Friday, January 30, 2015

National Day of Mourning

By virtue of Proclamation No. 953, s. 2015, this Friday, January 30, 2015, has been declared a National Day of Mourning. All public institutions and military installations, are instructed to lower the Philippine flag to half-mast in honor of the members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force that fell during an armed encounter in Maguindanao last Sunday, as well as a sign of solidarity with their families. - govph

Prayer for the Dead

Friday, January 23, 2015

There is compassion of God in the face of tragedy - Fr Suarez

“What the people must learn is the compassion of God in spite of the fact that they were experiencing tragedy, the catastrophe turns into a blessing,” Father Fernando Suarez told Manila Bulletin.

Suarez, who is widely known as the “healing priest,” was among the clergy in the Papal mass held at the airport grounds packed with 160,000 rain-soaked pilgrims and well-wishers last January 17.

“God is so merciful especially for those who are suffering. His heart goes to people who suffer. His heart goes to the people who are experiencing tragedy, catastrophe in life. It is so evident the blessing for the places where the Pope went here precisely to show compassion and his mercy particularly the people of Tacloban,” Suarez said.

- Manila Bulletin

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Healing Mass with Fr. Fernando Suarez - January 21 Tupi South Cotabato, January 23 GenSan

January 21 Wednesday
2:00 PM
Eucharistic Celebration & Healing Service
Tupi Municipal Gymnasium, South Cotabato

January 23 Friday
8:30 AM
Eucharistic Healing Mass
Sts. Peter & Paul Parish Church
Brgy. Lagao, General Santos City

- South Cotabato News

Monday, January 19, 2015

#papalvisitph - May God bless you all! - Pope Francis

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#PapalVisitPh #PopeFrancisPh - We who are Christians, members of God’s family, are called to go out to the needy and to serve them

We who are Christians, members of God’s family, are called to go out to the needy and to serve them
Pope tweet

#PapalVisitPh #PopeFrancisPh - The mercy and sacrifices of the Lord gave meaning to our hardship

The mercy and sacrifices of the Lord gives meaning to our hardship
- Pope tweet

#PapalVisitPh #PopeFrancisPh - Pope Francis' message to young people at UST

(Spanish translated into English) 
Encounter with the Youth event on Sunday at University of Santo Tomas

Dear Young Friends,

When I spoke spontaneously, speak, I do it in Spanish. No? Because, I don’t know English language. May I do it?

[Crowd: Yes!]

Thank you very much!

He is Fr. Mark, a good translator.

There is a sad news today. Yesterday as mass was about to start, a piece of scaffolding fell. And upon falling, it hit a young woman who was working in the area and she died. Her name is Kristel. She works for the organization and preparation for that very mass, and was 27 years old; young like yourselves. She worked for those Catholic Relief Services, a volunteer worker.

I would like all of you, young like her, to pray for a moment in silence with me, and then we pray to Mama, Our Lady, in heaven.

Let us pray.

[Hail Mary...]

Let us also pray for her parents. She was the only daughter. Her mom is coming from Hong Kong, and her father has come to Manila to wait.

[Our Father...]

It is a joy for me to be with you this morning. I greet each of you from the heart, and I thank all those who made this meeting possible. During my visit to the Philippines, I wanted in a particular way to meet with young people, to listen to you and to talk with you. I want to express the love and the hopes of the Church for you. And I want to encourage you, as Christian citizens of this country, to offer yourselves passionately and honestly to the great work of renewing your society and helping to build a better world.

In a special way, I thank the young people who have offered words of welcome to me. To Jun and Leandro and Ricky, thank you very much.

And only a very small representation of females among you. Too little, eh?

Women have much to tell us in today’s society. Sometimes we’re too machistas, and we don’t allow room for the woman.

But women are capable of seeing things from a different angle from us, a different eye. Women are able to pose questions that we men are not able to understand. Look out for this fact today. She, Glazelle, is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer, and it she wasn’t even able to express it in words, but rather in tears.

So when the next pope comes, please, more girls, women, among the number. I thank you, Jun, that you’ve expressed yourself so bravely. The nucleus of your question as I said, also almost does not have a reply.

Only when we too, can cry about the things that you said, can we come close to replying to that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer?

