11 April 2019 | Address of His Holiness


Synod Hall

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Thank you for inviting me to meet with you at the end of your Conference dedicated
to the implementation of the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking, prepared
by the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral
Human Development and approved by me. I thank Father Michael Czerny for his
words of greeting on behalf of all the participants.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). These words of
the Gospel of John summarize the mission of Jesus: to offer the fullness of life to all
men and women of every age, according to the plan of the Father. The Son of God
became man to show all human beings the path to realizing their humanity, in
conformity with each person’s uniqueness and unrepeatability.
Tragically, our world today is marked by situations that hinder the fulfilment of this
mission. As pointed out by the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking, “our
times have witnessed a growth of individualism and egocentricity, attitudes that tend
to regard others through a lens of cool utility, valuing them according to criteria of
convenience and personal benefit” (§17).
It is essentially this tendency to commodify the other, which I have repeatedly
denounced[1]. Trafficking in persons is one of the most dramatic manifestations of
this commodification. In its many forms, it constitutes “an open wound on the body
of contemporary society”[2], a profound injury to the humanity of those who suffer
it and to its perpetrators. Trafficking profoundly disfigures the humanity of the
victim, offending his or her freedom and dignity. Yet at the same time, it
dehumanizes those who carry it out, denying them access to “life in abundance”.
Finally, trafficking seriously damages humanity as a whole, tearing apart the human
family as well as the Body of Christ.
Trafficking, as I said, represents an unjustifiable violation of the freedom and dignity
of its victims, of those constitutive dimensions of the human being as willed and
created by God. For this reason, it is to be considered a crime against humanity[3].
Of this, there can be no doubt. The same gravity, by analogy, must be attributed to
all forms of contempt for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whether a
compatriot or a foreigner.
Those guilty of this crime cause harm not only to others but also to themselves. For
each of us is created to love and care for others, and this culminates in the gift of
self: “No one has greater love than this: to give one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
In our relationships with others, we play out our humanity, approaching or moving
away from the model of human being desired by God the Father and revealed in his
incarnate Son. Therefore, every choice contrary to the realization of God’s project
for us is a betrayal of our humanity and renounces that “life in abundance” offered
by Jesus Christ. It is to take the down staircase, to debase ourselves, to become
All actions that aim to restore and promote our humanity and that of others are in
line with the Church’s mission, as a continuation of the saving mission of Christ. This
missionary value is evident in the struggle against all forms of trafficking and in every
commitment to the redemption of the survivors; a struggle and a commitment that
also have beneficial effects on our own humanity, opening the way to the fullness of
life, the ultimate purpose of our existence
Your presence, dear brothers and sisters, is a tangible sign of the generous
commitment of many local Churches in this pastoral area. The numerous initiatives
which put you at the forefront of efforts to prevent trafficking, protect survivors and
prosecute offenders, are worthy of admiration. I feel I should express special thanks
to the many religious congregations that have worked and continue to work, also
through networking, as the “front line” of the Church’s missionary action against all
forms of trafficking.
Much has been done and is being done; yet much remains to be done. Faced with
human trafficking, a phenomenon as complex as it is dark, it is essential to ensure
the coordination of various pastoral initiatives, both locally and internationally. The
offices established by local Churches, religious congregations and Catholic
organizations, are called to share their experience and knowledge, join forces and
coordinate their activity regarding the countries of origin, transit and destination of
those who are trafficked.
To make its action more adequate and effective, the Church should welcome the help
of other political and social actors. Engagement in structured collaborations with
public institutions and civil society organizations will guarantee more effective and
longer-lasting results.
I offer heartfelt thanks for all that you are already doing on behalf of our many
brothers and sisters who are the innocent victims of the commodification of the
human person. Let us say this loud and clear: the commodification of the human
person. We must say this and emphasize it because it is the truth. I encourage you
to persevere in this mission, which is often risky and anonymous. Risky indeed for
lay persons, but also for religious. It is risky because even within the congregation
there are those who look at you askance! (I see the Sisters are nodding yes). It is
risky, but we have to persevere. It is anonymous, but precisely because of this, an
irrefutable proof of your selfless generosity.
Through the intercession of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was enslaved as a child,
sold and bought, but was eventually liberated and then “flourished” in fullness as a
daughter of God, I pray for you. Upon all of you and on those who are committed to
the struggle against human trafficking, I invoke abundant blessings. I will keep
thinking of you and I pray for you. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me.
Thank you!