VATICAN CITY — Indifference, criminal networks and powerful economic interests still pose a challenge to those fighting against human trafficking, Pope Francis said.

While much has been done in recognizing the seriousness and extent of this “true crime against humanity,” he said, “much more needs to be done on the level of raising public awareness and effecting a better coordination of efforts by governments, the judiciary system, law enforcement officials and social workers.”

The pope spoke Nov. 7 to more than 100 people taking part in the second assembly of RENATE — Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation. Network members and supporters were meeting in Rome Nov. 6-12.

In his speech to participants, the pope said this modern form of slavery was “one of the most troubling” open wounds afflicting the world today “and constitutes a true crime against humanity.”

The pope thanked those present, especially women religious, for their “faithful witness to the Gospel of mercy, as demonstrated in your commitment to the recovery and rehabilitation of victims,” and for efforts in advocacy, education and building coordinated responses to the problem.

“I think especially of the distinctive contribution made by women in accompanying other women and children on a deeply personal journey of healing and reintegration,” he added.

However, the pope recognized that one of the challenges they face “is a certain indifference and even complicity, a tendency on the part of many to look the other way where powerful economic interests and networks of crime are at play.”

“For this reason, I express my appreciation of your efforts to raise public awareness of the extent of this scourge, which especially affects women and children,” he said.

He said he hoped their meeting would help them become “a more effective witness to the Gospel in one of the great peripheries” of the world today.