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Church's Strategy to Help Women of the Street

7/12/2005 - 6:00 PM PST

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Initiative of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers

VATICAN CITY, JULY 12, 2005 - Here is the final document of the first International Meeting of Pastoral Care for the Liberation of Women of the Street, held in Rome on June 20-21, at the initiative of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

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THE EVENT

The meeting was held at the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Rome. In addition to the superiors of the Pontifical Council, it was attended by five Dicastery officials; two Bishops; various priests, religious and lay people; delegates from the Bishops' Conferences of nineteen European nations, namely Albania, Germany, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Denmark (Nordic countries), Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Holland, Hungary, England, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland; and delegates from other continents, including experts, namely from the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria and Thailand. Also present were delegates from the USG (Union of Superiors General) and the IUSG (International Union of Superiors General); CELAM; the Pope John XXIII Communities' Association; the Legion of Mary; representatives from other associations that carry out apostolic work in this area; and a representative from Caritas Internationalis.

After a warm welcome, the President of the Pontifical Council, H.E. Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao, opened the proceedings by highlighting the importance of this issue, which calls for the attention and pastoral care of the universal Church and the particular Churches.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Dicastery, presented the theme and agenda of the meeting and also proposed some assessment criteria and pastoral courses of action regarding this issue. In his speech, entitled "Street Women Today, a Pastoral Challenge," he highlighted a vast and important field of apostleship, which also requires new pastoral agents. He also referred with concern to human beings, many of whom live in a situation where their minimum personal rights are not respected, as their own bodies are the object of trading and trafficking in people.

The subsequent speeches by participants at the meeting drew attention to various aspects of the current situation of women of the street. The Church looks on them with compassion and a sense of Christian welcome, and proposes consideration of the underlying spiritual and theological values of a pastoral commitment that reveals God's benevolence regarding them, as everyone is aware of the many tragedies that lie buried beneath such experience. This gives rise to particular concern regarding the dramatic increase in the number of women and girls who are sexually exploited, creating an urgent need for pastoral action in synergy that goes beyond existing praiseworthy and generous reception initiatives and the current difficulty of including such actions within existing ecclesial structures.

Mrs. Mariette Grange, delegate of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), developed the theme entitled "People Trafficking, with Particular Attention to Women Trafficked for Prostitution," while Professor Mario Pollo's report, "Overall Vision Resulting from a Preparatory Survey," gave an overview of the situation, taken from replies to a questionnaire, which was previously sent out to all participants. The results indicate a certain lack of the more specifically pastoral aspect. Finally, Father Oreste Benzi, head of Pope John XXIII Communities' Association, gave his opinions on the theme: "For a Pastoral Ministry of Redemption and Liberation."

Six experts took part in the round table: Sister Eugenia Bonetti, I.S.M.C., from IUSG; Father Ottavio Cantarello, SC, Director of the "Samuel" Community, proposed by the Italian Conference of Major Superiors; Ms. Síle Ní Chochlín, from the Council of the Legion of Mary; Sister Lalini Gunawardene, RGS; Sister Michelle Lopez, RGS, from the Fountain of Life Center; and Doctor Paolo Ramonda, Vice-President of the Pope John XXIII Communities' Association. This round table dealt with drawing up "guidelines for specific pastoral care."

At the end of this international meeting, which included exchange of news, pastoral opinions, experiences and in-depth investigations, interesting initiatives were considered and acknowledged, taking account of the diverse situations that exist in various countries. Reaffirming their intention to pursue the work concluded during these days, in a spirit of collaboration and with a degree of coordination, the participants examined tactics and strategies for the future, and methodologies and objectives, which are summarized in the following conclusions and recommendations.

CONCLUSIONS

Some key points

1. Prostitution is a form of ...

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