A special meeting to discuss ways in which the Church can help women living on the streets around the world begins in Rome next Monday. About 50 representatives of religious congregations, church associations and institutions from 24 countries will attend the First International Meeting for the Pastoral Care of Women on the Streets, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants. The main aim of the meeting is to foster co-operation and co-ordination among institutions and individuals working on the front line to assure pastoral care to women in difficulty. Migration, break up of families and communities and poverty are all causes of the phenomenon which involves more than one million women and children a year. In Thailand an estimated 150,000- 200,000 women are on the streets and of these 35,000 are under 18. In Italy there are an estimated 40,000 including 4,000 minors and vary many non European girls and women. According to the International Organisation for Migration IOM as many as half a million women from Eastern Europe are forced live in situations of slavery and prostitution in Western Europe. The meeting will open with an address by the Pontifical Council's president Japanese-born Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao. There will be a talk on "Trafficking of human beings particularly of women destined for prostitution" by Mrs Mariette Grange, representing the International Catholic Commission. Sociologist Prof Mario Pollo will report on the results of a preparatory survey made in view of the Meeting. A round table discussion with experts on pastoral care in this field will follow. On the second day of the meeting Rev Oreste Benzi head of the Pope John XXIII Community Association will speak on "Pastoral care for redemption and liberation". The meeting will include reports on pastoral experience in different countries and language group discussion on "planning specific pastoral care for the liberation of street women". The two days of reflection and discussion will close with a general debate and the drafting of 'Recommendations and Concrete Proposals' for specific pastoral care which is understanding and offers care and support to help women on the streets escape abuse. Source: Fides
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