The COVID-19 pandemic gives former ambassador to the Holy See John McCarthy an added dimension to his anti-slavery work, but he remains sharply focused on the bigger picture. Source: The Catholic Leader.
By Peter Bugden, The Catholic Leader.
Like Pope Francis, the chair of Sydney Archdiocese’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce and member of the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network wants to see the eradication of slavery globally.
Mr McCarthy, Australia's ambassador to the Holy See from 2012 to 2016, was in Rome when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013 and has been inspired by his strong stand against slavery and human trafficking.
“The greatest single anti-slavery advocate in the world is Pope Francis, and he had big experience in South America about all of this, because Buenos Aires (Argentina) is the hub of trafficking,” he said.
He said the Pope was largely responsible for bringing about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 adopted in 2015 related to eliminating forced labour, human trafficking, child labour and modern slavery.
“On that, he has moved the world to the stage where what his argument is, and what (the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network and Anti-Slavery Taskforce) are all about, is to try and take this out in our generation,” Mr McCarthy said.
“What the Pope doesn’t want is for the young people and the children of today to be slaves tomorrow; he wants it to end now, and he wants people to commit to ending it now.”
Mr McCarthy said the coronavirus pandemic raised particular concerns on that front despite the fact Australia had “very little forced labour and human trafficking”.
“A lot of it (in Australia) is tied up with prostitution and a lot of it is tied up with agricultural work and seasonal picking, and with people from the South Pacific who are here on temporary working visas,” he said.
Mr McCarthy said the Church was at the cutting edge in the anti-slavery movement.
“We have better programs … than either the universities or the Government at the moment, and that’s acknowledged across the board,” he said.
“It’s not often that you’re having a conversation where someone is telling you that the Catholic Church is on the front foot, but this is one.”