Pope Francis has released a video message on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, marked in the Catholic Church on the feast of St Josephine Bakhita,  February 8.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Pope Francis is urging all to join the fight against the scourge of trafficking in women and girls, saying in a video message for the 8th World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, that it is violence, “a deep and open wound in the body of Christ and in the body of all humanity, which affects each one of us.”

The Catholic Church’s annual observance was first introduced by Pope Francis in 2015, when he invited the women religious of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the men religious of the Union of Superiors General (USG) to mark the day on 8 February, the liturgical memorial of St Josephine Bakhita.

The Sudanese-born Italian Canossian nun (1869 – 1947) was sold several times as a slave since she was 7 or 8, until she landed in Italy where she later became a Canossian religious sister.  Declared a saint in 2000, she is the patron saint of Sudan and of human trafficking survivors.

The theme of the 8th International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking is: “The power of care.”

In his message, the Pope says the theme “invites us to consider the condition of women and girls, subjected to multiple forms of exploitation, including forced marriages, domestic and labour slavery”. He stresses that the thousands of women and girls who are trafficked every year point to the dramatic consequences of relational models based on discrimination and submission.

Inequality in dignity and rights

Talitha Kum, the international Catholic network against human trafficking, cites some grim facts from United Nations data pointing to the inequality and injustice experienced by women.  They are conditions that make them more vulnerable to violence, trafficking and exploitation.

In his message, the Holy Father laments that the organization of societies around the world still continue to deny women the same dignity and rights of that of men.  Women are “doubly poor”, suffering “situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence”, because they have fewer opportunities to defend their rights.

Domestic and sexual exploitation

The Holy Father points out that “trafficking in persons, through domestic and sexual exploitation, violently returns women and girls to their supposed role as subordinates to the provision of domestic and sexual services, to their role as providers of care and dispensers of pleasure, which re-proposes a pattern of relationships marked by the power of men over women”. This exists even today at a high level.

 “Human trafficking is violence! The violence suffered by every woman and every girl is an open wound in the body of Christ, in the body of all humanity, it is a deep wound that also affects each one of us.”

The transforming power of God’s care

Noting that there are many women who have the courage to rebel against violence, Pope Francis invites men to join the battle. “We men are also called to do so, to say no to all violence, including that against women and girls. And together we can and must fight to ensure that human rights are interpreted in a specific way, respecting diversity and recognizing the dignity of each person, with a special concern for those whose fundamental rights are violated.”

The way to this transformation, the Pope says, is shown by Saint Bakhita, whose life proves that  “change is possible when we allow ourselves to be transformed by the care that God has for each of us”.  “It is the care of mercy, it is the care of love that changes us in our depths and makes us capable of welcoming others as brothers and sisters.”

Human dignity

The Pope points out that recognizing the dignity of each person is the first act of care, which benefits everyone – those who give and those who receive. It generates reciprocity and is not a unidirectional action.

In this regard, he cites the case of Bakhita.  God took care of her, accompanying her in the process of healing the wounds caused by slavery until he made her heart, mind and inner-self capable of reconciliation, freedom and tenderness.

Commitment to transformation and care

The Pope thus encourages every woman and every girl who is committed to transformation and care, in school, in the family, in society. He also urges every man and every young person to join this process of transformation, holding out the example of the Good Samaritan who is “not ashamed to bend down over his brother and take care of him”.

This year’s observance of World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking, the Pope says, is to the call to men and women to care.  “Together we can grow an economy of care and oppose with all our strength every form of exploitation of trafficking in persons.”

Fighting money, power

Pope Francis concludes his video message thanking participants in the various initiatives of the annual observance worldwide and encouraging them in the fight against human trafficking and all forms of slavery and exploitation. He invites them to keep alive their indignation against human trafficking with determination in the face of violence, without giving to the corruption of money and power.

(To download the papal video message: https://we.tl/t-tNjZCrPxeY)



Yesterday at the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on two International Days and he blessed a statue of St. Josephine Bakhita that had been brought to the square by representatives of Talitha Kum, an international network of Catholic nuns against trafficking in persons.

The sculpture group, “Let the Oppressed Go Free,” was created by Canadian Catholic artist Timothy Schmalz, the same sculptor who created the “Angels Unawares” sculpture in St. Peter’s Square that depicts migrants throughout history crammed on a boat. (Let the Oppressed Go Free – photo from Holy See Press Office)

Francis created the day of prayer and reflection for human trafficking victims in 2015 and is expected to release a message tomorrow.

