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Trafficking: February 8 affirmed as day of prayer, fasting

The following article was published in the January-February 2014 NewsNotes.

St. Josephine Bakhita was born around 1869 in Darfur, was kidnapped in 1877, and was sold and resold three times between 1877-1889. She died in 1947, and was canonized a saint in 2000.

On November 2-3, a workshop on the issue of human trafficking/slavery, the first on the topic, was held at the Vatican at the request of Pope Francis. According to this Vatican Insider article (November 2), "When, soon after his election as pope, the president of the ... Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) ... Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo, asked him if he would like the PAS to focus on any particular issue, Francis immediately responded with a hand-written note saying ‘it would be good’ for the academy ‘to deal with the trafficking in persons and modern slavery’ … "

The November workshop brought together approximately 75 delegates from the church, civil society and governments; another meeting is planned for 2014, with a larger conference to be held in 2015.

The weekend following the Vatican workshop, the U.S. Catholic Coalition Against Human Trafficking held its 10th anniversary meeting in Baltimore; members reflected on the past year’s progress and strategized on plans for the years to come.

According to Catholic News Service (November 4), "After Pope Francis entrusted [the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences] to study the problem of human trafficking, a group of women religious asked the pope to raise greater awareness in the church about the issue by establishing a worldwide day of prayer and fasting. ‘The pope was very interested in our suggestion and asked us what date we would like the day to be,’ Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti [said.] ‘We told him February 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita,’ a Sudanese slave who found freedom in Italy and became a nun in the late 19th century. She said the idea for a worldwide day of prayer came from ‘the need to do something that joins us together’ to tackle the global problem; some dioceses and parishes are active on the issue while others are unaware or indifferent, she said. …

"While he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future Pope Francis had been a strong supporter of local activists and initiatives fighting human trafficking and supporting rescued victims."

Visit the Catholic Coalition Against Human Trafficking website, which includes resources for prayer services, etc.