VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity Thursday after meeting with four women who were trafficked and forced into prostitution.
Francis attended a Vatican conference of church workers, charity representatives and police chiefs from 20 nations, Interpol and Europol who pledged greater cooperation to prevent trafficking and encourage its victims to come forward to police.
"Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ," Francis said. "It is a crime against humanity."
The pope met privately with freed sex slaves from his native Argentina, Chile, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Three of them addressed the conference, which issued a final statement pledging to develop strategies to do more to prevent trafficking, care for victims and help them reintegrate into society once freed.
"Our strategy must work across all borders, languages cultures and religious beliefs," Interpol's secretary general, Ronald Noble, told the group. "The 'merchants' do not care about these differences, indeed they thrive on them, as they have done for years."
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