Archive of January 31, 2014

Vatican's Financial Intelligence Authority receives new president

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis appointed Bishop Giorgio Corbellini Jan. 30 as interim president of the Financial Intelligence Authority, the agency charged with acting as “financial watchdog” for Vatican City.

Bishop Corbellini replaces Cardinal Attilio Nicora, who is 76 and requested to retire. Bishop Corbellini is a legal expert and is currently both president of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See and a member of the Disciplinary Commission of the Roman Curia; he will retain both positions.

He had previously served in the third-highest position of the Vatican City State's administrative office.

The president of the Financial Intelligence Authority is appointed by the Roman Pontiff from among “persons of proven reputation, free from any conflict of interest and having recognized professional competence in the legal, economic and financial fields as well as in the subject-matters that fall within the scope of activity of the Authority,” according to its recently-adopted statutes.

Bishop Corbellini knows well the details of the process of financial transparency begun under Benedict XVI. When the Holy See signed a monetary agreement with the European Union in 2009, he served as number three in the Vatican administration; he had been appointed president of the labor office in July of that year.

He also served as undersecretary of the Vatican City administration when the Council of Europe’s Moneyval commission made on on-site visit to the Vatican for a peer-to-peer review in November, 2011, as part of financial oversight.

As a result of the observations of the European evaluators, Vatican financial laws have been overhauled, increasing financial transparency and reducing the risk of money laundering.

New statutes for the Financial Intelligence Authority, issued last November, better align the department with recent Vatican legislation and with international standards. Rather than functioning as a dicastery run by a cardinal with broad powers, it has both a president and a director.

The current director is the Swiss financial expert René Bruelhart, who is assisted by a deputy; both are appointed by the Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Nicora had chaired the Authority since its establishment, and was involved in much of the Vatican's early efforts at establishing anti-money laundering legislation.

The selection of Bishop Corbellini to replace the cardinal, in concert with the hiring of two international firms to audit Vatican finances, signals a desire to balance both internal and external influences in the reform of financial transparency at the Holy See.

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Walk inspires Wyoming students' outreach to at-risk women

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - San Francisco's recent Walk for Life and Students for Life events inspired Wyoming Catholic College students to start an outreach to women in crisis pregnancies from nearby indigenous communities.

“We went to the Students for Life Conference, and they were talking about how to battle pro-choice people on your campus, which we don't have to deal with,” Jordan Dunnaway, a senior at the liberal arts college in Lander, Wyo., told CNA.

“Since we don't have pro-choice people, we'll be working mainly with the local Indian reservation – it's about 20 miles outside of our school town – and it's extremely that will be our main mission, working with the women out on the reservation there.”

As the Wyoming Catholic College students traveled on a charter bus back to Lander from San Francisco following the first ever Students for Life of America West Coast Conference on Jan. 26, they held a meeting to found their campus' chapter during which officers were elected.

Dunnaway, who was chosen as inaugural president of the group, said that her campus is “100 percent pro-life,” which calls for the students to look beyond ministry within their walls and out to nearby communities that contend with crisis pregnancies among other challenges.

The chapter will reach out to residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation, home to some 12,000 members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of Native Americans, which borders the town of Lander.

The formation of a Students for Life chapter at the Catholic, liberal arts college was initiated by the organization's conference which meant “to give high school and college students both a general context for why we're so involved in the pro-life movement, but also some specific training sessions on how to get some pro-life activities in their particular communities,” Wyoming Catholic College president Kevin Roberts explained.

Roberts, along with the school's dean and chaplain all accompanied the students to the Walk for Life West Coast, for the campus' first organized trip to the pro-life event that drew 50,000 participants from across the country.

“I told the faculty last summer when I came on board with the whole community, that I thought it was important that we take students out of Wyoming occasionally as a group, because they're so joyful, and it will do a very good job of forming them as leaders, and give them a taste of efforts they might be involved in once they graduate, or even before then,” Roberts told CNA.

