A walk of faiths

THIS year’s Blessing of the Fleet procession will have a special guest — the Anglican church.

Although the festival is synonymous with Catholic traditions, this year for the first time the procession will stop outside St John’s Anglican church in Kings Square. Rev David Wood will deliver a short blessing before joining the parade as it continues to Fishing Boat Harbour.

Blessing of the Fleet president John Minutillo said they wanted to encourage all churches to join in the festival as a multicultural celebration.

The procession will leave from St Patrick’s Basilica in Adelaide Street at 2pm this Sunday, October 25. It will head down High Street from the mall before turning towards the Esplanade reserve at Mouat Street. Then it’s around Marine Terrace to the harbour, where the fleet will be blessed by Catholic archbishop emeritus Barry Hickey at 3.30pm.

• Leaving St Patrick’s Basilica with the Madonna of Martyrs.

• Leaving St Patrick’s Basilica with the Madonna of Martyrs.


At 4.30pm there will be a fireworks display at the Esplanade before the procession heads back to the Basilica at 5pm. The night finishes with a bang, with more fireworks at the harbour at 8pm.

For the early birds, there’s a mass and communion in honour of Our Lady of Capo D’Orlando at St Patrick’s at 8.30am and a solemn mass concelebrated by archbishop Hickey at 9.45am.

Traditionally celebrating the start of the fishing and crayfishing seasons, the blessing also pays homage to the two Italian communities which helped pioneer the port city’s fishing industry, who’d come from Molfetta and Sicily.


Freo’s first official blessing was in 1948, two years after a group of fishermen was stuck in port during bad weather and went to church instead. They decided to hold an annual “festa”, with a procession to Fishing Boat Harbour where the fleet pays homage to its patron, Our Lady of Martyrs.

The tradition dates back to the 12th century, with one legend claiming injured Crusaders returned from the Holy Land and found a Byzantine-style icon of the Madonna and child floating on the water. They took it to a Molfetta hospice.

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