Pope Francis Thanks Italian Fishermen for Clearing the Sea of Plastic

Pope Francis waves to worshipers from the window of the Apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter's Square during the Angelus prayer on January 6, 2020 in the Vatican. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis thanked a delegation of Italian fishermen Saturday for their volunteer work in clearing the sea of plastic as part of their “seabed remediation” project.

The campaign, called “A Pesca di Plastica” (Fishing for Plastic) is a particularly important initiative, Francis said, both because of the actual recovery of a large amount of waste, especially plastic, and also “because it can become and is already becoming a repeatable model in other areas of Italy and abroad.”

This is the way that local civil society can and must contribute to “tackling global issues,” the pontiff stated, and also serves to stimulate the competent authorities to do more.

Last September, the pope announced he had banned plastic in Vatican City State to stand in solidarity with environmentalists.

Francis said he had been disturbed by a conversation a couple months earlier with sea chaplains and fishermen who recounted how they had gathered six tons of plastic from the ocean over the course of a few months.

The pope has taken a lead role in advocating for environmental responsibility and in 2015 issued the first papal encyclical ever written on the environment, called Laudato Sì.

Francis wrote:

Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.

In his address Saturday, the pope also praised the group’s specific work as fishermen as well, calling them courageous and committed.

In this day and age, “a fisherman may sometimes feel tempted by the desire for safe work on dry land, Francis said. “Yet whoever was born on the sea cannot eradicate the sea from his heart.”

“I urge you not to lose hope in the face of the inconveniences and uncertainties that you unfortunately have to face: you don’t lack courage!” he said.

The pope also noted that among Jesus’ first disciples, a significant number were “your colleagues” and Jesus called them while they were working with their nets on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Francis expressed his hope that his hearers also feel the Lord’s presence during their work.

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