“So we made an institutional commitment.” With the faculty on board, the students were given a four-day weekend so that those attending the Walk would not miss class time; and “so the students' financial burden wasn't great, we had a couple donors step up and subsidize the trip.”

“We just want to take the special folks, the students we have at Wyoming Catholic, and share them with the pro-life movement, because we think they have a certain zeal, a certain joy, that will offer a lot to the movement.”

He reflected that during the Walk, the young people were praying the rosary, and singing, “and of course with our choir program they sing well; it was a really nice way to counteract some of the protestors, rather than engaging them in some kind of hostile way.”

“The students I think kept a real positive spirit up,” Roberts reflected.

The contingent had come to San Francisco after a drive of “16 hours total,” Dunnaway said, most of it spent on a bus.

“It definitely is exhausting...but we're all so grateful for the opportunity to come out, because in Wyoming – you know your prayers make a difference from wherever you are – but there's no real opposition there, because it's a pretty conservative state. So it meant a lot to all of us to come out and show people, that we're here too.”

Dunnaway said she was “extremely impressed” by the number of people at the walk, as well as the vocal enthusiasm of the tens of thousands of pilgrims, hearing “the joy of everyone singing, praying, chanting,” as well as “seeing the unity of everyone who's Catholic, Anglican, and Christians in general, who were all there for the same purpose.”

She called the Walk a great opportunity “to spend time with those people who are a little bit more out in 'the real world' than we are, and to see that even if we disagree on other issues, abortion is one fundamental issue that everyone can say no to.”

Roughly a third of the college's students attended the San Francisco event, and Dunnaway said that since “the school made it very clear that they didn't want money to stop anybody” from coming – and that there were donors who gave for that express purpose – “it was very easy” to choose to attend.

“We had an overwhelming amount of people who wanted to come.”

“We also had the blessing of people coming up to us and being excited about us coming out, saying, 'Oh, you're from Wyoming (Catholic), we've heard about you, thank you so much for coming.' It was a blessing for us that people recognized us and thanked us specifically for coming.”

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Apply Olympic spirit to your faith, Catholic writer advises

Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Those who have put discipline and hard work into sports – whether an Olympic gold medal or a fifth grade tournament – help show how Catholics should dedicate themselves to their faith, the author of a new book has said.

Alyssa Bormes, author of “The Catechism of Hockey,” praised the Olympic Games’ displays of accomplishment and the “gorgeous unity of the human spirit.”

“Somehow, even though I’m not skiing, when I hear of my fellow Americans skiing, they’re skiing for me. We won the gold. It’s so wonderful that we all become one in sports. And in the Church,” she told CNA Jan. 30.

Bormes said sports are attractive because of athletes’ discipline, their self-mastery, and the way some have suffered for their sport.

She said the Olympics are about “the full gift of self.”

“It’s very Catholic to give everything to what you’re doing,” she said. Olympic athletes, just by qualifying for the games, in many cases have already “given everything they have.”

“Some of them will have colossal failures, and others colossal wins. Our hearts will go out in both cases, for either the sorrow of the athletes who have lost or for the great joy of the athletes who have won.”

Bormes’ book, published by ACS Books, reflects on hockey and other sports and how they can provide inspiration for Catholic life.

The former youth minister and religious education director, compares players who neglect drills, practices, and good diet—and so play poorly--to Catholics whose private sins affect the Church.

Time in the penalty box is akin to penitence for one’s sins. Coaches are like catechists, while team memorabilia resembles devotion to relics, she said.

Bormes said her book is written for sports-minded individuals and parents whose children are involved in sports.

“We fully catechize our children in sports,” she said. Sports, like religion, can feature inter-generational teaching, regular observances, and an “all-encompassing” attitude.

“We tithe to sports. Some of us hemorrhage (money) to sports. We organize our schedules around sports. I’m asking parents not to give that up, but to do the same for the faith, and teach their children the faith as if it were football or basketball.”

She said she agrees with criticisms that sports can become a “parallel religion” in which people are more concerned about the rules of sports and commit more to sports than to their faith.

