Pope Francis Denounces ‘Shameful Plague’ of Human Trafficking

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

After his weekly Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis paused to reflect on what he called the “shameful plague” of human trafficking, encouraging greater efforts to eradicate this form of modern slavery.

February 8 marks the Catholic feast day of Saint Josephine Bakita, a Sudanese woman sold into slavery who was later released and became a Christian and then a nun. Pope Francis referred to Mother Bakhita as a “victim of human trafficking,” and said that the Church was dedicated to prayer and reflection against human trafficking on this day because of her.

The Pope called for greater assistance for all victims of trafficking, “the men, women and children enslaved, exploited, abused as instruments of work or pleasure and often tortured and mutilated,” he said.

Francis urged governments to act decisively “to remove the causes of this shameful plaque,” unworthy of a “civilized society.”

He also summoned Christians everywhere to be “spokespersons for these brothers and sisters of ours who are humiliated in their dignity.”

Sunday’s address echoed the words of the Pope uttered on other occasions, since human trafficking has been a recurring theme of his preaching.

Last April, Pope Francis called trafficking “an open wound on the body of contemporary society” and “a scourge upon the body of Christ.”

He also defined it as “a crime against humanity.”

At that meeting, the Pope pleaded with law enforcement authorities to combat this “tragic reality” by a “vigorous application of the law.” He also encouraged humanitarian and social workers “to provide victims with welcome, human warmth and the possibility of building a new life.”

Similarly, a year ago Pope Francis said that “it is impossible to remain indifferent knowing that there are human beings who are treated like merchandise!”

“Think of the children adopted for organ transplants, of women who are deceived and forced into prostitution, of exploited workers without rights or a voice, etc. This is human trafficking!” he said.

The Pope also suggested that along with legal efforts to combat this practice, a deep change of mentality is needed, which affects every member of society. He invited each of his hearers to examine their own conscience. “How many times have we permitted a human being to be seen as an object, to be put on show in order to sell a product or to satisfy an immoral desire?” he asked.

“The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of this injustice,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome