Vatican City, Feb 8, 2015 / 10:37 am
Pope Francis marked the Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking by calling on governments to remove this "shameful wound" which has no place in "civil society."
"Each one of us feels committed to being the voice of these, our brothers and sisters, humiliated in their dignity," the Holy Father said to the crowds gathered in Saint Peter's Square, moments after the recitation of the Angelus.
The Feb. 8 the Day of Prayer coincides with the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the 19th century Sudanese nun who as a child had been a victim of slavery, the Pope noted.
Pope Francis offered his encouragement to those working to end the trafficking of "men, women, and children" who are "enslaved, exploited, abused as instruments of work or pleasure, and often tortured and humiliated."
He then called governments to action in "removing the cause of this shameful wound... a wound unworthy in a civil society."
The United Nations estimates that as many as 2.5 million people are living as victims of human trafficking at any given time.
Speaking ahead of the Angelus, Pope Francis focused the theme of healing in the Gospel, basing his address on the the day's Gospel reading (Mark 1: 29-29) which recounts the healing of Peter's mother-in-law.
"To preach and to heal: this is the principle activity of Jesus in his public life," the Holy Father said. "By preaching, he announces the Kingdom of God, and by healing demonstrates that this is near, that the Kingdom of God is in our midst."
Having come to earth to "proclaim and bring about the salvation of all mankind," the Pope said, Jesus demonstrates a "particular inclination" for the physically and spiritually wounded: "the poor, the sinners, the possessed, the sick, the ostracized."
"He is the true Savior: Jesus saves, Jesus cures, Jesus heals."
Pope Francis recalled the upcoming World Day of the Sick which is commemorated Feb. 11 on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the vigil which will precede the feast the evening before in Rome. The feast day marks the anniversary of the first in a series of Marian apparitions in 1858 to St. Bernadette in Lourdes. Due to the spring which sprung over the course of the apparitions, the town has become a major pilgrimage site for the sick and disabled.
In light of this upcoming feast day, the Pope led the crowds in praying a Hail Mary for Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, who is in Poland suffering from a serious illness.
Christ's salvific work does not end with a person's "earthly life," Pope Francis said, but "continues through the Church, the sacrament of love, and God's tenderness for man."
Jesus sent his disciples out with a "double mandate: to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation an to heal the sick," the Holy Father said.
The church has always considered aiding the sick as an "integral part" of Jesus' statement that "the poor and the suffering you will always have with you," as well as a "privileged path for encountering Christ," the Pope said.
"To care for a the sick, to welcome them, to serve them, is to serve Christ: the sick person is the flesh of Christ."
Despite the scientific advancements today, there remain existential questions surrounding the existence of sickness, suffering, and death, he said.
"The pastoral action of the Church must respond" to these questions, the Pope continued, "with the light of faith, having before her eyes the Crucifix, in which appears the whole salvific mystery of God the Father who, out of love for men, did not spare his own Son" (Romans, 8:32).
"Therefore, each of us is called to bring the light of the Word of God and the strength of Grace to those who suffer," as well as the families, doctors, and healthcare workers who serve them.
Before leading the crowds in praying the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis invoked the intercession of Mary, Health of the sick, that all those suffering from illness can experience "the power of God's love and the comfort of her maternal tenderness."