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Fishing Fleet festival blissful in 70th anniversary of blessing


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe blesses the Madonna dei Martiri and those on board to mark the Fishing Fleet’s 70th anniversary. Photo: Josh Low.

By Matt Lau and Josh Low

The seventh decade of the annual Blessing of the Fleet festivities saw thousands flock to Fremantle as the Blessed Mother was publicly honoured in the streets.

The day began with a Mass celebrated completely in Italian by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB in honour of Our Lady of Capo D’Orlando at St Patrick's Basilica, Fremantle.

Concelebrating the Mass with the Archbishop were Parish Priest and Rector of St Patrick‘s Basilica Fr John Sebastian OMI, Frs John Archbold OMI, James Jeyachandran OMI, Subash Fernando OMI, Pierangelo Borali CRS, and visiting priests Frs Giovanni and Francesco Maria from Molfetta, Italy.


The 9.45am Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe in the presence of the Italian Consul and other dignitaries at St Patrick’s Basilica. Photo: Josh Low.

In his homily, Archbishop Costelloe referenced the words of Pope Francis in describing Mary, the Mother of God as our mother, our help and our guide.

“She [Mary] held nothing back from God. She locked nothing within out of self-pity or resentment, but instead, gave everything over to God. These are the secrets of the Mother of God, silently treasuring all things and bringing them to God.

“As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters.

“And Mary is what God wants us to be, what He wants His Church to be: a mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbour in our lives,” he added.


Thousands were present to see the Blessed Mother being publicly honoured in the streets on 28 October. Photo: Josh Low.


The street procession began from St Patrick’s Basilica in Fremantle to the Fishing Boat Harbour and Esplanade on 28 October. Photo: Josh Low.

The afternoon procession began at the Basilica, with the Madonna dei Martiri (Our Lady of Martyrs) and Madonna di Capo D’Orlando statues being paraded through the streets of Fremantle, before arriving at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour.

The statues were then placed on two adorned boats, with Archbishop Costelloe blessing the Fleet after setting sail, interceding to Our Lady for a successful fishing season and for the protection and safety of fishermen out at sea.


The Blessing of the Fleet tradition began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities, and was first introduced to Fremantle by Italian migrant fishermen from Molfetta in 1948. Photo: Matthew Lau.

The procession returned to St Patrick’s Basilica with fireworks along the way to cap off the day’s festivities.

The Blessing of the Fleet is a tradition that began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities, and was first introduced to Fremantle by Italian migrant fishermen from Molfetta in 1948.

A book, titled Blessing of the Fleet: History of Fremantle’s Festa, was also recently launched to commemorate the 70th year since the initial Fleet blessing occurred, co-authored by Maria Amato-Gorman and Susana Iuliano.


Archbishop Costelloe with members of clergy on board the fleet, accompanied by Rev Patrick King, Rector of St John’s Anglican Church in Fremantle (right). Photo: Josh Low.

Raffaele Paparella, Blessing of the Fleet Vice-President, told The eRecord of his delight in seeing a vast improvement on this year’s turn-out compared with recent years.

“The entire day was a total success; it was one of the best for a very long time,” he expressed.

“It has just been getting bigger and bigger.”

Mr Paparella, who has been on the committee for the past 11 years, praised the efforts of his counterparts who “have worked all year round to put this one-day event on”.

The “Blessing of the Fleet” book is available for $30. For more information, Click Here.