Pope Francis urged prosecutors and judges to step up the fight against human trafficking and resist threats and pressures to close their eyes to injustice.
“I know, too, that to be a judge today, to be a public prosecutor and state attorney means risking your life,” he told justice officials taking part in a summit on human trafficking and organised crime.
More than 100 officials and experts attended the 3-4 June summit sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The pope briefly attended the summit on 3 June to sign its final declaration and speak off-the-cuff to participants.
Judicial authorities, he said, should create a network, share experiences and work together to fight “the new slave hunters” and all forms of modern-day slavery: forced labour, prostitution, and drug and organ trafficking.
The church must play its part and “stick its nose into politics” as part of its effort to come to the aid of those who suffer, he said. “Politics is one of the highest forms of love and of charity,” he said, quoting Blessed Paul VI.
Recognising the difficulties of their job, Pope Francis urged judges and prosecutors to remain free from outside pressures that can come from their own governments, private institutions, criminal organisations and what St John Paul II called “the structures of sin”, which are built up and strengthened by an individual’s own act of sin.
The pope praised the courage of those who resist such pressures because, without free and impartial judicial authorities, judicial power becomes corrupt and generates more corruption.
When the renowned icon of Lady Justice loses her blindfold and it slips down from her eyes, the pope said, it covers her mouth and keeps her from speaking out.
Recalling his many visits to prison complexes, the pope called for more female prison wardens. “This isn’t (about) feminism,” he said. In his experience, he said, prisons administrated by women were run better because they were more sensitive to the importance of rehabilitation.
The final declaration, signed by the pope and all those taking part in the summit, said “all nations must recognise modern slavery, human trafficking, and forced labour and prostitution as crimes against humanity with commensurate sentences”.
Organised crime that seeks to engage in or expand modern slavery “must also be considered a crime against humanity” and the crime of money laundering must be severely prosecuted, it said.
It also suggested: using assets seized from convicted traffickers for assisting victims; giving undocumented victims temporary residency permits, legal assistance and job training; and including the prosecution of clients of sexual services in anti-trafficking legislation.