St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita

November 11, 2013

After Pope Francis entrusted two Vatican academies 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.

Sister Eugenia Bonetti 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.

The sisters suggested the day of prayer could be held Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who found freedom in Italy and became a nun in the late 19th century.

Bonetti, a leader among religious women in Italy working against human trafficking - particularly women and young girls forced into prostitution - was one of about 80 people attending a Nov. 2-3 working group on trafficking at the Vatican.

Pope Francis asked to have the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences study the problem of new forms of slavery, including the trafficking of people and human organs, said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the academies.

Worldwide, at least 21 million people are victims of forced labour, including sexual exploitation, and traffickers bring in an estimated $32 billion annually because of their illicit activities, the U.S. State Department's 2012 Trafficking in Persons report said.