When the heart is able to ask itself and cry, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion, which is useless. You spoke something of this. It’s a compassion, moreover leads us to put hand in the pocket to give something, to the poor. If Christ had had that kind of that compassion, he would have walked by, just greeted three people, giving them something and moved on, But it’s only when Christ cried and was able to cry that he understood our lives.

Dear boys, girls, young people, today’s world has a lack of capacity of knowing how to cry. The marginated people, we, those that are left to one side, are crying, those that are discarded, those are crying.

But we don’t understand much about these people with these necessities.

Certain realities in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed with tears. I invite each one here to ask yourselves, have I learned how to weep, to cry?

Have I learned how to weep for somebody who is left to one side, have I learned how to weep for somebody who has a drug problem, have I learned how to weep for somebody who has suffered abuse?

Unfortunately, there are those who cry because they want something else. This is the first thing I would like to say: Let us learn how to weep, as she has shown us today. Let us not forget this lesson, the great question of why so many children suffer, she did this crying, and the response we can make today is, let us learn, really learn, how to really weep, how to cry.

Jesus in the Gospel, He cried, He cried for His dead friend, He cried in his heart, for the family that had lost its child, He cried when He saw the poor widow having to bury her son. He was moved to tears, to compassion, when He saw the multitudes of crowds without a pastor

If you don’t learn how to cry, you won’t learn how to be good Christians. This is a challenge.

Jun and Glyzelle have posed this challenge to us today, and when they post this question to us, of why children suffer, why this tragedy occurs in life, our response must either be silence or words that is borne of our tears.

Be courageous, please don’t be frightened of crying.

Then came Leandro Santos II and his questions.

He also posed good questions: the world of information. Today, with so many means of communications, we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? Not necessarily.

It is good and it can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way of accumulating information. We have so much information. But maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. We run the risk of becoming museums of young people that have everything but without knowing what to do with them. We don’t need youth museums but we do need holy young people.

You might ask me, Father, how do we become saints? This is another challenge, it is a challenge of love., which is the most important subject you have to learn in university. What is the most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. And this is the great challenge life offers you, to learn how to love. And not just acquiring information without knowing what to do with it, but through that love, that that information bear fruit.

And for this the Gospel gives us a serene way to move forwards. To use three languages, of the mind, of the heart and of your hands, and the three to use them in harmony, what you think you must feel and put into effect, your information comes down to your heart and you realize it in real work. And this harmoniously. Think what you feel and what you do. Feel what you think and what you do. Do what you think, and what you feel. The three languages.

Can you repeat this? To think, to feel and to do. To think, to feel and to do.

[asks crowd to repeat]

To think, to feel and to do.

And all that, harmoniously.

Real love is about loving and letting ourselves be loved. Let yourselves to be loved, that is why it’s so difficult to come to perfect love to God, because we can love Him, but it’s also very important to let yourselves be loved by Him. Real love, opening ourselves to the love that wants to you, which causes a surprise in us.

If you only have information, then the element of surprise is gone.

Love opens you to surprise and is a surprise, because it presupposes dialogue between the two, of loving and being loved. And we say that God is a God of surprises, because he always loved us first, and he awaits us with surprise. God surprises us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God.

Let us not have the psychology of a computer to think that we know it all. All the responses on a computer screen but no real surprise, and the challenge of love, God reveals himself through surprises. Let’s think of St. Matthew, he was a good financier and he let people down, because he imposed taxes on his own citizens, the Jews to give to the Romans, full of money, and charged taxes.

But Jesus looks at him and says, follow Me. He couldn’t believe it.

If you have time, go and see the picture that Caravaggio painted about the story. Jesus called him and those around him said, “This one? He has betrayed, he’s no good. And he holds money to himself!” But the surprise of being loved, overcomes him. It is this way.

The day when Matthew left his home, said goodbye to his wife, he never thought he was going to come back without money, and worry and concerned about how to have such a big feast—to prepare that feast for Him who have loved him first, who had surprised Matthew. It’s something very special, more important than the money that Matthew had.

Allow yourselves to be surprised by God and don’t be frightened of surprises. They shake the ground from underneath your feet and they make us unsure, but they move us forward in the right direction.

Real love leads you to spend yourselves in love, to leave your pockets open and empty. St. Francis died with his pockets empty, but with a very full heart. So, no young museums, wise young people. To be wise, use the three languages, to think well, feel well and do well. And to be wise, allow yourselves to be surprised by the love of God, and that’s a good life. Thank you.

