Pope calls for protecting women and girls from trafficking

People hold a statue associated with Saint Josephine Bakhita as Pope Francis leads the Angelus from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on February 7, 2022. In his remarks, the Pope encouraged people to not to despair, but to invite Jesus into their lives. (CNS photo by Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has encouraged decisive action against human trafficking and female genital mutilation.

“In the face of these scourges of humanity, I express my sadness and urge all those with responsibilities to act decisively to prevent both the exploitation and the humiliating practices that afflict women and girls in particular,” the pope said on February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

After praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said, “About 3 million girls undergo this operation every year, often in very dangerous conditions for their health.”

“This practice, unfortunately widespread in various parts of the world, undermines the dignity of women and seriously undermines their physical integrity,” he said.

The pope also highlighted the upcoming celebration of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, February 8, the liturgical memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita.

He called the crime of human trafficking a “deep wound, inflicted by the shameful pursuit of economic interests without any respect for the human person”.

“So many girls – you see them in the street – who are not free, are slaves to traffickers, who send them to work and, if they don’t bring the money, beat them. That’s what’s happening today in our cities today. Let’s really think about it,” he said.

The pope greeted nuns in the square who are part of the Talitha Kum network, which fights against human trafficking.

“Thank you for what you are doing, for your courage. Thank you. I encourage you in your work,” he said before blessing a statue of Saint Josephine Bakhita by artist Timothy Schmalz. The work “Free the Oppressed” was dedicated to the victims of trafficking and to all women, in particular the nuns committed to their liberation.

The Talitha Kum networks are active on five continents and coordinate the anti-trafficking efforts of over 3,000 nuns from different congregations, friends and partners. They care for the victims and seek solutions to the inequalities that make people vulnerable to traffickers.

Talitha Kum coordinates the work of partner organizations preparing for the World Day of Prayer, dedicated this year to “The Power of Care. Women, economy and human trafficking.

People were invited to participate in an online prayer marathon at www.preghieracontrotratta.org from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central European Time (3 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST) and covering the different time zones of Oceania , from Asia and the Middle East to Africa, then Europe and finally South and North America.

Also, after the Angelus prayer, the pope launched an appeal for the protection of all human life.

Noting that February 6 marked the “Day for Life” in Italy, the pope said: “This appeal is valid for all, especially for the most vulnerable categories: the elderly, the sick and even children prevented from to be born”.

“I join the Italian bishops in promoting the culture of life as a response to the logic of rejection and demographic decline. All

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