After reflections on the day’s Gospel and then praying the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope noted that February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, a widespread practice, he said, “that demeans the dignity of women and gravely undermines their physical integrity.”

He then noted that Tuesday, February 8, the liturgical memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, is the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking.”

Trafficking “is a deep wound, inflicted by the shameful pursuit of economic interests without any respect for the human person. So many girls – we see them on the streets – who are not free, are slaves of traffickers, who send them to work and, if they do not bring the money, beat them. This is happening in our cities today. Let us really think about it!”

St. Josephine, patron of human trafficking victims and of Sudan, was born in Sudan in 1869. She was kidnapped at age 7 and sold into slavery during which she was beaten, tortured, and left scarred. She eventually discovered Christ and the Catholic Church in her early 20s and, once freed from slavery, was baptized into the Catholic faith. She joined the Canossian Sisters in Italy.   She was canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000. (For her biography: Saint Josephine Bakhita | Franciscan Media)

I took these photos of the Angels Unawares sculpture yesterday in St. Peter’s Square. The Bakhita statue group was only in the square for the Angelus and I arrived afterwards:


As he did at today’s Angelus, Pope Francis has spoken out many times on human trafficking. It has also been for quite some time now one of the main concerns of the United States and, in particular, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See (see their website: https://va.usembassy.gov/)


Pope Francis appeals for renewed efforts to protect victims of human trafficking, and to denounce the exploitation and slavery of men, women, and children.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis drew attention to the “plague” of human trafficking, and called on government leaders to confront the causes of the trade in human beings.

Recalling the World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, which takes place on the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, the Holy Father said the motto for this year’s observance – “Together against Human Trafficking” – is “an invitation to join forces to overcome this challenge”. All of us, he said, “can and must work together to denounce the cases of exploitation and slavery of men, women, and children”.

Prayer sustains our commitment

The Pope insisted, “Prayer is the force that sustains our common commitment” to ending trafficking. He led the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a prayer to St. Josephine, who had herself suffered as a slave before her conversion to Christianity.

The following prayer was printed and distributed at the Angelus, and shown on the screens for those present:

St Josephine Bakhita, as a child you were sold as a slave, and had to face unspeakable difficulties and suffering.

Once you were freed from physical slavery, you found true redemption in the encounter with Christ and His Church.

Saint Josephine Bakhita, help all those who are trapped in slavery.
In their name, intercede with the God of mercy, that the chains of their captivity might be broken.

May God Himself free all those who have been threatened, wounded, or mistreated by the trade and trafficking of human beings. May He bring relief to those who survive this slavery, and teach them to see Jesus as a model of faith and hope, that their wounds may be healed.

We implore you to pray and intercede for all of us: that we not fall into indifference; that we may open our eyes and look upon the miseries and wounds of so many brothers and sisters deprived of their dignity and freedom, and hear their cry for help. Amen.

A strong commitment
At a press conference on Friday, the actual World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, Jesuit Father Frédéric Fornos noted Pope Francis’ strong commitment “to the fight against this scourge in its different expressions”. It is a “drama”, he said, that the Holy Father has had “in heart and in prayer for a long time”.

The scourge of human trafficking is also the subject of Pope Francis’ February prayer intention: “Let us pray for a generous welcome to the victims of human trafficking, enforced prostitution, and violence.”


I was working for the Vatican Information Service in the Holy See Press Office in May 1992, and well remember Sunday May 17, when Josephine Bakhita and Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, were beatified by St. John Paul.  She was canonized October 1 during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. She is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day is today, February 8.


I was entranced by the story of now Saint Josephine Bakhita and was entrusted to write the story of the beatification, and a biography of Josephine before the big day. I have spent some time just now searching for that VIS story but it appears that all articles done over a 20-year period by VIS in several languages are nowhere to be found on the Vatican website. I went to www.vatican.va, clicked on English but when I hit the search icon, nothing appeared.

I have been under the weather for 4 days now with a bad cold and am just hoping it is my inabibility to feel 100% that has inhibited my search. I’ll contact some former Vatican colleagues to get an updateon VIS files.

For now, you’ll have to settle for what the Pope says about St. Josephine in the story below.

