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I want to thank our Pope Francis a lot, with my whole heart, for having embraced as a grandfather the 20 young girls from Nigeria, Ukraine, Albania, and Romanian, freed from the slavery of prostitution thanks to the untiring commitment of the Community of Pope John XXIII. When he rang the doorbell of the house in the Pietralata Street in Rome, the young women who were unaware of this visit have burst into tears of joy. Listening to their stories, the violence, brutality, and the repeated threats moved the attentive and paternal face of the Pontiff. For about an hour and a half he remained with them, along with Msgr. Fisichella, delegate for the Jubilee of Mercy, and some operators of our Community, who go out on the streets every week, organized in the 21 anti-trafficking units present in Italy.

The Holy Father urged us to keep sharing this important and brave involvement. He asked forgiveness for all those believers who abuse these sisters; he asked lawmakers not to be indifferent, but to protect the dignity of women. It was the encounter of a shepherd who knows how to recognize the smell of his sheep, especially of the most exploited and forgotten. We sang and prayed together a beautiful song in Spanish, we had a snack like family.

It was a wonderful gift for us, which seals the prophetic intuition Father Oreste Benzi, our founder had: already 25 years ago Father Oreste went out on the streets to ask these young women not ‘‘how much?’’, but ‘‘how much do you suffer?’’ Not always people understood him, but certain of the injustice being done, because, as he used to repeat, no woman is born a prostitute; there is always someone who makes them become prostitutes.

The Pope listened also the proposal of the Pope John XXIII Community called “This is my body”, which aims to stop the demand for paid sex. It is a campaign for the liberation of women who are victims of trafficking and exploitation; it is based on the assumption of recognizing that prostitution violates women’s dignity and human rights, and that their customers are accomplices of the enslavement and exploitation of these women at the hand of the racket.

With Pope Francis’ Apostolic Blessing, we received a strong invitation to walk as a people, together with our pastors, so that we do not let anyone suffer alone anymore. Thus, besides putting our shoulders under the cross, we can continue to tell those people who produce these crosses to stop, so that no child can be sold and exploited any longer. Thank you, Holy Father. We will continue to pray for you and for your ministry, which consists in bringing the merciful love of Jesus to the outskirts of the world. What you do is of utmost importance for the entire humanity.

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