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Law enforcement and Church leaders pledge to prosecute human traffickers, help victims

2014-04-10

Pope Francis arrived by car on Thursday morning to the Vatican's second workshop on human trafficking.

Inside, he rubbed shoulders and addressed international police chiefs and Church leaders.

POPE FRANCIS
"It is a crime against humanity. 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.”

CARD. JOHN OLORENFEMI ONEIYEKAN
Archbishop of Abuja (Nigeria)
"The Pope drove to the place of the meeting and sat among us where he delivered his brief, no? And I see his coming to us as expressing that he is part of this group.”

Police and Church leaders committed to developing stronger ties. They solidified their partnership in an agreement, officially establishing the Santa Marta Group. The group is made up of the 20 international law enforcement groups present.

GEN. APICHAT SURIBOONYA
Police Major, Royal Thai Police (Thailand)
"Human trafficking is a global issue just only law enforcement cannot deal with this problem.”

The members will meet again in November in London to increase cooperation, and share best practices. This includes victim reintegration efforts in origin countries like Nigeria, to prosecuting traffickers in destination countries like England. 

But by partnering with the Church, police bodies said they want to emphasize that their targets are the traffickers not the victims.

SIR BERNARD HOGAN-HOWE
Metropolitan Police Commissioner (UK)
"We're there to provide sanctuary, both the Church and the police, for those people who have been trafficked in this way. And if their immediate need is to stop the oppression then to come to the police and we will help.” 

Before addressing the participants of the human trafficking conference, the Pope met privately with four victims of human trafficking. 

CARD. VINCENT NICHOLS
Archbishop of Westminster (UK)
"They were very content, and after the trauma of trying to express themselves to the whole meeting, they came away from the meeting with the Holy Father feeling very peaceful, and ready to take up their lives again.”

Three of the victims also addressed the police chiefs and Church leaders. Cardinal Nichols said the two things they asked for were a greater police presence and prayer from the Church. These two things, he added, are completely doable, and a first step in greater cooperation between police and the Catholic Church, to tackle human trafficking.


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