Today, Pope Francis met with 20 women rescued from the sex trade.

In yet another sign of his strong stance against human trafficking, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to 20 women who have been rescued from sexual slavery.

The pope met with the women on Friday on Aug. 12 at a Catholic Church-run refugee center in Rome, the Pope John XXIII community, which houses those rescued from prostitution.

Advertisement

The visit was one of the regular gestures Francis has made to highlight the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which runs through 2016.

The Vatican said in a statement that the women were from a range of countries, including Romania, Albania, Nigeria, Tunisia and Ukraine, as well as Italy.

All suffered severe physical abuse during their ordeals and are living under protection, the Vatican press office said.

The statement said the pope’s visit was another reminder of the urgent need to combat human trafficking.

Francis has been particularly outspoken against trafficking and slavery, calling it “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.”

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says it’s difficult to estimate the number of victims of sexual slavery but estimates around 140,000 are trapped in this cycle of exploitation, abuse and degradation across Europe at any one time.

Francis joined Anglican and Muslim leaders at the Vatican in 2014 to launch an anti-trafficking initiative.

In June this year the pontiff made an unexpected appearance at a Vatican conference that brought together Catholic Church officials, judges and prosecutors to discuss human trafficking and organized crime.

“Judges today are called more than ever to focus on the needs of victims,” he told them. “The victims are the first who need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society -- and their traffickers and executioners must be given no quarter and pursued.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A 14-year-old boy receives medical treatment at Suez Canal University hospital in Ismailia, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, after he was in injured during an attack on a mosque (AP Photo/Amr Nabil).
The pope described the attack as a “wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer.”
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 24, 2017
“The Senate proposal is fundamentally flawed as written and requires amendment,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane in a Nov. 22 letter to senators.
Pope Francis greets people at the “Regional Hub,” a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in Bologna, Italy, Oct. 1. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)
Although he named no countries, Vatican observers believe he is referring especially to political leaders in several western and eastern European countries.
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 24, 2017
For Thanksgiving, we give you an inside look into what Jesuit basketball teams to watch out for this season.
Olga SeguraNovember 24, 2017