Pope Francis tweeted today: Those who traffic human beings are ultimately accountable to God. Let us pray for the conversion of hearts. @M_RSection


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to government leaders to be strong in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking.

Marking Wednesday’s ‘International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking’, the Pope had words of encouragement for all those who in different ways, help minors who have been enslaved and abused to be freed from this terrible oppression. This day takes place annually on February 8, and focused this year on the trafficking of children and adolescents.

“I urge all those in government positions to combat this scourge with firmness, giving voice to our younger brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their dignity. All efforts must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime” he said.

He explained that the ‘International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking” falls on the feast day Saint Josephine Bakhita, “this enslaved, exploited and humiliated girl in Africa never lost hope,” he said, “but persevered in her faith and ended up as a migrant in Europe where she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun. Let’s pray to Saint Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much.”




Today is the feast of St. Blaise – have you had your throat blessed?

From: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/novena/blaise.htm:

Blaise of Sebastea – also known as Blase, Blasien, Biagio; Died c. 316.

Catholics might remember Saint Blaise’s feast day, February 3, because of the Blessing of the throats that takes place on this day. Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said.  Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise. It is believed he was a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century.  Saint Blaise is the patron of physicians, sick cattle, wax- chandlers, woolcombers, and of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies.   He is invoked against afflictions of the throat. As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Blaise was much venerated throughout Central Europe.


Pope Francis this morning, in a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, authorized the congregation to promulgate the decree of martyrdom for Servant of God Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamez (El Salvador, 1917-1980), archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, killed in hatred of the faith on 24 March 1980.

He also authorized decrees for martyrdom for Servants of God Michal Tomaszek (Poland, 1960) and Zbigniew Strazalkowski (Poland, 1958), professed priests of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, and Alessandro Dordi, Italian diocesan priest, killed in hatred of the faith in Peru on 9 and 25 August 1991, as well as a decree for heroic virtues of Servant of God Giovanni Bacile, Italian priest (1880-1941).

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of the cause for Archbishop Romero, will hold a press briefing in the Vatican at noon Wednesday. On January 9 it had been announced by the congregation that Abp. Romero was killed “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith), a necessary requirement for beatification as a martyr. Congregation members voted unanimously for martyrdom of the slain archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated by a sniper on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass because of his vocal opposition to El Salvador’s military dictatorship.


Pope Francis said Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Monday afternoon to mark the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life, exactly one year ahead of the close of the Year for Consecrated Life, which opened on the First Sunday of Advent.

The blessing of the candles, a sign and symbol of that Light which is Christ, preceded the liturgy which then began with a candle-light procession into the basilica, as the choir intoned the antiphon: “Christ, light unto the Nations, and glory God’s people, Israel.”


Pope Francis focused his homily on the virtue of obedience, calling it the keystone of religious life. He spoke of Mary’s and Joseph’s obedience to the law when presented Jesus in the Temple, and also highlighted Jesus’ obedience to the will of His Father.

“Before our eyes we can picture Mother Mary as she walks, carrying the Baby Jesus in her arms, She brings him to the Temple; she presents him to the people; she brings him to meet his people. … The Mother walks, yet it is the Child who goes before her. She carries him, yet He is leading her along the path of the God who comes to us so that we might go to Him. Jesus walked the same path as we do, and shows us the new way… . For us, consecrated men and women, this is the one way which, concretely and without alternatives, we must continue to tread with joy and perseverance.”

Francis continued, “Fully five times the Gospel speaks to us of Mary and Joseph’s obedience to the ‘law of the Lord’. Jesus came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. … In the same way, all those who follow Jesus must set out on the path of obedience. … For a religious, to advance on the path of obedience means to abase oneself in service, that is, to take the same path as Jesus, who ‘did not deem equality with God a thing to be grasped’. By emptying himself he made himself a servant in order to serve”.

For consecrated persons, this path “takes the form of the rule, marked by the charism of the founder. For all of us, the essential rule remains the Gospel, yet the Holy Spirit, in His infinite creativity, also gives it expression in the various rules of the consecrated life which are born of the sequela Christi, and thus from this journey of abasing oneself by serving.”

In the account of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple, wisdom is represented by two elderly persons, Simeon and Anna: “persons docile to the Holy Spirit, led by Him, inspired by Him,” said the Holy Father. He noted that, on this occasion, it is the elderly, rather than the young, who are creative: “the young, like Mary and Joseph, follow the law of the Lord, the path of obedience. The elderly, like Simeon and Anna, see in the Child the fulfillment of the Law and the promises of God. And they are able to celebrate: they are creative in joy and wisdom.