However, everything a sports devotee is doing “can easily be translated in to the faith.”

“Sports are great, and they’re a great training ground,” Barmes said.

She suggested a connection between dedicated athletes’ willingness to submit to the rules and discipline of their sport and faithful Catholics’ willingness to submit to their faith.

“It’s utterly Catholic in that submitting, and yet there’s this gorgeous freedom in it.”

In sports, she said, “we watch greatness come from within the rules, not in spite of the rules.”

“If someone were consistently to break the rules, it’s not great. It’s distracting, it’s ugly, and we don’t like it as someone watching the sport.”

Like great athletes, the lives of the saints tell the story of virtue again and again.

“Even though each saint is submitting to the same rules of the Church, the same commandments, they do so in such dramatically different ways that the story is consistently interesting.”

Barmes said the Catholic faith stresses “the important thing.”

“It’s to make saints, it’s not to make Olympians, even though they’re great. It’s to make saints.”

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Letters to Pope read 'with the heart,' Vatican official says

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis receives a few thousand letters a week, which Correspondence Director Msgr. Giuliano Gallorini notes are read more with the pontiff’s “heart” than his “mind.”

“He reads these letters more with the heart than with the mind; to share the suffering” of others, Msgr. Gallorini told Vatican Radio on Jan. 28.

The letters, packages, drawings and objects that arrive at the Vatican on the Pope’s behalf are sent from all over the world, and are sorted by the Office of Correspondence of the Pope, located in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which Msgr. Gallorini directs.

In their letters people ask for many things, the priest explained, whether it is advice on how to manage a turning point in their lives or asking for wisdom in the midst of hopeless situations. Some have even written the Pope a poem, or sent gifts, such as a scarf.

Most of the requests made are for “support and prayer,” he stated, but many also regard “the moment we are living - difficulties, especially diseases...asking for prayers for children, also describing situations of economic hardship.”

Reflecting on why so many people write to the now-famous Saint Martha house of the Vatican where the Pope resides, Msgr. Gallorini observed that it is because the people of today feel that Pope Francis is “near” to them in a special way.

“They try to feel the closeness of the Pope who captures their suffering, their distress, who is close to them in prayer.”

“Then, for what is possible, we help by directing requests to specific offices,” the priest continued, adding that “for example the requests for economic help are forwarded to the diocesan Caritas so that they can be verified, either immediately or more operational."”

Managing the high volume of letters is a small team of four, consisting of Msgr. Gallorini, a Religious Sister, and two others, Vatican Radio reports, revealing that the first step in the process of sorting is to divide everything by language.

Afterwards the letters are opened and read by the Office of Correspondence due to Pope Francis’ time constrictions, and the office then distinguishes the simple letters of greeting from those who seek solace and spiritual support from the Pope, or have and urgent need. These are the letters that arrive to his desk, the bishop explained.

“There are a little more delicate cases like cases of conscience,” Msgr. Gallorini noted, and “in this case, a note is made and passed to the secretaries because the Pope examines the content directly.”

“He definitely reads them, puts his initials and directs us on how we should respond.”

Although Pope Francis is unable to respond personally to all of the letters he receives, the priest assured that all who write the pontiff do receive a response expressing gratitude in the Pope’s name.

Writing the response of the Pope is a special task for those who do it, Msgr. Gallorini observed, because it requires a reply done with the specific tone of the Pope’s own style.

“He reads these letters more with the heart than with the mind,” the priest expressed, highlighting that their job then is “to share the suffering” of those who write “and search to find the right words to express how the Pope really wants to express himself.”

“Proximity, sharing...and truly in the style of sharing,” are the key themes to keep in mind when the responses are written, he continued, adding that “moreover the Pope has always said that the priest should live among the flock, the sheep. Hear and live the experience with them.”

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Giving in to temptation dulls us to harm of sin, Pope warns

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily Mass, Pope Francis cautioned against the danger of when falling into temptation becomes habitual, saying that it dulls our ability to recognize sin and affects others in a negative way.

