The Vatican will publish guidelines for cruise ship chaplains
as part of the 90th anniversary of the Apostleship of the
VATICAN CITY - It is not just sea, sun and celebrating the
sacraments for Catholic chaplains aboard cruise ships.
Regional directors of the Apostleship of the Sea meeting at
the Vatican in early February ratified a document clarifying
the role of chaplains who serve on board cruise ships.
Among its provisions, the document stipulated that priests
should not celebrate Catholic weddings on a cruise, but they
should be available to offer blessings for newlyweds or
couples celebrating wedding anniversaries. It also stated
that priests should offer daily and Sunday Masses, as well as
ecumenical prayer services when required.
Chaplains should make themselves available for pastoral care
and counseling not only with passengers but also the crew,
hotel staff and even the entertainers aboard ship, the
guidelines said. Chaplains are also encouraged to attend
staff and employee meetings during a cruise to better
understand the issues and concern of the people working on
The new guidelines asked cruise ship companies to provide
chaplains with a private cabin and all standard meals. They
are also asked to provide everything necessary to celebrate
Mass, including vestments and chalices, and to advertise all
the public activities of the chaplain while on board.
Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical
Council for Migrants and Travelers, which oversees the
Apostleship of the Sea, said the recent growth of the cruise
ship industry prompted the writing of the new "Cruise Ship
The document will be published later in the year as part of
the 90th anniversary celebrations of the Apostleship of the
Sea, an organization started in 1920 in Glasgow, Scotland, to
oversee the Church's mission to Catholics workers in maritime
Deacon Albert M. Dacanay, regional coordinator of the
Apostleship of the Sea for North America and the Caribbean,
attended the Vatican meeting in early February. He estimated
that 60 percent of U.S. cruise ship clients are Catholic and
that 80 percent of U.S. cruise ship staff members are
Catholics, the majority coming from the Philippines.
Deacon Dacanay said his office was concerned about the recent
decision of Celebrity Cruises to have Catholic chaplains on
board only on major religious holidays, but he said the
situation is evolving.
Celebrity Cruises recently revised its policy again, agreeing
to have priests on board ships during Lent and the Easter
season and for all cruises going to the Holy Land, according
to Doreen M. Badeaux, secretary general of the Apostleship of
the Sea in the United States.
Deacon Dacanay said, "There is still a big clamor for
chaplains to be on the ships, and there is a large number of
cruise ship companies still to bring along" into the official
programs of the Apostleship of the Sea.
In the United States, the Apostleship of the Sea oversees the
Cruise Ship Priest Program, which ensures that priests on
cruise ships are in good standing and which helps place
chaplains aboard cruise liners. Celebrity Cruises is one of
seven cruise lines that use the services of the Apostleship
of the Sea's U.S. offices.
Deacon Dacanay said that he would like to see the U.S. cruise
ships do more for the Catholic crews that they employ and
that the new guidelines will address his concerns.
Creating guidelines for chaplains from a variety of countries
serving on ships with different national registrations was
one of the challenges in writing the document, said Father
Bruno Ciceri, the international director of the Apostleship
of the Sea.
For instance, Father Ciceri said, Italian cruise ships have
chaplains that are formally part of the crew as commissioned
officers, while many ships serving U.S. customers use priests
who volunteer their services in exchange for free passage on
board vacation liners.
"In Italy the priests go as part of the crew, while in the
U.S.A. the priests go as part of their 'R and R', - there is
a big difference," Father Ciceri said. "But at last we will
have a common policy on many aspects of having Catholic
chaplains on cruises."