Francis said that “obedience and docility is not something theoretical; it too is subject to the economy of the incarnation of the Word: docility and obedience to a founder, docility and obedience to a specific rule, docility and obedience to one’s superior, docility and obedience to the Church. It is always docility and obedience in the concrete.”

In persevering along the path of obedience, “personal and communal wisdom matures, and thus it also becomes possible to adapt rules to the times; indeed, true ‘renovation’ is the fruit of wisdom forged in docility and obedience. The strengthening and renewal of consecrated life are the result of great love for the rule, and also the ability to look to and heed the elders of one’s congregation.

Pope Francis concluded his homily with an exhortation, directed especially to all those in consecrated life: “Let us bring others to Jesus, but let us also allow ourselves to be led by him.  This is what we should be: guides who themselves are guided.” (Source: VIS, Vatican Radio)


The Vatican Tuesday presented the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking that will be held on February 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who, after being freed, became a Canossian Sister and was canonized in 2000. This special day, promoted by the Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, the “Justice and Peace” council and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), will have as its theme, “A light against human trafficking.”

Presenters at today’s press conference included Cardinals Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life; Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples; and Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace.” The other speakers were Sister Carmen Sammut, MSOLA, president of the International Union of Superiors General; Sister Gabriella Bottani, SMC, coordinator of Talitha Kum (the International Network of Consecrated Life against Trafficking in Persons); Sister Valeria Gandini, SMC; and Sister Imelda Poole IBVM, coordinator of the European Talitha Kum network.

Cardinal Turkson, speaking in English, reiterated , “millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery. For those who cry out – usually in silence – for liberation, St Josephine Bakhita is an exemplary witness of hope. We, victims and advocates alike, could do no better than be inspired by her life and entrust our efforts to her intercession.”

“The Holy Father,” he added, “invites us all to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”

The cardinal explained that the International Day against Human Trafficking constitutes “a mobilization of awareness and prayer on a global scale. Our awareness must expand and extend to the very depths of this evil and its farthest reaches … from awareness to prayer … from prayer to solidarity … and from solidarity to concerted action, until slavery and trafficking are no more.”

On the occasion of this first day of prayer and reflection, all dioceses, parishes, associations, families and individuals are invited to reflect and pray in order to cast light on this crime, as indicated by the theme of the initiative. In addition, prayer vigils will be held in different countries, culminating in the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on February 8.

On that day, the faithful are invited to recite the following prayer:

“O God, when we hear of children and adults, deceived and taken to unknown places for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, and organ ‘harvesting’, our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are ignored through threats, lies, and force.

We cry out against the evil practice of this modern slavery, and pray with St. Bakhita for it to end. Give us wisdom and courage to reach out and stand with those whose bodies, hearts and spirits have been so wounded, so that together we may make real your promises to fill these sisters and brothers with a love that is tender and good.

Send the exploiters away empty-handed to be converted from this wickedness, and help us all to claim the freedom that is your gift to your children. Amen”. (Source VIS)


(UCANEWS – Manila) – Pope Francis has apologized for rushing his visit to Leyte province last month during his apostolic visit to the Philippines. In a letter to Archbishop John Du of the Archdiocese of Palo, the pontiff said he was “deeply saddened” that a weather warning forced him to cut short his visit by four hours.


“This prevented a more relaxed visit with your people and in the cathedral later that afternoon,” said Pope Francis. “I ask your forgiveness for any impatience on my part at that time,” he added.

Heavy rains and strong winds brought by Typhoon Mekkhala forced the pope to depart Leyte for Manila four hours ahead of schedule.

Some 130,000 people braved the weather to attend the January 17 Mass celebrated by the pope for survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan that killed at least 7,500 people and affected millions of others when it made landfall in the Philippines in November 2013.

“Returning to Rome, I wish to convey with these words my profound gratitude for your hospitality in the Archdiocese of Palo. May the Lord repay you abundantly for your goodness,” read the pope’s letter.

Pope Francis thanked Archbishop Du “for the witness of faith and endurance which your people showed me in the midst of trials.” The pope’s letter was dated January 21 but was only made public by the Archdiocese of Palo on Tuesday.

Pope Francis visited the Philippines from January 15 to 19.