Pope Francis has denounced the “humiliation” endured by women and children forced into prostitution and migrants enslaved as fishermen and beggars.
Francis told an estimated 60,000 people at his first public Mass in Thailand on Thursday that as missionaries they are all part of the same family and cannot ignore those members considered to be “unclean.”
He said: “Here I think of children and women who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity. I think of young people enslaved by drug addiction ... I think also of exploited fishermen and bypassed beggars.”
It was the second time in a day that Francis has denounced the abuse and exploitation of women and children.
Thousands of people have filled Bangkok’s national sports stadium for Pope Francis’ first public Mass in Thailand.
Francis was circling around the stadium in his popemobile Thursday as the crowd waved yellow and white Holy See flags and chanted “Viva il papa!”
The Mass capped a busy first day for the pope in Asia. It included separate meetings with Thailand’s prime minister, supreme Buddhist leader and recently crowned king.
Throughout his stay, Francis has been accompanied by Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, his second cousin who is serving as his interpreter.
By all indications, she is also serving as a counselor. She has joined him in the car for his appointments, taking the usual place of the archbishop. It’s a rare case of the pope consulting a woman for advice, since his usual counselors are all men.
Pope Francis is committing the Catholic Church to working more with Thailand’s majority Buddhists to launch projects to care for the poor and the environment.
Francis made the pledge during a meeting Thursday with the supreme Buddhist patriarch at the Wat Ratchabophit temple. It was the second time a pope has called on the spiritual leader of Thailand’s Buddhists, after St. John Paul II visited the temple in 1984.
There are fewer than 400,000 Catholics among Thailand’s 65 million people, yet Francis said they nevertheless have enjoyed freedom in their religious practice.
He called for increasing charitable initiatives to improve fraternity and to help the poor “and our much-abused common home.”
Pope Francis has called for migrants to be welcomed and for women and children to be protected from exploitation, abuse and enslavement as he began a busy two days of activities in Thailand.
Francis pleaded for action against one of the region’s greatest scourges — human trafficking to fuel the forced labor and sex trade industries — as he opened a weeklong visit to Asia on Thursday.
He praised the Thai government’s efforts to fight human trafficking in a speech at host Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s offices. But he appealed for greater international commitment to protect women and children “who are violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse.”
He called for ways to “uproot this evil and to provide ways to restore their dignity.”
This story has been corrected to fix chant in 6 p.m. item to “Viva il papa.”