It is my pleasure and honour to greet you as the episcopal head of the Department of Maritime Apostolate for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

As we approach the celebration of the Feast of the Birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, please be assured of my prayers, for all you who labour in merchant ships scattered over the world’s oceans, and also for your families at home in Ukraine, who keenly feel your absence especially at Christmas.  May the Mother of God cover you with her powerful Omophor and guide you safely back to your homes and families when the time comes.

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In the Gospel account of the Nativity of Christ, we read that the Magi were led by the Star to the place where the Christ child lay in a manger in Bethlehem.  The Magi were foreigners from a distant land carrying precious gifts to present to the Child: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  They travelled on camels for many days and many kilometers over the open desert that was full of danger, in order to find Jesus and present these gifts to him.

We can say that seafarers like yourselves, who work on merchant vessels, are like modern day Magi.  You travel, not through the desert riding on camels, but on board huge ships, sailing over perilous open seas for thousands of kilometers for many months at a time.  And you transport, not precious gifts for a king, but valuable cargo all the same: products for the use and benefit of people all over the world – food, automobiles, clothing, machinery and many other important goods.

In doing this work, you, first of all, earn a living for yourselves and you provide financial security for your families.  But you also serve many thousands, if not millions of people all over the world who depend on the products that you transport in your ships, ensuring that they safely reach their ports of destination.  You should be proud of this essential service you provide for humanity.

Therefore, today, when we celebrate the birth of He who travelled the greatest distance imaginable from heaven to earth in order to save us: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, let us pray that He may illumine and warm our hearts with joy, love and peace.  May the newborn Son of God bless, guide and protect each of you, your families and the vessels upon which you labour.

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

+Paul,  Maritime Bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

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