St Mary’s University Delegation Meets Pope Francis on Anti-Slavery Day

To mark Anti-Slavery Day, a delegation from St Mary’s University, Twickenham (SMU), visited the Holy See on 18th October and greeted Pope Francis at the end of the weekly General Audience, alongside His Majesty’s Ambassador Chris Trott.

SMU Vice-Chancellor Anthony McClaran and Dr Carole Murphy, Director of SMU’s Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse, attended the General Audience in St Peter’s Square to highlight the work of the university in researching and combatting modern slavery.

At the end of the Audience, SMU presented the Pontiff with artwork created by residents of Caritas Bakhita House, London, a safe house for women who have been trafficked, enslaved, and exploited. The artwork was used as the cover of the book Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: the Victim Journey, edited by Carole Murphy and Runa Lazzarino, a copy of which was also presented to Pope Francis.

The visit, organised by the British Embassy to the Holy See, includes a panel event entitled ‘Education to tackle modern slavery and empower survivors’ in the afternoon of 18 October. Hosted by the British Embassy and Talitha Kum, the anti-trafficking network of women religious, the event will feature addresses from women religious working on the ground in Africa and Europe. Dr Carole Murphy will deliver the event’s keynote address prior to a panel discussion.

His Excellency Christopher Trott said: “The visit of St Mary’s University is an opportunity to highlight the vital role of education in empowering human trafficking survivors and people with lived experience of modern slavery. It also shows the role of education research centres in informing policy-making and building partnerships.

“Everyone, everywhere should live without fear of violence and exploitation and should be supported to reach their full potential. The UK is committed to ending modern slavery and all forms of human trafficking, including forced labour in supply chains and child labour. I commend the work of Talitha Kum and the Catholic networks, who are a trusted local presence in their communities, giving voice to the most vulnerable.”

St Mary’s Vice-Chancellor Anthony McClaran added: “It is a great honour to represent St Mary’s with Dr Murphy at the General Audience. As a Catholic university, St Mary’s is committed to addressing injustice and inequality through academic research and advocacy, by breaking down the barriers to higher education, and in equipping our young people with the ethical foundation and skills needed to make a positive impact on wider society upon graduation.

“This visit has provided a platform to raise awareness of our mission and the work of teams at the University. This includes the vital work of the Bakhita Centre, our work to research the impact of education access on marginalised and displaced children and young adults, and our mission to widen access to education, particularly amongst care experienced young people.”

As part of their visit, the delegation also held meetings at the Dicastery for Culture and Education and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. 

Image (L-R): Anthony McClaran, His Excellency Chris Trott, Dr Carole Murphy


  • Anti-Slavery Day takes place every year on 18th October. Anti-Slavery Day is part of Anti-Slavery Week, a UK and European awareness week, which this year runs from 16-22 October.
  • The 2021 Global Estimates indicate that 49.6 million people are in modern slavery on any given day. Forced labour accounts for 27.6 million of those in modern slavery and forced marriage for 22 million.
  • The Bakhita Centre was founded in 2015 to conduct research on modern slavery and human trafficking, to influence practice and policy, and to raise awareness across the university, in local communities and further afield. The Centre aims to broaden the university’s research on global issues that intersect with modern slavery, including gender-based violence, sexual and other forms of exploitation, abuse and discrimination based on structural inequalities, race, ethnicity, asylum seeking/refugee and migrant status.
  • The Bakhita Centre is highly active in the public square, producing regular reports and hosting conferences to share best practice with practitioners, legislators and journalists to support victims and help agencies identify victims of human exploitation.
  • The UK Government is committed to eradicating all forms of modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 by 2030. The UK is working with international partners to reduce risks to the most vulnerable, particularly women and children, and to ensure that victims and survivors receive the support they need to rebuild their lives. The Holy See and the Catholic networks are key partners in this global effort to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking, which Pope Francis has called “a crime against humanity”.
  • In recent years, the British Embassy to the Holy See has supported Talitha Kum’s work through modern slavery prevention training programmes targeting young men and women in Asia and Africa.