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Human trafficking is the new slavery of our age, Pope tells Council of Europe

Pope Francis speaking to the Council of Europe

Human trafficking is the new slavery of our age, depriving its victims of all dignity, Pope Francis has said.

The Pope, who made the comments during his speech at the Council of Europe, Europe’s main human rights body, in Strasbourg, also said that religious and international terrorism was “bankrolled by frequently unchecked traffic in weapons”.

In his speech, the Pope’s second of the day at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, he discussed the importance and difficulties of establishing peace in Europe and around the world.

“Tragically, peace continues all too often to be violated. This is the case in so many parts of the world where conflicts of various sorts continue to fester. It is also the case here in Europe, where tensions continue to exist. How great a toll of suffering and death is still being exacted on this continent, which yearns for peace yet so easily falls back into the temptations of the past. That is why the efforts of the Council of Europe to seek a political solution to current crises is so significant and encouraging,” he said.

“Yet peace is also put to the test by other forms of conflict, such as religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims. This phenomenon is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons.

“The Church is convinced that the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured. Peace is also violated by trafficking in human beings, the new slavery of our age, which turns persons into merchandise for trade and deprives its victims of all dignity. Not infrequently we see how interconnected these phenomena are.”

The Pope discussed the importance of inter-cultural dialogue and “the contribution which Christianity can offer to the cultural and social development of Europe”.

He said: “In the Christian vision, faith and reason, religion and society, are called to enlighten and support one another, and, whenever necessary, to purify one another from ideological extremes. European society as a whole cannot fail to benefit from a renewed interplay between these two sectors, whether to confront a form of religious fundamentalism which is above all inimical to God, or to remedy a reductive rationality which does no honour to man.”

The Pope also spoke about the importance of welcoming migrants and the difficulties facing the unemployed.

“The contemporary world offers a number of other challenges requiring careful study and a common commitment, beginning with the welcoming of migrants, who immediately require the essentials of subsistence, but more importantly a recognition of their dignity as persons. Then too, there is the grave problem of labour, chiefly because of the high rate of young adults unemployed in many countries – a veritable mortgage on the future – but also for the issue of the dignity of work,” he said.

The speech to the Council of Europe followed the Pope’s address to MEPs in the European Parliament. In that speech Pope Francis said that too many people, including the unborn, terminally ill, and the elderly, are treated as objects in Europe.

He also discussed international terrorism and the historic link between Europe and Christianity.

Pope Francis is the first pontiff to address the European Parliament since St John Paul II in 1988.