The Francis-led Vatican continued along a pathway of social justice advocacy today when it announced the pope would make modern-day slavery a key focus of his annual New Year's Day address. Francis, who is of the Jesuit religious order and therefore particularly keen on matters of social justice, will speak on slavery's deeper societal causes and ask shoppers not to purchase products produced by modern-day slaves.

In the address, published online yesterday, Francis blames poverty and corruption for the continuing of neo-slavery practices:

"Not infrequently, the victims of human trafficking and slavery are people who look for a way out of a situation of extreme poverty; taken in by false promises of employment, they often end up in the hands of criminal networks which organize human trafficking. These networks are skilled in using modern means of communication as a way of luring young men and women in various parts of the world.

Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. Slave labour and human trafficking often require the complicity of intermediaries, be they law enforcement personnel, state officials, or civil and military institutions."

While the headline "Pope says slavery is bad" sounds sort of like "Messi says football is round," Francis' recent string of social justice advocacy represents a recent shift in Vatican priorities under his watch. While previous popes certainly didn't advocate for worker exploitation, their focuses were more often placed on perceived spiritual ills rather than social or economic ones. Francis has made it clear that he stands outside of that paradigm.

Regardless of your feelings on organized religion and the Catholic Church, it's undeniable that the current pope has a unique platform for advocacy and isn't afraid to speak his mind on these sorts of issues.

Read more at Rappler

You can read the text of Francis' speech here

Photo credit: Martin Podzorny / Shutterstock