Sister Eugenia Bonetti made that point when she addressed dozens of women religious who are attending an international summer course on consecrated life.
The Consolata missionary urged religious communities to see "in the exploitation of women a need to which the charism of every congregation must give an up-to-date response."
"The most humiliating poverty for every woman is to be a victim of trafficking, of being sold and bought to be used as merchandise," said Sister Bonetti, who heads the Union of Superiors General of Italy's sector for such victims.
"The slave trade of human beings, particularly of women and minors, has become a genuine worldwide business," she said.
Her comments came during a discussion on "Spirituality and Pedagogy of Consecrated Life," an initiative that takes places every summer at the Institute of Religious Sciences of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
"Prostitution is not a new phenomenon," Sister Bonetti said. "What is new is this global and complex trade, which abuses the situation of poverty of many immigrant women, the new slaves of the 21st century."
Sister Bonetti believes that this problem is a "great challenge for the missionary Church, in particular, for the religious congregations whose specific charism is the care of the marginalized woman."
The Consolata missionary, who has worked for over 20 years in Kenya, said that at various times in history, feminine religious life has found the strength to renew itself, revising its own charism and putting it at "the service of the new poverties in the Church and society."
She referred to the work carried out by the Union of Superiors General, such as nighttime visits to the streets where women are engaging in prostitution.
Sister Bonetti lamented that masculine religious life is "absent in this ministry," and added that priest and men religious would make a "precious contribution" if they were to approach the night world "to understand and address the phenomenon of such a demand for paid sex."
The Consolata missionary suggested that "men religious could form young men" and try to contact and "recover" the clients who are also "victims of a consumerist system of life."