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This fleet’s blessed!

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Amid a riot of colour and flags, Scalabrinian priest Fr Jose Gutierrez cs, at left, blesses the fishing fleet at Sydney’s Fish Markets last weekend. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Amid a riot of colour and flags, Scalabrinian priest Fr Jose Gutierrez cs, at left, blesses the fishing fleet at Sydney’s Fish Markets last weekend. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Glorious Sydney sunshine, the smell of cooking paella and the refrains of Ave Maria banished the rain and gloom for the triumphant return of the well-loved blessing of the fleet at Sydney’s Fish Markets on 25 September.

The event’s two-year pandemic hiatus was also forgotten as Sydney’s Italian community joined seafood lovers and bemused onlookers to process the statue of the Madonna di Porto Salvo (Our Lady of Safe Harbour) around the markets.

Fr Jose Gutierrez cs led the crowd in prayer and blessed the ships and shopfronts, saying that God had a special place in his heart for fishermen.

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“We know that the first disciples the Lord chose, the closest friends of Jesus, were fishermen!” he said.

Its a big day - and a great one too - when the Blessing of the Fleet occurs each year at the Sydney Fish Markets. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Its a big day – and a great one too – when the Blessing of the Fleet occurs each year at the Sydney Fish Markets. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Fr Gutierrez blessed the fleet for the first time, telling The Catholic Weekly it was a “priceless celebration”.

“It’s beautiful. This public manifestation of faith is great. Everybody benefits, believers, non-believers,” he said.

Paul Bagnato, a senior member of the Bagnato fishing dynasty and professional fisherman for more than 50 years, said his family had been asking the blessing and protection of the Virgin Mary for generations.

“It is dangerous and we are at the mercy of mother nature at sea,” Mr Bagnato said.
Sydney Fish Market CEO Greg Dyer said it was a “really special day, we’re glad to be back post-COVID”.

Market staff applaud the procession as it passes by their business. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Market staff applaud the procession as it passes by their business. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The Fish Market’s trade has not entirely recovered from the pandemic, with visits still lagging at around 20 per cent under pre-COVID peak levels.

The markets are set to move to a new site in Blackwattle Bay in 2024.

The NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Victor Dominello, also of Italian heritage, said the blessing of the fleet was a “jewel in the crown” that would be even more iconic when the new markets opened.

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