He who came with a good plan was Rikki, to see how he can go in life. With all the activities, the multiple facets that accompany young people, thank you, Rikki. Thank you for what you do and your friends. I’d like to ask you, Rikki, a question: You and your friends are going to give help, but do you allow yourselves to receive? Rikki, answer in your heart.

In the gospel we just heard, the beautiful phrase for me, which is the most important of all… “He looked at the young man, and He loved him. When you see young group of friends, Rikki and his friends, who love so much because they do things that are really good. But the most important phrase that Jesus says, “You lack one thing.” Let us listen to these words in silence: “You lack only one thing. You lack only one thing…”

[Repeat] With us: “You lack only one thing. You lack only one thing.”

What is it that I lack?

To all who Jesus loved so much, I ask you, do you allow others to give you, from their riches, to you that don’t have those riches? Sad to see that doctors of the law, in the time of Jesus, gave much to the people. Law? They taught them. But they never allowed the people to give them something.

Jesus had to come to allow Himself to feel compassion, to be loved. How many young people among you are there like this? You know how to give and yet you haven’t yet learned how to receive. You lack only one thing: Become a beggar—to become a beggar.

This is what you lack, to learn how to beg, and to those to whom we give. This isn’t easy to understand: To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor, those that we help, those infirm, orphans, they have so much to offer us.

"Have I learned to beg also for that? Or do I feel self sufficient and I’m only going to offer something and think that you have no need of anything?"

Do you know that you, too, are poor? Do you know your poverty and the need that you receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? Let them give to you?

And this is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others, to learn how to offer out your hand, from your very own poverty.

There are some points that I have prepared, to learn how to love, and to learn how to be loved. There is a challenge of integrity.

This is not only because your country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change. It is a challenge to [have] concern for the environment. And finally, the challenge for the poor—] to love the poor, with the bishops, to ask in a very special way, for the poor.

Do you think with the poor? Do you feel with the poor? Do you do something for the poor? Do you ask the poor that they might give you the wisdom that they have?

This is what I wish to tell you all today. Sorry, I haven’t read what I prepared for you, but I’m consoled. Reality is superior to ideas. And the reality that you all have is superior to the paper in front of me. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pope Francis’ homily in Tacloban Mass January 17


If you allow me, I prefer today to speak in Spanish. I have a translator, a good translator. May I do that? Thank you very much.

We have a high priest who is capable of sympathizing with our weaknesses but one who is similarly been tested in every way yet without sin. Jesus is like us. Jesus lived like us. Jesus is the same with us in every respect except sin. Because Jesus was not a sinner.

But to be more like us, He assumed our condition and our sin. He made himself unto sin. This is what Saint Paul tells us. Jesus always goes before us. And when we pass and experience a cross, He passed there before us.

And if today we find ourselves 14 months after, 14 months precisely after the typhoon Yolanda hit, it is because we have the security of knowing that we are not going to weaken in our faith, because Jesus has been there before us. In His passion, He assumed all our pain.

I’d like to tell you something close to my heart.

When I saw from Rome the catastrophe, I felt that I had to be here and on those very days I decided to come here.

I am here to be with you. A little bit late, I have to say, but I am here.

I come to tell you that Jesus is Lord and He never lets us down.

Father, you might say to me, I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true, if you would say that, and I respect those sentiments, but Jesus there (pointing to the cross), nailed to the cross, and from there, He does not let us down.

He was consecrated as Lord, on that throne and there He experienced all calamities that we experienced. Jesus is Lord and the Lord from the cross is there for you.

Therefore, He is capable of understanding us, as we heard in the first reading. In everything, the same as us.

That is why we have a Lord who is capable of crying with us, capable of walking with us, in the most difficult moments of life.

So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silent. And I walk with you all with my silent heart. Many of you have asked the Lord, why Lord?

And to each of you, to your heart, Christ responds from His heart upon the cross.

I have no more words to tell you, let us look to Christ, He is the Lord. He understands us because He underwent all the trials that we, that you, have experienced. And beside the cross was His mother. We are like this little child, just there.

In the moments when we have so much pain, when we no longer understand anything, all we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly. And say, Mom, as a child does to a mother, when he or she feels fear.

It is perhaps the only word we can say in such difficult times, Mother, Mom.