“This can happen to all of us. All of us are sinners and all are tempted and temptation is our daily bread,” the Pope explained in his Jan. 31 homily.

Beginning his homily, addressed to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff reflected on the sin of David in the day’s first reading, taken from the Frist Book of Samuel.

Recalling how David fell in love with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his generals, Uriah – and then had Uriah placed in the front lines of battle so that he was killed – the Pope highlighted that David’s attitude in the situation was not one of repentance, but of “problem solving.”

“David is facing a great sin, but he does not perceive it as a sin. It doesn't come to his mind to ask for forgiveness,” the pontiff observed, noting that what comes to his mind instead is “how do I solve this?”

However, despite the severity of the king’s actions, Pope Francis explained that these sins of murder and adultery are still not as dangerous as David’s initial mentality.

“All of us are sinners and all are tempted,” he said, stating that “If one of us says: 'But I have never been tempted,' either you are an angel or you are a little silly. No? It's comprehensible.”

“Battling is normal in life and the devil is not quiet, he wants his victory,” however “the problem - the more serious problem is in this passage - it is not so much temptation and sin against the ninth commandment, but how David reacts.”

“Here David does not speak of sin,” emphasized the Pope, “he speaks of a problem that he should resolve,” adding that “This is a sign! When the Kingdom of God lessens, when the Kingdom of God decreases, one of the signs is that the sense of sin is lost.”

Drawing attention to the words of the Our Father in which we pray “Thy kingdom come,” the pontiff observed that we are asking God to “grow your kingdom,” but when we lose our ability to recognize sin, a “super powerful anthropological vision” emerges that states “I can do everything.”

This, noted the Pope, is “the power of man instead of the glory of God!” emphasizing that “this is the daily bread.” “

“For this reason,” he continued, we must pray every day that “Your Kingdom come, may your Kingdom grow,” because “salvation will not come from our mischief, from our cunning, from our ability to make negotiations.”

“Salvation will come from the grace of God and from the daily training that we do from this grace in the Christian life.”

Reflecting on the many sins committed, Pope Francis emphasized that “The greatest sin today is that men have lost the sense of sin,” and that Uriah, as an innocent man put to death because of David’s actions, is an emblem of all victims of arrogance.

“I confess, when I see these injustices, this human pride, even when I see the danger that it could happen to myself, the danger of losing the sense of sin,” the pontiff observed, “it makes me think well of the many Uriah's in history.”

There are so many Uriah's, he noted, “that also suffer today in our Christian mediocrity, when we lose the sense of sin, when we allow the Kingdom of God to decrease,” adding that “these are the martyrs of our unrecognized sins.”

Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis stated that “today it will do us well to pray for ourselves, so the Lord gives us always the grace not to lose the sense of sin,” and “so that the Kingdom of God does not decrease in us.”

“(It will also do us well),” emphasized the Pope, “to carry a spiritual flower to the tomb of these contemporary Uriah's,” who pay the price of those Christians that want to “feel safe.”

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Police recover stolen JPII relic, bishop forgives thieves

Rome, Italy, Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Italian bishop has voiced forgiveness for those responsible for stealing a relic of the blood of Blessed Pope John Paul II, soon after police announced the relic’s recovery.

“I think John Paul has forgiven them. I think we have to do the same,” Auxiliary Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of L’Aquila said a Jan. 31 press conference.  

The relic is a small square-shaped piece of cloth of John Paul II’s cassock soaked in the blood from the 1981 assassination attempt on the Pope’s life. There are only three like it.

The relic was discovered missing early on the morning of Jan. 26, when a church custodian found a broken window at the Church of San Pietro della Ienca in the mountainous region of Abruzzo. She called the police, who discovered that the reliquary was missing, along with a small, simple cross.

Three men were arrested in connection with the relic’s theft. According to Reuters, the cloth was found in the garage of two of the men, and was pieced back together. The fabric is still missing a few cloth filaments and a gold thread, the bishop said.

