Broader Response Urged to Combat Prostitution

All Christians Have a Role, Priest Tells Vatican Conference

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A priest who addressed a pastoral conference at the Vatican insists that all Christians must play a part in ending the problem of prostitution.



Father Oreste Benzi addressed the 1st International Meeting of the Pastoral Program for the Liberation of Women of the Street, held Monday and Tuesday, and said that Christians must "be conscious of their great responsibility in keeping with the faith they profess."

An initiative of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, the conference aimed to foster cooperation and coordination of forces to help with the pastoral care of women in difficulties.

Such problems, the organizers said, extend "from the tragedy of prostitution and exploitation, to the trafficking of women, and sexual tourism."

It is estimated that 500,000 women from Eastern Europe are entrapped in prostitution on the streets of Western Europe.

Accomplices

"But no woman is born a prostitute," said Father Benzi. "There is always someone who makes her become one. Those who are silent about injustices are accomplices of them."

Father Benzi founded the Pope John XXIII Community three decades ago. The community is a private international association of pontifical right, dedicated to the care of the marginalized in a number of countries in Europe, African, Asia and Latin America.

Father Benzi cited three key causes of the phenomenon of prostitution: poverty, ignorance and loneliness.

The problem, he said Tuesday, must be addressed through a synergy of the forces of order and, above all, with the Church's pastoral commitment through initiatives of hospitality, assistance and the social recovery of women.

"Above all, Christians must be conscious of their great responsibility, in virtue of their faith," Father Benzi told Vatican Radio. "At present this is limited to some sectors of the Church and it is not done by the whole Church."

Ecclesial movements

Regarding guidelines for pastoral care in this area, the Italian priest stressed that "enslaved prostitution must be done away with and then those who eventually are liberated must be enlightened. The present reality is that there is no longer 'free' prostitution."

"Parish priests and ecclesial movements" have a key role to play in the "liberation of these creatures," he said.

Opening the working sessions of the international meeting, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said: "We know that we have a pastoral responsibility toward those who trade with their own body."

This responsibility, he said, "we must translate into hospitality, the recovery of the person's dignity, also through our institutions and families."

Necessary as well, however, is "financial, educational and formational help with a view to a restored socialization," he noted. "Prostitution does not mean an easy, light and pleasurable option; instead, it often hides pain, a wound -- suffering that one lives with to survive."