Vatican City, 17 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received the participants in the International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Street, organised by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The aim of the meeting was to draw up a plan of action to respond to the phenomenon of women and children – and their families – who live mainly on the streets.
Among the often sad causes of the phenomenon, the Pope lists indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking. “They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of 'vagrancy'. Street children and street women are not numbers, or 'packets' to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity”.
“No child chooses to live on the streets. Sadly, even in our modern, globalised world, many children continue to be robbed of their childhood, their rights and their future. Lack of legal protection and adequate structures only aggravates their state of deprivation: they have no real family or access to education or health care. Every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organisations, is a cry rising up to God, Who created man and woman in His own image. It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticised for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice”.
He also spoke about the troubling increase in the number of young girls and women forced to earn a living on the street by selling their own bodies, victims of exploitation by criminal organisations and at times by parents and family members. “This is a shameful reality in our societies, which boast of being modern and possessed of high levels of culture and development. Widespread corruption and unrestrained greed are robbing the innocent and the vulnerable of the possibility of a dignified life, abetting the crime of trafficking and other injustices which they have to endure. No one can remain unmoved before the pressing need to safeguard the dignity of women, threatened by cultural and economic factors”.
He asked, “please: do not be disheartened by the difficulties and the challenges which you encounter in your dedicated work, nourished as it is by your faith in Christ, Who showed, even to death on the cross, the preferential love of God our Father for the weak and the outcast. The Church cannot remain silent, nor can her institutions turn a blind eye to the baneful reality of street children and street women. The Christian community in the various countries needs to be involved at all levels in working to eliminate everything which forces a child or a woman to live on the street or to earn a livelihood on the street. We can never refrain from bringing to all, and especially to the most vulnerable and underprivileged, the goodness and the tenderness of God our merciful Father. Mercy is the supreme act by which God comes to meet us; it is the way which opens our hearts to the hope of an everlasting love”.
The Holy Father concluded by offering to the participants in the congress “prayerful good wishes for the fruitfulness of your efforts, in your various countries, to offer pastoral and spiritual care, and liberation, to those who are most frail and exploited; I likewise pray for the fruitfulness of your mission to advance and protect their personhood and dignity”.