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Pope Francis
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The Good Pope In The Vatican

By James Donahue

If we have a significant representative for the rights of humanity during today’s troubles times, it may be the Vatican’s Pope Francis. This man, who was elected to office on March 13, 2013, has been reaching out to people of all faiths, of all nationalities, and of all political and social standing in the most significant ways.

It was Pope Francis who was recently instrumental in melting a half-century wedge between the United States and Cuba. He has spoken out against frivolous spending by the Roman Catholic Church, the judgment of homosexuals, declared that atheists can be "good people" and called for cooperation between Christians and Moslems.

This pope has taken a stand for the protection of the Mother Earth, urging the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. He has personally been sneaking out of the Vatican to feed the homeless. He has spoken out against child abuse, the global financial system and spoken out against the church’s "obsession" with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Then last week, Pope Francis joined leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Greece to adopt a Joint Declaration Against Modern Slavery. The document proclaimed a ground-breaking initiative "to eradicate modern slavery" by 2020.

The declaration defines modern slavery as human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, organ trafficking and "any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity is a crime against humanity."

Pope Francis declared modern slavery "an atrocious plague."

A recent index released by the Walk Free Foundation estimates that almost 36 million people are currently living in some form of slavery. They are either trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, born into servitude or are victims of debt bondage. This may include American private prisons that force inmates into industrial labor.

We have observed many popular popes at the Vatican over the years, but this particular pope is going to be a man to watch. He is the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis, and the first non-European leader of the Catholic Church in over 1,200 years. He served as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina before becoming pope.

He appears willing to make some long needed changes in church policy, and perhaps shake the frigid world religious institutions to their very roots if given the time. Unfortunately, Pope Francis took office at the age of 76, so his tenure may not be long enough to accomplish the work that is sorely needed.