In his address to the Second International Conference on Combating Human Trafficking: Church and Law Enforcement in Partnership, organised by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, which took place at the Vatican from 9-10 April, Pope Francis described human trafficking as "an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.
He said: "This is an important meeting, a gesture on the part of the Church and people of good will who want to cry out, 'Enough!'. The very fact of our being here to combine our efforts means that we want our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel, by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime," said the Pope.
"Our meeting today includes law enforcement authorities, who are primarily responsible for combating this tragic reality by a vigorous application of the law. It also includes humanitarian and social workers, whose task it is to provide victims with welcome, human warmth and the possibility of building a new life. These are two different approaches, but they can and must go together. To dialogue and exchange views on the basis of these two complementary approaches is important. Conferences such as this are extremely helpful, and, I would say, much needed."
Before concluding, the Holy Father thanked the participants for their collaboration and commented on the importance of the fact that, "one year after your first meeting, you have regrouped from throughout the world in order to advance your common efforts".
At the end of the conference following declaration was issued:
On this date, 10 April 2014 in the Vatican, senior law enforcement officials and representatives of the Catholic Church met to plan ways of together combating human trafficking and slavery.
The Holy Father Pope Francis has endorsed this event and has stated:
"I exhort the international community to adopt an even more unanimous and effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity may always be respected. As senior law enforcement officials within the international community, we commit to eradicate the scourge of this serious criminal activity, which abuses vulnerable people.
"This conference is part of a process where we work together on the international stage to develop strategies in prevention, pastoral care and re-integration, placing the victim at the centre of all we do.I make a personal commitment to developing partnerships with the Church and civil society to bring to justice those who are responsible for these horrendous crimes and to alleviate the suffering of the victims."
Watch today's anti- trafficking press conference at the Vatican here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHPSuVkeDxw
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