Pope's Address to Ambassadors on Subject of Human Trafficking

“The human person must never be sold and bought as merchandise. Whoever uses and exploits the person, even indirectly, makes himself an accomplice of this abuse”

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Here is a translation of the address Francis gave today when he received the accreditation of the ambassadors to the Holy See from Algeria, Iceland, Denmark, Lesotho, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Burundi, Malta, Sweden, Pakistan, Zambia, Norway, Kuwait, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Jordan.

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Lady and Gentlemen Ambassadors,

I am very happy to receive you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Algeria, Iceland, Denmark, Lesotho, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Burundi, Malta, Sweden, Pakistan, Zambia, Norway, Kuwait, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Jordan.

I thank you for the cordial words you addressed to me and also for the greetings that each of you has transmitted to me from your Head of State. I beg you to assure them of my return of them with my best wishes for their persons and for the fulfillment of their high office. Likewise I wish to greet through you the civil and religious Authorities of your Nations, as well as all your fellow-citizens, with a particular remembrance for the Catholic community.

Meeting with you, my first thought goes to the international community, to the many initiatives underway to promote peace; dialogue; cultural, political and economic relations and to help the populations tried by different difficulties. Today I wish to address with you an issue that concerns me very much and which at present threatens the dignity of people: it is the traffic of human beings. It is a real form of slavery, unfortunately ever more widespread, which concerns every country, also the most developed, and which touches the most vulnerable persons of society: women and girls, male and female children, the disabled, the poorest, those who come from situations of family and social disintegration. In them we Christians recognize, in a special way, the face of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the littlest and the neediest. Others, who do not refer to a religious faith, share, in the name of the human community, the compassion for their sufferings, with the commitment to free them and to soothe their wounds. Together we can and must commit ourselves to their liberation and be able to put an end to this terrible trade. There is talk of millions of victims of forced labor, slave labor, of the traffic of persons for manpower and sexual exploitation. All this cannot continue: it is a grave violation of the victims’ human rights and an offense to their dignity, in addition to being a defeat of the international community. All those who are of good will, whether or not they profess themselves religious, cannot allow these women, these men, these children to be treated as objects, deceived, violated, often sold several times, for various purposes, and in the end killed or, at any rate, ruined physically and mentally, to end up discarded and abandoned. It is a disgrace.

The traffic of persons is a crime against humanity. We must join forces to free the victims and to stop this ever more aggressive crime, which threatens, in addition to individual persons, the fundamental values of society and also international security and justice, in addition to the economy, the family fabric and social living itself.

However, there must be an assumption of joint responsibility and a more decisive political will to succeed in conquering on this front. Responsibility towards those who have fallen victim of trafficking, to protect their rights, to ensure their safety and that of their families, to impede the corrupt and the criminal to escape from justice and have the last word on persons. An adequate legislative intervention in countries of provenance, in countries of transit and in countries of arrival, also in order to facilitate the regulation of migrations, can reduce the problem.

Governments and the international community, to whom it corresponds in the first place to anticipate and impede this phenomenon, have not failed to take measures at several levels to block it and to protect and assist the victims of this crime, not rarely linked to the trade of drugs, of arms, to the transport of illegal migrants, to the mafia. Unfortunately, we cannot deny that sometimes public workers and members of contingents on missions of peace have been contaminated. However, to obtain good results the opposite action must also affect the cultural level and communication. And on this plane there is need of a profound examination of conscience: how many times, in fact, do we tolerate a human being to be considered as an object, exposed to sell a product or to satisfy immoral desires? The human person must never be sold and bought as merchandise. Whoever uses and exploits the person, even indirectly, makes himself an accomplice of this abuse.

Lady and gentlemen, I wanted to share these reflections with you on a social plague of our times, because I believe in the value and strength of a concerted commitment to combat it. Therefore, I exhort the international community to render even more harmonious and effective the strategy against the traffic of persons, so that, in every part of the world, men and women will never more be used as means, but always be respected in their inviolable dignity.

To each of you, Lady and Gentlemen Ambassadors, at the moment in which you begin your mission to the Holy See, I express my best wishes, assuring you of the support of the different services of the Roman Curia in carrying out your function. To this end, I invoke upon your persons and your families, as well as upon your collaborators, an abundance of divine blessings.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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