Gov. Edwards, first lady to meet with Pope during state trip to Italy

BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) – Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and a delegation of officials will travel to Rome, Italy Friday to discuss ways to improve the state’s fight against human trafficking.

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, state legislators, and The Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy will be accompanying the governor and First Lady Donna Edwards on the trip.

The Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy are constructing a shelter in Louisiana for juvenile victims of human trafficking, The Associated Press reports.

Edwards and the first lady, both devout Catholics, will meet with Pope Francis “to recognize and encourage the further cooperation among churches and states to fight human trafficking.”

“One of the greatest honors of a Catholic and Christian is to meet the Holy Father,” Gov. Edwards said, adding,  “I am humbled by this opportunity, and I am looking forward to discussing the very real threat that human trafficking imposes on Louisiana.”

The governor’s office says the corridor between Houston and New Orleans has one of the worst trafficking problems in the U.S. The average age of a trafficking victim is 13.

Since 2014, Louisiana State Police has investigated approximately 100 human trafficking cases, including:

  • 27 human trafficking cases in 2016, with 19 victims rescued (16 under the age of 18)
  • 41 investigations of human trafficking in 2015 (12 involving children), with 20 victims rescued in 2015 (11 under the age of 18)

“Even if one life is saved in our mission to end human trafficking, it’s worth the effort,” State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said.  “We began this process in the previous administration and had tremendous success.  Gov. Edwards is equally committed to putting an end to human trafficking, and we want to give these young women the opportunity to truly succeed.”

The delegation will return to Louisiana from Italy on Jan. 20.

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