the words of the Bible that preach universal love of neighbor, his antipathy and prejudice towards certain foreigners gradually disappeared, and he became able to distinguish between sin and sinners. It was his faith that brought him to think this way.

Another person works for a shipping agency that processes paperwork for foreign ships that call at a port. He says that the realm of shipping constantly reminds us that there are many things that are beyond the control of individuals. Natural phenomena such as weather and infectious diseases have an impact not only on work but even on life, as do international affairs. The impact of Covid-19 and its countermeasures made the situation of seafarers truly dire. Seafarers whose working conditions were harsh to begin with were nearly abandoned around the world when it came to infectious disease control. However, in such an extremely harsh working environment, there are many glimpses of the strength of seafarers’ religious beliefs. Rosaries hang on equipment and switches. Crucifixes and gorgeous icons of the Virgin Mary adorn cabin doors. The observer noted that ships that contained such religious elements had good working crews. Even in some of the worst circumstances in history, it was clear that faith supported each seafarer.

Until we look at the work in ports, we do not realize the shortage of Japanese workers. There is not enough manpower for shipbuilding, related factories, fisheries and food processing. It is essential to accept foreign nationals as soon as possible. This is also important for the revitalization of port towns.

Young Vietnamese, Indonesians and Filipinos work in port food processing plants and shipyards. Their companies are supportive and provide good housing so that they can adapt to their work situation, as well as appropriate training to become skilled workers, including safety measures, traffic rules, and disaster-preparedness seminars. But they, like seafarers, are homesick. Unlike a cold, this disease cannot be cured with medicine. Especially during the pandemic, there were restrictions on movement and it was not possible to return to their home countries. On the other hand, they appreciate the church as a place to meet, talk and share experiences with people. At social gatherings after Mass they can eat dishes from home. As a church, we should continue to accept them and think about being close to them.

The sea and ports are indispensable to our lives. Be aware of seafarers and the people who work in ports. Pray for them. May our protector Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, protect all seafarers and those who work in ports.

+Michiaki Yamanouchi, Chairperson
Catholic Commission of Japan for
Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move
July 9, 2023