By Christopher Wells
At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis drew attention to the “plague” of human trafficking, and called on government leaders to confront the causes of the trade in human beings.
Recalling the World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, which takes place on the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, the Holy Father said the motto for this year’s observance — “Together against Human Trafficking” — is “an invitation to join forces to overcome this challenge”. All of us, he said, “can and must work together to denounce the cases of exploitation and slavery of men, women, and children”.
Prayer sustains our commitment
The Pope insisted, “Prayer is the force that sustains our common commitment” to ending trafficking. He led the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square in a prayer to St Josephine, who had herself suffered as a slave before her conversion to Christianity. The following prayer was printed and distributed at the Angelus, and shown on the screens for those present:
St Josephine Bakhita, as a child you were sold as a slave, and had to face unspeakable difficulties and suffering.
Once you were freed from physical slavery, you found true redemption in the encounter with Christ and His Church.
Saint Josephine Bakhita, help all those who are trapped in slavery.
In their name, intercede with the God of mercy, that the chains of their captivity might be broken.
May God Himself free all those who have been threatened, wounded, or mistreated by the trade and trafficking of human beings. May He bring relief to those who survive this slavery, and teach them to see Jesus as a model of faith and hope, that their wounds may be healed.
We implore you to pray and intercede for all of us: that we not fall into indifference; that we may open our eyes and look upon the miseries and wounds of so many brothers and sisters deprived of their dignity and freedom, and hear their cry for help. Amen.
A strong commitment
At a press Conference on Friday, on the Day itself, Jesuit Father Frédéric Fornos noted Pope Francis’ strong commitment “to the fight against this scourge in its different expressions”. It is a “drama”, he said, that the Holy Father has had “in heart and in prayer for a long time".
The scourge of human trafficking is also the subject of Pope Francis’ February prayer intention: “Let us pray for a generous welcome to the victims of human trafficking, enforced prostitution, and violence.”