By Christopher Wells
Human trafficking is a “modern-day scourge, which continues to cause untold human suffering,” Pope Francis said on Friday.
The Holy Father was speaking to members of the Santa Marta Group, “an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society in a process endorsed by Pope Francis, to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery.” The Group, which this week held its Fifth Conference in Rome,” was developed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW).
In his address to participants in the Conference, Pope Francis said, “It is my hope that these days of reflection and shared experiences have brought into clearer light the interplay between the global and local aspects of human trafficking.” He noted, “to our scandal and shame,” that human trafficking is far more widespread than was previously acknowledged, especially in more prosperous societies.
The Pope focused on efforts to explore “the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children.” He said not only must society work to “dismantle criminal structures” that make human trafficking, it must also address larger issues that create the environment in which human trafficking is allowed to flourish. In particular, he pointed to “the responsible use of technology and communications media”; but he also mentioned the importance of questioning economic models that tend “to privilege profits over persons.”
He said the Church is grateful “for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole,” and encouraged participants in their work to raise awareness of the need to support victims of human trafficking.
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ address to the Santa Martha Group:
Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis
To Members of the “Santa Marta Group”
Friday, 9 February 2018
Dear Brother Bishops,
I am happy to greet you, the members of the Santa Marta Group, at the conclusion of your Conference, which is devoted this year to providing a worldwide perspective on human trafficking and modern slavery. As leaders in law enforcement, research and public policy, and pastoral assistance, you offer an essential contribution to addressing the causes and effects of this modern-day scourge, which continues to cause untold human suffering.
It is my hope that these days of reflection and shared experiences have brought into clearer light the interplay between the global and local aspects of human trafficking. Experience shows that such modern forms of slavery are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame –within the most prosperous of our societies.
God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – “Where is your brother?” – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 211). Initiatives to combat human trafficking, while concretely aimed at dismantling criminal structures, must increasingly consider broader issues associated, for example, with the responsible use of technology and the communications media, to say nothing of exploring the ethical implications of models of economic growth that privilege profit over persons.
I trust that your discussions in these days will also help to raise awareness of the growing need to support victims of these crimes by accompanying them on a path of reintegration into society and the recovery of their human dignity. The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole.
Dear friends, with gratitude for your commitment and cooperation in this vital area, I offer my prayerful best wishes for your continued work. Upon you and your families, and upon all those whom you serve, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me.