Let us together hold a moment of silence, let us look to that Christ on the cross. He understands us because He endured everything. Let us look to our mother, and like that little child, let us grab hold of her mantle, and with a true heart, say, mother.

In silence, let us say this prayer, say it to the mother, what you feel in your heart.

Let us know that we have Mother Mary and our great brother Jesus, we are not alone. We also have many brothers who in this moment of catastrophe came to help you, and we too, because of this we feel more brothers and sisters, because we helped each other.

This is what comes from my heart and forgive me if I have no other words to express this: But please know, Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down.

And holding on to her mantle and with the power that comes from Jesus love on the cross, let us move forward, always forward, and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord forward.

Thank you very much.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Papal Visit in Leyte schedule January 17 Saturday

10 AM - Concelebrated Mass
12:45 PM - Lunch with the poor and survivors of calamities, Gonzaga Haus, Palo, Leyte
3 PM - Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, Palo, Leyte
3:30 PM - Meeting with Priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and families of Yolanda survivors

see Pope Francis official itinerary in the Philippines

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pope Francis to Fr. Suarez: Continue healing

In an interview last Jauary 10 with ABS-CBN’s "The Bottomline with Boy Abunda," Suarez said Pope Francis knew he was a healing priest and had even told him to “continue your mission.”

“I said, thank you,” Suarez said.

Suarez described Pope Francis as “taong-tao [human],” yet “he is a man of God. Feel na feel mo na mahal ka, hindi ka jina-judge.” >>continue reading

Safety reminders during papal visit

Remember three things:
1. Be calm
2. Don't Push
3. Don't run

Related articles:
Pope Francis official itinerary in the Philippines
LRT 1 schedule during papal visit
NAIA operations during papal visit
January 15, 16 and 19, 2015, as special (non-working) days in Metro Manila for Papal Visit

LRT 1 schedule during papal visit

January 15 - 5AM -4PM All stations open
                    4PM - 10PM Quirino station closed
January 16 - 5AM - 10PM Quirino station closed
January 17 - 5AM- 9AM Quirino Station closed
                    9AM-5PM All stations open
                    5PM-10PM Quirino Station closed
January 18 - 5AM -10PM Quirino station closed
January 19 - 5AM-9AM Quirino Station closed
                    9AM-10PM All stations open

Related articles:
Pope Francis official itinerary in the Philippines
Safety reminders during papal visit
NAIA operations during papal visit
January 15, 16 and 19, 2015, as special (non-working) days in Metro Manila for Papal Visit

NAIA operations during papal visit

January 15 - 2PM -7PM Airport closed to arriving aircraft, departure allowed
January 17 - 7:45AM - 8:45AM Landing and takeoff suspended
                     5:45 PM - 6:45 PM Aircraft movement on ground not allowed
January 19 - 6AM - 10:30AM Airport closed to arriving aircraft, depature allowed

Related articles:
Pope Francis official itinerary in the Philippines
Safety reminders during papal visit
LRT 1 schedule during papal visit
January 15, 16 and 19, 2015, as special (non-working) days in Metro Manila for Papal Visit

More info at

Friday, January 9, 2015

Feast of the Black Nazarene - January 9

The hymn Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno was composed by Lucio San Pedro to honour the Black Nazarene. It is used by the Minor Basilica as the official anthem of the devotion and its associated rites.

Tagalog lyrics

Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Sinasambá Ka namin,
Pinipintuhò Ka namin
Aral Mo ang aming buhay
at Kaligtasan.
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Iligtás Mo kami sa Kasalanan.
Ang Krus Mong kinamatayán ay
Sagisag ng aming Kaligtasan.
|| Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Dinarangál Ka namin!
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Nilul'walhatì Ka namin! ||

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

10 things you need to know about Pope Francis

From the moment he stepped into the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica upon his election to the papacy on March 13, 2013, His Holiness Pope Francis has captured the world’s attention for his simple message of God’s boundless love and mercy.