Police had recovered the cross and reliquary the day before, but the relic was not found until later.

Police sources told ANSA news agency that the men “did not understand the relic’s value” and initially did not remember where they allegedly threw it away.

Authorities had initially speculated that the crime could have been linked to a satanic cult. The rest of the church and offering box had been left untouched; only the relic was stolen.

Two of the three men arrested were described as drug addicts aged 23 and 24 and already known to the police, the British newspaper The Daily Mail reports.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s personal secretary, had given the relic to the people of L’Aquila in 2011 in response to the devastating earthquake in the region.

The late Pope skied in the area and visited more than 100 times during his papacy. He also was a regular visitor to the small church.

John Paul II died in 2005. He will be canonized on April 27, alongside Pope John XXIII.

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Archbishop urges prayer for targeted Ukraine Christians

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia called on Catholics to pray for the Church in Ukraine during the country's recent crisis and to support U.S. restrictions on its political and business leaders.

“Silence from the United States encourages oppression in Ukraine. We can't let that happen, again, to fellow believers who bore so much suffering for so many decades,” Archbishop Chaput said Jan. 30.

The archbishop said that conditions in Ukraine had improved after the fall of Communism. However, the country’s leaders, beginning in late 2013 “cracked down heavily on demonstrations and dissent, killing some protesters and arresting hundreds of others.”

“Christians in Ukraine – Catholics, Orthodox and others – have not been silent. The Church's people and leaders have played a major role in denouncing government violence, political repression and corruption,” he said.

“Ukrainian Catholic clergy have given vital pastoral care to those demonstrating for human rights and democratic principles. And they've been targeted by the government for doing so.”

The Ukraine demonstrations, centered in the capital of Kiev, originally began after the government's Nov. 21 announcement that it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union. Since then protesters have occupied government buildings, at times filling the capital with more than 100,000 people.

The demonstrations have produced iconic images of Christian priests and monks standing between protesters and security forces dressed in riot gear.

Several protesters have been killed in the clashes, while hundreds have been injured. Several police have also been killed.

Ukrainians in the Kiev area and in western Ukraine tend to favor the European Union, while those in the Russian-speaking east tend to have an affinity for Russia. However, protests have begun to spread to the east, where President Viktor Yanukovych’s strongest support is based.

Archbishop Chaput said that Eastern and Western Catholics belong to “one Church…bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ.” He said that while the suffering of Polish Catholics under Communism is well-known because of Pope John Paul II’s resistance, the 50 years of Soviet persecution of Ukrainian Greek Catholics was “even more brutal.”

The archbishop endorsed the Wall Street Journal’s recommendation of a visa ban on Ukrainian political and business leaders and the freezing of their U.S.-based assets. He also voiced his solidarity with Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka, head of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Archbishop Soroka’s Jan. 19 statement, signed by three other leaders of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the U.S., voiced “great concern” about the reports of government officials’ threats and intimidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The statement warned that people dedicated to “oppressive and repressive ideologies” continue to have “inordinate control” in Ukraine and are a danger to “people of all faiths.”

The bishops warned that Ukraine can be regarded as “the stage for the re-imposition of specific ideologies of control and repression.”

“We share the amazement of the civilized world in observing the harsh and brutal responses of the Ukrainian government to our Church and to people expressing their concerns for the welfare of their neighbors and their nation,” they said.

They called for steadfast prayers for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, asking that God “sustains their courage to speak the truths all of us need to hear.” The U.S. bishops asked for assistance and vigilance to ensure that “all oppression is widely exposed and doomed to failure.”

They also called upon “all freedom-loving individuals” to “pray and support the cause of religious freedom in Ukraine and in countries where such basic freedoms are suppressed.”

The bishops gave their “complete confidence and support” to Patriarch Sviatoslav, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and all bishops, clergy, religious and faithful of the Church in the Ukraine providing pastoral care to the demonstrators.

“Their response of love and understanding and nurture recalls for all the compassion which Jesus showed for the oppressed,” the message said.

