This year’s theme is “The power of care: Women, economy and human trafficking.”
The coordinator of the Talitha Kum initiative, Sister Gabriella Bottani, said “the pandemic has caused an increase in trafficking, has heightened the vulnerability of those most at risk and has led to a rise in gender inequality.”
“This day provides an opportunity to reflect on the causes of trafficking and to identify possible paths to a solution,” she said. “The violence caused by exploitation can be transformed with gestures of care and solidarity. We are all called to care about the dignity of each person.”
Pope Francis, who created the day of prayer and reflection for human trafficking victims in 2015, will also release a message on February 8.
While she was a slave, Bakhita was sold to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani, in 1883. He took her back with him to Italy, where she was given to a family to work as a nanny.
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Later, the family left her with the Canossian Sisters, a women’s religious order, in Venice, while they traveled to Sudan for business.
Bakhita was cared for by the Canossian Sisters during the legal battle that ensued for her freedom from slavery. Eventually, an Italian court ruled that since slavery had been outlawed in Sudan prior to her birth, she was not legally a slave.
With her newfound freedom, Bakhita chose to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first holy communion in 1890. Three years later she became a novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity, taking the name Josephine Margaret “Fortunata” — a Latin translation of her Arabic name, Bakhita, which means “lucky.”
Bakhita was beatified in 1992 and canonized in 2000 by Saint Pope John Paul II. She is the first canonized saint from Sudan, and is the country’s patron saint.
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has highlighted Bakhita’s example of holiness, and invoked the saint’s intercession for victims of trafficking.
“St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; Intercede with God on their behalf so that the chains of their captivity can be broken,” Pope Francis prayed in 2019.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.