For the many millions who have watched the radical transformation of the Vatican over the past few months, the Pope seems to be the real thing - a reformer with a heart and soul that lies firmly with the people, writes Anne Gallagher.
- The Australian
I recently had the chance to observe this up close. The Pope had instructed his bishops to come up with a plan for him to engage on the issue of human trafficking. The statistics are frightening. At least 27 million people are trapped in modern forms of slavery in factories and brothels, on farms and fishing boats, even in private homes.
Every country is implicated; we all benefit from the market distortions that supply cheap goods and services produced by people who are forced to work for little or no pay under terrible conditions. The recent factory fire in Bangladesh that claimed more than 1000 lives lifted a small edge of the veil that protects us from knowing too much about the real cost of what we eat, wear and use.
In modern times, the transfer of power from one pope to the next has rarely resulted in sudden or dramatic changes. The Vatican is steeped in traditions that date back 15 centuries. Since the day he stepped up as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Francis has proved to be a rule-bender.
Long-serving cardinals have been dismissed, Vatican finances are under forensic scrutiny, even travel entitlements have been revised on the basis of the Pope's reasoning that 'you cannot know Jesus in first class.'
When the migrant smuggling tragedy occurred in Lampedusa, he went straight to the recovery site, organised the blessing of the bodies of children, women and men as they were brought to shore, expressed 'shame' and spoke passionately against 'the globalisation of indifference.'
Through words and actions he has taken on the cause of the poor, the persecuted, the abandoned, the sick and the marginalised with an energy that has surprised everyone.
FULL STORY Ending slavery a Papal mission