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Pope Francis’ Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

In a global economic system dominated by profit, new forms of slavery have developed that in a certain way are worse and more inhumane than those of the past

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on Saturday.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you, members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and participants of this plenary session dedicated to human trafficking. I am grateful for the kind words of the President, Ms. Margaret Archer. I cordially greet you all and assure you that I am very grateful for what this Academy realizes to deepen the knowledge of the new forms of slavery and to eradicate the trafficking of human beings, in the sole purpose of serving mankind, especially people who are marginalized and excluded.

As Christians, you feel challenged by the Sermon on the Mount of the Lord Jesus and by the “protocol” with which we will be judged at the end of our life, according to chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor in heart, blessed are the merciful, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness: for they will inherit the earth, they will be called children of God, they will see God” (cfr Mt. 5, 3-10). The “blessed of the Father”, His children who will see Him are those who worry about the last ones and who love the least of their brothers: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”, says the Lord (cfr Mt. 25, 40).

And today, among the neediest of these brothers there are those who suffer the tragedy of modern forms of slavery, of forced labor, of slave labor, of prostitution, of organ trafficking, of drugs. Saint Peter Claver, in a historical moment in which slavery was widespread and socially accepted, unfortunately – and scandalously – even in the Christian world, because it was a big business, feeling challenged by these words of the Lord, he consecrated himself to be “the slave of slaves”. Many other holy men and women, for example Saint John of Matha, have fought against slavery, following  Paul’s mandate: “No longer slaves but brothers and sisters in Christ” (cfr Fm 16).

We know that the historical abolition of slavery as a social structure is the direct consequence of the message of freedom brought to the world by Christ with His fullness of grace, truth and love, with his program of the Beatitudes. The progressive awareness of this message in the course of history is the work of the Spirit of Christ and of his participatory gifts to his saints and so many men and women of good will, who do not identify with a religious faith, but are committed to improve the human condition.

Unfortunately, in a global economic system dominated by profit, new forms of slavery have developed that in a certain way are worse and more inhumane than those of the past. Even more today, therefore, following the message of redemption of the Lord, we are called to denounce and fight it. First of all, we must be more aware of this new evil that, in a global world, wants to hide it because it is scandalous and “politically incorrect”. No one likes to recognize that in their own city, in their own neighbourhood, in their own region or nation there are new forms of slavery, when we know that this plague affects almost all countries. We must then denounce this terrible scourge in its severity. Pope Benedict XVI already bluntly condemned every violation of the equal dignity of human beings (cfr Address to the new Ambassador of the R.F. of Germany to the Holy See, Nov. 7, 2011). On my part, I have declared many times that these new forms of slavery – human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, organ trafficking – “are grave crimes, a plague on the body of  contemporary humanity” (Address to the II International Conference Combating Human Trafficking, April 10, 2014). All of society is called to grow in this awareness, especially with regard to national and international legislation, in order to ensure traffickers face justice and repurpose their unjust gains for the rehabilitation of the victims. The most suitable ways of penalizing those complicit in this inhumane market should be looked for. We are called  to improve the way of rescue and social inclusion of the victims, even  updating the regulations on asylum. Civil authorities should increase their awareness about the seriousness of such a tragedy, that constitutes a regression of humanity.

And many times, many times these new forms of slavery are protected by the very institutions who should defend the population from these crimes.

Dear friends, I encourage you to continue in this work, through which you help the world become more aware of such a challenge. The light of the Gospel is a guide for anyone who is at the service of the civilization of love, where the Beatitudes have a social resonance, where there is a real inclusion of the last ones. The earthly city in the light of the Beatitudes needs to be built, and thus, walking towards Heaven in the company of the small and least ones.

I bless you all, I bless your work and your initiatives. I thank you so much for all that you do.  I accompany you with my prayer and also, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.

[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]

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