Governor, first lady meeting with Pope Francis in Italy

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BATON ROUGE (WGNO) – Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards will meet with Pope Francis during a state trip to Italy.

The governor and the first lady, along with State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and state legislators, fly to Rome Friday with Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy to discuss human trafficking.

While on the trip, the Edwards, who are devout Catholics, have been invited to a special visit with Pope Francis.

The governor’s office said the meeting will focus on human trafficking and how churches and states can work together to fight human trafficking.

In April, the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy broke ground on Metanoia House, a shelter in Louisiana for juvenile victims of human trafficking.

According to statistics from the governor’s office,  the average age of a trafficking victim is 13, and the Houston to New Orleans corridor has one of the worst trafficking problems in the country.

Since 2014, approximately 100 human trafficking cases have been investigated by Louisiana State Police, 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)

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

Also on the trip, Edwards and the delegation will tour the North American College, where a group of Louisiana students are studying abroad.