Protecting Jesus: the story of the Catholic chaplain on that sinking cruise ship

His story is now being told:

A Catholic chaplain aboard the sinking Costa Concordia rushed to consume the Eucharist in an attempt to protect it as the cruise liner began to sink on Friday night.

Fr Rafaeli Mallena, 70, described his ordeal to Fr Giacomo Martino, director of the Apostolate of the Sea for the Italian bishops’ conference.

He said as he realised the ship was in serious peril he had two things at the forefront of his mind: protecting the valuables, which the staff had entrusted to him, and protecting the Blessed Sacrament.

When the first explosion was heard during dinner, Fr Rafaeli said, “he felt immediately that something was very, very wrong”, according to Fr Giacomo. He immediately went to the chapel to pray and 40 minutes later, when he realised the “abandon ship” alarm was sounding, he consumed the Eucharist and locked the staff’s valuables, including jewellery and money, in a safe.

As chaos ensued among the 4,200 passengers aboard, the priest tried to stay aboard in an effort to help but he was persuaded by crew members that it would be better if he boarded a lifeboat and left the sinking ship.

Fr Giacomo Martino said that Fr Mallena had now returned to Rome where he was recovering from his ordeal.

Read the rest.


  1. Thanks for posting this Dcn. Greg. I used to love crusining, but all of the ships save for Holland America and Costa got rid of the Catholic Mass (using the excuse that passangers “complained” that it was discrimination). That’s a stretch being that what makes a cruise ship attractive to many is that there is pretty much something there for everyone. That said, Costa ships are the only ones with altars and also who keep the Blessed Sacrament reserved. That’s saying a lot in a world with a glut of cruise ships. Even worse, (my guess is that is not a good “shopping day” in the ports), most cruise ships are never on land on Sundays, leaving no option for attending mass.

    All said, for any Catholic not finding it acceptable to miss mass on Sunday due to crusing, Costa and Holland America are the only options.

    When I first heard this story, one of my first thoughts was about the Eucharist also on board.

  2. In light of the captain’s actions, perhaps we need more seafaring priests.

  3. It’s a nice amenity for Catholics, but you might want to make sure you’re good with God BEFORE you board Costa!

  4. One way or another, the industry needs men of substance and accountability! That man’s actions are a stain on the concept of “captain” as it has been understood for centuries in every decent navy and merchant service.
    It’s pathetic to see that the corporate management culture of diffusing responsibility into the ether has taken hold at sea. Even into recent times, men of such low caliber were weeded out at the midshipman stage in the sea service. The forbears of our own naval tradition, the British, tried captains who lost their ships in action, and executed those few who showed the levels of cowardice and disregard that this Italian captain displayed.

  5. But he didn’t bother to help anyone on the ship?

    Jesus would be thrilled.

  6. I agree with John. I think Christ would understand the need to help the people as first priority. However, he is 70 years old. I wouldn’t expect much.

  7. Are you blind? It says right here that he tried to help.

    “As chaos ensued among the 4,200 passengers aboard, the priest tried to stay aboard in an effort to help”

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