At audience, pope leads prayers for migrants, trafficking victims

Pope Francis holds a booklet with an image of Sudanese St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 8. Marking the feast of St. Bakhita, a former slave, the pope urged Christians to help victims of trafficking and migrants. - CNS photo | Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Marking the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis urged Christians to help victims of human trafficking and migrants, especially the Rohingya people being chased from Myanmar.
For the Catholic Church, St. Bakhita’s feast day, Feb. 8, is a day of prayer for victims of trafficking.
Pope Francis asked government officials around the world to “decisively combat this plague” of human trafficking, paying particular attention to trafficking in children. “Every effort must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime.”

Describing St. Bakhita as a “young woman who was enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated,” Pope Francis said she never gave up hope and, finally, she was able to migrate to Europe.

Holding up a booklet with a photograph of the Sudanese saint, who died in Italy in 1947, the pope continued telling her story. In Europe, he said, “she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun,” joining the Canossian Daughters of Charity.
“Let us pray to St. Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much,” the pope said.
“And speaking of migrants who are exploited and chased away, I want to pray with you today in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters,” the pope continued. “These people, thrown out of Myanmar, move from one place to another because no one wants them.”

Pope Francis told the estimated 7,000 people at his audience that the Rohingya, who are Muslim, “are good people. They are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith.”