Here are 10 things you need to know about His Holiness Pope Francis:

1. Pope Francis is a pope of many “firsts”.
2. Pope Francis sees himself as a sinner.
3. Pope Francis believes the Church should be more like a “field hospital after battle,” with bishops serving as true pastors and priests spending more time in confessionals, consoling wounded souls.
4. Pope Francis wants to keep it simple but “cannot live without people.”
5. Pope Francis only has the deepest of affections for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his “brother” who now lives in a monastery at the Vatican.
6. Pope Francis is a reformer; he is not afraid to shake things up.
7. Pope Francis says “no” to an economy of exclusion.
8. Pope Francis warns Christians against falling into the trap of spiritual worldliness,” which is “self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God.
9. Pope Francis is a fervent devotee of the Blessed Mother.
10. Pope Francis is a son of the Church.

Friday, January 2, 2015



1 JANUARY 2015


1. At the beginning of this New Year, which we welcome as God’s gracious gift to all humanity, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to every man and woman, to all the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious leaders. In doing so, I pray for an end to wars, conflicts and the great suffering caused by human agency, by epidemics past and present, and by the devastation wrought by natural disasters. I pray especially that, on the basis of our common calling to cooperate with God and all people of good will for the advancement of harmony and peace in the world, we may resist the temptation to act in a manner unworthy of our humanity.

In my Message for Peace last year, I spoke of “the desire for a full life… which includes a longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced”.[1] Since we are by nature relational beings, meant to find fulfilment through interpersonal relationships inspired by justice and love, it is fundamental for our human development that our dignity, freedom and autonomy be acknowledged and respected. Tragically, the growing scourge of man’s exploitation by man gravely damages the life of communion and our calling to forge interpersonal relations marked by respect, justice and love. This abominable phenomenon, which leads to contempt for the fundamental rights of others and to the suppression of their freedom and dignity, takes many forms. I would like briefly to consider these, so that, in the light of God’s word, we can consider all men and women “no longer slaves, but brothers and sisters”.

Listening to God’s plan for humanity

2. The theme I have chosen for this year’s message is drawn from Saint Paul’s letter to Philemon, in which the Apostle asks his co-worker to welcome Onesimus, formerly Philemon’s slave, now a Christian and, therefore, according to Paul, worthy of being considered a brother. The Apostle of the Gentiles writes: “Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother” (vv. 15-16). Onesimus became Philemon’s brother when he became a Christian. Conversion to Christ, the beginning of a life lived Christian discipleship, thus constitutes a new birth (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; 1 Pet 1:3) which generates fraternity as the fundamental bond of family life and the basis of life in society.

In the Book of Genesis (cf. 1:27-28), we read that God made man male and female, and blessed them so that they could increase and multiply. He made Adam and Eve parents who, in response to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, brought about the first fraternity, that of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were brothers because they came forth from the same womb. Consequently they had the same origin, nature and dignity as their parents, who were created in the image and likeness of God.

But fraternity also embraces variety and differences between brothers and sisters, even though they are linked by birth and are of the same nature and dignity. As brothers and sisters, therefore, all people are in relation with others, from whom they differ, but with whom they share the same origin, nature and dignity. In this way, fraternity constitutes the network of relations essential for the building of the human family created by God.

Tragically, between the first creation recounted in the Book of Genesis and the new birth in Christ whereby believers become brothers and sisters of the “first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29), there is the negative reality of sin, which often disrupts human fraternity and constantly disfigures the beauty and nobility of our being brothers and sisters in the one human family. It was not only that Cain could not stand Abel; he killed him out of envy and, in so doing, committed the first fratricide. “Cain’s murder of Abel bears tragic witness to his radical rejection of their vocation to be brothers. Their story (cf. Gen 4:1-16) brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called, to live as one, each taking care of the other”.[2]

This was also the case with Noah and his children (cf. Gen 9:18-27). Ham’s disrespect for his father Noah drove Noah to curse his insolent son and to bless the others, those who honoured him. This created an inequality between brothers born of the same womb.

In the account of the origins of the human family, the sin of estrangement from God, from the father figure and from the brother, becomes an expression of the refusal of communion. It gives rise to a culture of enslavement (cf. Gen 9:25-27), with all its consequences extending from generation to generation: rejection of others, their mistreatment, violations of their dignity and fundamental rights, and institutionalized inequality. Hence, the need for constant conversion to the Covenant, fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, in the confidence that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more… through Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:20-21). Christ, the beloved Son (cf. Mt 3:17), came to reveal the Father’s love for humanity. Whoever hears the Gospel and responds to the call to conversion becomes Jesus’ “brother, sister and mother” (Mt 12:50), and thus an adopted son of his Father (cf. Eph 1:5).

