Pope Francis has met with Santa Marta Group members at the conclusion of their two-day conference that sought to build on a partnership founded in 2014 to fight human trafficking and modern slavery.
The Holy Father thanked the group for its work and its committment to keep victims at the heart of its response to these global crimes. This year's conference focused on regional realities with tailored solutions to human trafficking in each continent.
Pope Francis spoke to delegates at the Apostolic Palace and finished by imparting God's blessing on those present and their families.
The full text of his address follows:
Dear Brother Bishops,
I am happy to greet you, the members of the Santa Marta Group, at the conclusion of your Conference, which is devoted this year to providing a worldwide perspective on human trafficking and modern slavery. 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.
It is my hope that these days of reflection and shared experiences have brought into clearer light the interplay between the global and local aspects of human trafficking. 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.
God's cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible - "Where is your brother?" - challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 211).
Initiatives to combat human trafficking, while concretely aimed at dismantling criminal structures, must increasingly consider broader issues associated, for example, with the responsible use of technology and the communications media, to say nothing of exploring the ethical implications of models of economic growth that privilege profit over persons.
I trust that your discussions in these days will also help to raise awareness of the growing need to support victims of these crimes by accompanying them on a path of reintegration into society and the recovery of their human dignity. The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God's mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole.
Dear friends, with gratitude for your commitment and cooperation in this vital area, I offer my prayerful best wishes for your continued work. Upon you and your families, and upon all those whom you serve, I invoke the Lord's blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me.
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