Archbishop Chaput praised the bishops' statement, calling it “a privilege to join my own voice, and the voice of the people and clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to the voice of Archbishop Soroka and the Ukrainian Catholic community.”

He said that Archbishop Soroka has called for Catholics and other Americans to support “the struggle for religious and civil liberties in Ukraine.”

“We can do that first and most importantly by prayer – and then by contacting our elected representatives,” he said.

The situation in Ukraine is still changing. On Jan. 28, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned in hopes of advancing a compromise. Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to annul controversial anti-protest laws and has also approved a bill granting amnesty to detained protesters.

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NY sex trafficking ring busted days before Super Bowl

New York City, N.Y., Jan 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Members of a sex trafficking and drug ring centered in New York City were arrested after the group advertised “party packs” of drugs and sex workers in advance of the Super Bowl.

“While this investigation started a while ago, we've seen a serious uptick in activities in advance of the Super Bowl,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a Jan. 30 press conference.

He explained that the arrest involved members of “a money laundering, drug and prostitution ring based in New York City, but catering to clientele as far away as Texas.”

The arrest of 18 suspects followed an 11-month investigation by the New York Organized Crime Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security and the New York Police Department, officials said during a Jan. 30 press conference.

The arrests came just days before Super Bowl XLVIII, to be held in East Rutherford, N.J., a New York City suburb, on Feb. 2.

According to Schneiderman, the “very sophisticated drug and prostitution ring” operated its network using online media, “selling sex and drugs as a package deal” to high-end clients through advertisements.

He quoted a text sent to frequent clients offering “updated girls” and saying that “new sexy & beautiful girls R in town waiting for u.”

“They brought in new women every two months,” the attorney general later noted.  

While the ring presented itself as an escort service, offenders sold sex and cocaine together as a package deal, he said.

Money paid by clients through credit cards was laundered through a chain of virtual wig, clothing and other stores, Schneiderman explained. While most clients paid in cash, the ring laundered more than $3 million in credit card charges within the past year.

State and local officials tracked the ring for nearly a year, in an operation utilizing undercover physical and electronic surveillance. Authorities noted a “huge increase” in activities in recent weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, including an increase in texts to potential buyers and advertisements.

Schneiderman stated that the ring's sophistication and methods of operation “worked on a model really suited for the increase of people for the Super Bowl,” and law enforcement officials moved to close the ring before the sporting event itself.

The investigation will continue, Schneiderman said, adding that they are interviewing the ring's prostitutes “to identify any victim of human trafficking first and foremost.”

None of the people arrested “were street-level prostitutes,” he added. “We're going after the criminal enterprise.”

Schneiderman promised that solicitors of human trafficking would face severe repercussions.

“Better to get yourself in front of the T.V., grab yourself a few beers and stay out of trouble,” he warned those who may be considering taking part in drugs and prostitution during the Super Bowl weekend.

“Prostitution and human trafficking is not a victimless crime,” New York Police Department Chief Phillip Banks III emphasized, promising an inter-departmental approach to those engaged in trafficking.

Lori Cohen, director of the anti-trafficking program Sanctuary for Family, praised law enforcement for “focusing on the real criminals: the pimps, madams and the buyers,” rather than the victims being trafficked.   

“Instead of being arrested, these women were offered help and treated with respect compassion,” she said at the press conference, adding that many women who were victims of the ring were seeking her organization's aid.

On Jan. 27, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R.-N.J.) chaired a hearing on human trafficking before a House subcommittee dealing with human rights.

The hearing drew attention to the problem of trafficking, particularly surrounding major sporting events. It highlighted efforts by state and federal authorities to fight trafficking in advance of the Super Bowl, as well as training programs to help transportation and hotel workers recognize the signs of exploitation and how to respond to them.

Rep. Smith pointed to a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, indicating that more than 10,000 exploited women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.

He emphasized the need to offer assistance to victims and hold those who exploit them fully accountable.

“This must not happen again,” he said.

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