One does not become a Christian, a child of the Father and a brother or sister in Christ, as the result of an authoritative divine decree, without the exercise of personal freedom: in a word, without being freely converted to Christ. Becoming a child of God is necessarily linked to conversion: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). All those who responded in faith and with their lives to Peter’s preaching entered into the fraternity of the first Christian community (cf. 1 Pet 2:17; Acts 1:15-16, 6:3, 15:23): Jews and Greeks, slaves and free (cf. 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:28). Differing origins and social status did not diminish anyone’s dignity or exclude anyone from belonging to the People of God. The Christian community is thus a place of communion lived in the love shared among brothers and sisters (cf. Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7).

All of this shows how the Good News of Jesus Christ, in whom God makes “all things new” (Rev 21:5),[3] is also capable of redeeming human relationships, including those between slaves and masters, by shedding light on what both have in common: adoptive sonship and the bond of brotherhood in Christ. Jesus himself said to his disciples: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15).

The many faces of slavery yesterday and today

3. From time immemorial, different societies have known the phenomenon of man’s subjugation by man. There have been periods of human history in which the institution of slavery was generally accepted and regulated by law. This legislation dictated who was born free and who was born into slavery, as well as the conditions whereby a freeborn person could lose his or her freedom or regain it. In other words, the law itself admitted that some people were able or required to be considered the property of other people, at their free disposition. A slave could be bought and sold, given away or acquired, as if he or she were a commercial product.

Today, as the result of a growth in our awareness, slavery, seen as a crime against humanity,[4] has been formally abolished throughout the world. The right of each person not to be kept in a state of slavery or servitude has been recognized in international law as inviolable.

Yet, even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.

I think of the many men and women labourers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labour regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers’ rights.

I think also of the living conditions of many migrants who, in their dramatic odyssey, experience hunger, are deprived of freedom, robbed of their possessions, or undergo physical and sexual abuse. In a particular way, I think of those among them who, upon arriving at their destination after a gruelling journey marked by fear and insecurity, are detained in at times inhumane conditions. I think of those among them, who for different social, political and economic reasons, are forced to live clandestinely. My thoughts also turn to those who, in order to remain within the law, agree to disgraceful living and working conditions, especially in those cases where the laws of a nation create or permit a structural dependency of migrant workers on their employers, as, for example, when the legality of their residency is made dependent on their labour contract. Yes, I am thinking of “slave labour”.

I think also of persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves. I think of women forced into marriage, those sold for arranged marriages and those bequeathed to relatives of their deceased husbands, without any right to give or withhold their consent.

Nor can I fail to think of all those persons, minors and adults alike, who are made objects of trafficking for the sale of organs, for recruitment as soldiers, for begging, for illegal activities such as the production and sale of narcotics, or for disguised forms of cross-border adoption.

Finally, I think of all those kidnapped and held captive by terrorist groups, subjected to their purposes as combatants, or, above all in the case of young girls and women, to be used as sex slaves. Many of these disappear, while others are sold several times over, tortured, mutilated or killed.

Some deeper causes of slavery

4. Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbours, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.

Alongside this deeper cause – the rejection of another person’s humanity – there are other causes which help to explain contemporary forms of slavery. Among these, I think in the first place of poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of access to education or scarce, even non-existent, employment opportunities. Not infrequently, the victims of human trafficking and slavery are people who look for a way out of a situation of extreme poverty; taken in by false promises of employment, they often end up in the hands of criminal networks which organize human trafficking. These networks are skilled in using modern means of communication as a way of luring young men and women in various parts of the world.

Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. Slave labour and human trafficking often require the complicity of intermediaries, be they law enforcement personnel, state officials, or civil and military institutions. “This occurs when money, and not the human person, is at the centre of an economic system. Yes, the person, made in the image of God and charged with dominion over all creation, must be at the centre of every social or economic system. When the person is replaced by mammon, a subversion of values occurs”.[5]

Further causes of slavery include armed conflicts, violence, criminal activity and terrorism. Many people are kidnapped in order to be sold, enlisted as combatants, or sexually exploited, while others are forced to emigrate, leaving everything behind: their country, home, property, and even members of their family. They are driven to seek an alternative to these terrible conditions even at the risk of their personal dignity and their very lives; they risk being drawn into that vicious circle which makes them prey to misery, corruption and their baneful consequences.

