Meeting with 17 newly appointed ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope Francis encouraged them to work together, regardless of creed, against the "slavery" of human trafficking.

"This is a true form of slavery , unfortunately increasingly common, which affects every land, even the most developed, and which affects the most vulnerable people in society: women, children, the disabled, the poorest and those who come from situations of family or social disintegration," the Bishop of Rome told the newly accredited ambassadors, including the representative of Palestine, Dec. 12 at the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

"In these persons, in a special way, Christians recognize the face of Jesus, who identified with the smallest and the neediest among us. Others, who do not refer to a religious faith, in the name of our common humanity share our compassion for their suffering and the commitment to free them and to tend to their wounds. Together we can and must take action to free the victims of human trafficking and to put an end to this horrible trade."

He mentioned the victims of forced labor, and those trafficked for both labor and sexual exploitation, saying "this cannot continue: it constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of the victims and is an affront to their dignity, as well as a a defeat for the global community."

"All persons of good will, whether they profess a religion or not, cannot allow these women, these men and these children to be treated as objects, deceived, violated, often repeatedly sold, for various purposes, and at the end either killed or ruined physically and mentally, to end up discarded and abandoned. It is shameful."

Pope Francis continued, calling trafficking a "crime against humanity," saying "we must unite" to end this "increasingly aggressive" scourge which he said threatens not only its victims but "also the foundational values of society," justice, and "family structure and social life."

Speaking to the representatives of so many nations, the Roman Pontiff said there must be a "more decisive political will" to end trafficking and protect the rights of those trafficked and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from eluding justice and having the last word."

He urged better legislation throughout the world, noting particularly the importance of laws to "facilitate regular migration" so as to "reduce the problem."

In addition to the transport of illegal migrants, Pope Francis noted as causes of human trafficking the drugs and weapons trades, and the mafia.

He commended the measures taken by government to combat trafficking, yet also lamented the involvement "at times" of "public officials and members of peace missions" in the trade in persons.

"However, to effectively combat this scourge, it is necessary for action to extend to the fields of culture and communication. Also, we must deeply examine our consciences: how many times do we tolerate that a human being is considered as an object, displayed to sell a product or to satisfy immoral desires?"

"The human person must never be bought and sold like merchandise. Whoever uses and exploits human persons, even indirectly, becomes complicit in their oppression."

The Roman Pontiff told the ambassadors that he addressed this concern of his to them because he believes "in the value and the strength of concerted commitment in combating it."

"Therefore, I exhort the international community to adopt an even more unanimous and effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity may always be respected."

Pope Francis concluded, offering the ambassadors his "best wishes" and pledging the help of the Roman Curia in their mission.

"I invoke upon your persons and upon your families, as well as upon your staff, an abundance of divine blessing."