For 110 survivors of human trafficking, February 12, 2018, was truly a day to remember in a positive sense, as they were received by Pope Francis in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.
Those present had come to Rome for the February 8 Observance of International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron of the victims of human trafficking.
This was the first time the Holy Father met with victims of human trafficking in conjunction with the observance of the International Day, according to Vatican News and his message was clear and consistent: “I have never lost the opportunity to denounce this crime against humanity.”
In answering questions from those present, the Pope suggested that the lack of action to address human trafficking isn’t just because of ignorance of the problem, but also an unwillingness of some to face the issue. Much of the challenging is fighting criminal organizations and corruption.
Citing the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, the Pope lamented that many of the victims of human trafficking are first victimized by their families. Joseph became a slave in Egypt but eventually rose to greatness. The Holy Father said that is what makes education and the support of the Church so important for human trafficking’s victims.
The Pope and other church leaders in recent days have stressed the need to solve the crisis of human trafficking.
“We are doing this for the sake of victims and survivors and we will not be deflected,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales and president of the “Santa Marta Group,” in an exclusive interview with ZENIT on February 10, 2018.
Pope Francis encouraged the work of the Santa Marta Group on February 9, 2018, in an address to its members in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The group, established by the Holy Father in 2014, to battle trafficking and slavery.
“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,” the Pope said. “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.”