A shared commitment to ending slavery

5. Often, when considering the reality of human trafficking, illegal trafficking of migrants and other acknowledged or unacknowledged forms of slavery, one has the impression that they occur within a context of general indifference.

Sadly, this is largely true. Yet I would like to mention the enormous and often silent efforts which have been made for many years by religious congregations, especially women’s congregations, to provide support to victims. These institutes work in very difficult situations, dominated at times by violence, as they work to break the invisible chains binding victims to traffickers and exploiters. Those chains are made up of a series of links, each composed of clever psychological ploys which make the victims dependent on their exploiters. This is accomplished by blackmail and threats made against them and their loved ones, but also by concrete acts such as the confiscation of their identity documents and physical violence. The activity of religious congregations is carried out in three main areas: in offering assistance to victims, in working for their psychological and educational rehabilitation, and in efforts to reintegrate them into the society where they live or from which they have come.

This immense task, which calls for courage, patience and perseverance, deserves the appreciation of the whole Church and society. Yet, of itself, it is not sufficient to end the scourge of the exploitation of human persons. There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. Moreover, since criminal organizations employ global networks to achieve their goals, efforts to eliminate this phenomenon also demand a common and, indeed, a global effort on the part of various sectors of society.

States must ensure that their own legislation truly respects the dignity of the human person in the areas of migration, employment, adoption, the movement of businesses offshore and the sale of items produced by slave labour. There is a need for just laws which are centred on the human person, uphold fundamental rights and restore those rights when they have been violated. Such laws should also provide for the rehabilitation of victims, ensure their personal safety, and include effective means of enforcement which leave no room for corruption or impunity. The role of women in society must also be recognized, not least through initiatives in the sectors of culture and social communications.

Intergovernmental organizations, in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, are called to coordinate initiatives for combating the transnational networks of organized crime which oversee the trafficking of persons and the illegal trafficking of migrants. Cooperation is clearly needed at a number of levels, involving national and international institutions, agencies of civil society and the world of finance.

Businesses[6] have a duty to ensure dignified working conditions and adequate salaries for their employees, but they must also be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain. Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers. Every person ought to have the awareness that “purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act”.[7]

Organizations in civil society, for their part, have the task of awakening consciences and promoting whatever steps are necessary for combating and uprooting the culture of enslavement.

In recent years, the Holy See, attentive to the pain of the victims of trafficking and the voice of the religious congregations which assist them on their path to freedom, has increased its appeals to the international community for cooperation and collaboration between different agencies in putting an end to this scourge.[8] Meetings have also been organized to draw attention to the phenomenon of human trafficking and to facilitate cooperation between various agencies, including experts from the universities and international organizations, police forces from migrants’ countries of origin, transit, or destination, and representatives of ecclesial groups which work with victims. It is my hope that these efforts will continue to expand in years to come.

Globalizing fraternity, not slavery or indifference

6. In her “proclamation of the truth of Christ’s love in society”,[9] the Church constantly engages in charitable activities inspired by the truth of the human person. She is charged with showing to all the path to conversion, which enables us to change the way we see our neighbours, to recognize in every other person a brother or sister in our human family, and to acknowledge his or her intrinsic dignity in truth and freedom. This can be clearly seen from the story of Josephine Bakhita, the saint originally from the Darfur region in Sudan who was kidnapped by slave-traffickers and sold to brutal masters when she was nine years old. Subsequently – as a result of painful experiences – she became a “free daughter of God” thanks to her faith, lived in religious consecration and in service to others, especially the most lowly and helpless. This saint, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century, is even today an exemplary witness of hope[10] for the many victims of slavery; she can support the efforts of all those committed to fighting against this “open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ”. [11]

In the light of all this, I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement. Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. Some of us, out of indifference, or financial reasons, or because we are caught up in our daily concerns, close our eyes to this. Others, however, decide to do something about it, to join civic associations or to practice small, everyday gestures – which have so much merit! – such as offering a kind word, a greeting or a smile. These cost us nothing but they can offer hope, open doors, and change the life of another person who lives clandestinely; they can also change our own lives with respect to this reality.

We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself. For this reason I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ,[12] revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls “the least of these my brethren” (Mt 25:40, 45).

We know that God will ask each of us: What did you do for your brother? (cf. Gen 4:9-10). The globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2014