11 March 2014, The Tablet

Head of London's Met police at Vatican trafficking conference

The head of London’s Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, will attend a forthcoming Vatican conference on human trafficking which will be chaired by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Nichols, the cardinal-archbishop of Westminster, told BBC News yesterday that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner would be one of at least 20 senior police officers from around the world to attend the event in Rome on 9-10 April.

The conference is the second international human trafficking conference to be hosted by the Vatican but will differ from 2012’s “academic” conference by focusing on ways to build practical links between the police and the Church, Nichols added.

He said that religious congregations could form an international “counter-network” to help tackle trafficking.

“What we bring particularly is the role of Religious women, who belong to congregations that are worldwide. Often [female] victims of trafficking trust other women, and these international networks of Religious women help to get people back home, steady and in that way build up a counter-network to counter the criminal network of human trafficking.”

Women who might not feel safe discussing abuse in a police station might do so among other women after Mass, he said.

Cardinal Nichols said that because London was a centre for human trafficking he hoped to build on experience gained as Archbishop of Westminster.

During the interview, Cardinal Nichols described his elevation last month to the College of Cardinals.

"I have moved into another sphere of life of the Church, one that I never dreamed of being involved in,” he said, adding that while the Archbishop of Westminster has traditionally been made a cardinal: "With this Pope, it wasn’t at all sure."

He also revealed that he had not met the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, personally since 2010. Nichols was instrumental in organising Benedict XVI's September 2010 visit to Britain.

During the interview the cardinal also renewed his recent criticism of welfare reform as leaving people destitute, arguing that he was giving voice to the voiceless.

"This is reality, people in destitution finding it almost impossible to cope with complexities of the welfare support system," he said. "That can’t be right."

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