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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 104, August 2007





(interview with Archbishop Agostino Marchetto)



Vatican City, 11th January 2007



Mrs Hildegard Mathier,

Chief Editor Kontinente.


Here are my answers to the questions raised in your e-mail.  

1. Poverty, lack of opportunities, and social cohesion make people vulnerable to trafficking since it encourages them to look  for a decent future despite the risks involved. Trafficking in human beings is a shocking offence against human dignity, and is a very grave violation of fundamental human rights. Its aim is to bring people into an exploitative situation. These persons have been deceived about the goals of the activities and are no longer free to decide about their lives. They end up in slavery-like situations or servitude from which it is difficult to escape. Threats and violence are used to obtain this. Trafficking in human being goes beyond the sex industry. It involves forced labour of men, women and children in various industries: the construction sector, restaurants and hotels, agriculture and domestic labour, as well as trafficking for organ transplantation, begging and the recruitment of children in armed conflict. My answer gives the reasons of the difficulties to abolish contemporary slavery, though I think it is possible.

2. The Holy See promoted actively the human dignity of trafficked persons by supporting appropriate measures against trafficking in different structures like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, United Nations Organisations, while the Holy Father addressed this issue several times in different Messages. In any case, already in the Vatican II Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, there were passages referring to this question.

The Church in many different countries is involved in assisting the victims by being present with them. This involves listening to them, providing assistance, giving support to escape from sexual violence, creating safe houses, counselling geared towards integration into society or helping them to return in a sustainable way to their home country. In addition prevention and raising awareness activities are promoted. This has become evident in the activities of quite a number of initiatives which were started by women religious congregations. Advocacy at different levels, also at UN Level, is done by them. Also several Episcopal conferences published a pastoral letter concerning trafficking.

In countries which faced a violent conflict (i.e. DRC, Sierra Leone, Liberia) the Church has reached out to former child soldiers. Activities are undertaken for a social and economic integration into society, but also to heal the wounds of these former-ex combatants and the receiving family and /or community.

However, one should realize that  easy solutions do not exist and that answers given should be appropriate. To address these particular human rights’ abuses one has to promote measures geared towards the integration of the victims (like providing residence permits); juridical instruments to stop the practice (for instance the ratification and enforcement of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its optional protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict),  and to punish those who profit from it; and to address the macroeconomic situation in a coherent way.

Measures to address the inequalities within the global economy are indeed needed. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in his Address to the Diplomatic Corps on 8 January 2007: “It impels us to change our way of life, it reminds us of the urgent need to eliminate the structural causes of global economic dysfunction and to correct models of growth that seem incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment and for integral human development, both now and in the future. Once again I invite the leaders of the wealthiest nations to take the necessary steps to ensure that poor countries, which often have a wealth of natural resources, are able to benefit from the fruits of goods that are rightfully theirs. From this point of view, the delay in implementing the commitments undertaken by the international community during the last few years is another cause of concern. So it is to be hoped that the trade negotiations of the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization will be resumed, and that the process of debt cancellation and reduction for the poorest countries will be continued and accelerated. At the same time, these processes must not be made conditional upon structural adjustments that are detrimental to the most vulnerable populations .... Within the framework of development, various initiatives have been undertaken to which the Holy See has not failed to pledge its support, at the same time reiterating that these projects must not supplant the commitment of developed countries to devote 0.7% of their gross domestic product to international aid.

I realize that my answers are long, but ...


Sincerely yours in Christ, 


X Agostino Marchetto,

Titular Archbishop of Astigi