Holy Father Pope Francis recently appointed St. Thomas University College of Law professor, Executive Director of the LL.M./ J.S.D. program in Intercultural Human Rights, and Founding Director of the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy, Dr. Roza Pati, to serve on the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
According to Supreme Pontiff’s Apostolic letter issued motu proprio, “This Dicastery will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”
Supporting causes that uphold human dignity, bring about awareness and seek effective law and policy solutions towards abolishment of all forms of human suffering, including human trafficking, is a passion for Dr. Roza Pati.
Born in Albania, Roza Pati grew up under a dictatorship and atheist regime, and in a Catholic family that was part of an 10% Catholic minority in an overwhelming Muslim country. Roza was among the last born to have been baptized, just shortly before the regime prohibited all religion, closed, and destroyed houses of worship, imprisoned and even executed priests and other clerics, and made good in its threats involving everyone who dared to think about God.
“But, I had a unique blessing: an exceptional mother, one of the most devoutly lay faithful to the Catholic Church. She taught me, and my two sisters, how to do the sign of the cross, to say the prayers to the Heavenly Father, to seek and follow our Lord, to be in deeds as we profess in words,” stated Pati.
Dr. Pati’s mother was the daughter of a dissident who was extra-judicially executed. Still, she was brave enough to rear Roza and her sisters in the Catholic faith and instructed them to never stop serving God, unselfishly serve those in need, and to work for justice for all people and for the common good.
Based on the principles her mother taught, Pati grew up to serve as an elected official in local Albanian government, a member of the national parliament, and a member of the Cabinet as the Secretary of State for Youth and Women. It was then when she learned the reports of Albania as a country of origin for human trafficking. Victims were trafficked to Italy and other Western European countries, most of them exploited for commercial sex.
“Padre Antonio Sharra, an Italian priest who had come to serve the Catholic community in my district, was the first to guide me into the horrific problem of human trafficking,” stated Pati. “He led me to the outskirts of Rome where I could see with my own eyes, and talk to the very Albanian girls who were scared to death of their pimps, who I could see wandering around. I never forgot the petrified look on their faces. There and then, I made a resolution to play my part in bringing an end to this brutal and utter violation of human dignity.”
Over the years, through the positions she has held in government and in academia, and through the numerous scholarly publications and expert contributions on human rights and human trafficking worldwide, Dr. Pati has had the opportunity to make substantive changes in the lives of the underserved, and for countless human trafficking survivors from all over the world.
One such survivor is Dr. Katariina Rosenblatt, founder of the non-profit There is H.O.P.E. for Me, an organization dedicated to conducting outreach and a resource for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.
As a student at St. Thomas University College of Law in 2005, Katariina attended a round table discussion about human trafficking. Pati explains how Katariina confided in her that from the ages of 13 to 17, she experienced human trafficking as was discussed on the round table. She was recruited through a friend in middle school to be exploited in commercial sex in the metropolitan area of Miami, FL., was made dependent on drugs, experienced drug addiction, and teen pregnancy, and upon escaping human trafficking, her life fell into a twenty-year abusive relationship.
“She writes to me, often stating: ‘I always say you have changed my life by being my mentor over 15 years. It all started with you being there for me, listening without judgement and giving me guidance. And, as a result we have been able to help hundreds, if not thousands of survivors of human trafficking find Hope! Thank you, Roza, for believing in me, and may God bless you,’” shared Pati.
“Roza’s remarkable life is only equaled by her exceptional career, and both have been guided by her unshakable faith and deep-rooted Catholicism,” stated St. Thomas University President David. A. Armstrong J.D. “She is an unstoppable force for good in a world in urgent need of leaders grounded in ethics and compassion. We are truly blessed to have her here, at St. Thomas University, and to continue to work alongside her at The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy. We congratulate Dr. Pati on her appointment to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, as she continues to champion the fight against indignities perpetrated on the human person, and on the human spirit,” added Armstrong.
As a Member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Roza will deal with issues pertaining to social welfare and human suffering, present opinions, examine questions in a collegial fashion, and present common positions on the events unfolding right before our eyes, “with the spirit of intelligence …to understand the signs of the times,” as Pope Francis has stated.
“I believe in full immersion to achieve lofty goals. Ending human trafficking in our lifetime is one such goal, and I feel myself deeply immersed in the ocean of the world-wide efforts to eradicate this evil and many injustices which severely impact a meaningful, inclusive, sustainable and fair development for the whole human family,” stated Pati. “It will be an exceptional honor to work under the leadership of His Eminence Peter K.A. Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery. I am deeply honored and humbled to have been appointed in such an exclusive position, because our universal Church of over one billion faithful Catholics has a lot to offer in eminent people of highest levels of expertise.”
Dr. Roza Pati’s appointment by Pope Francis as member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was preceded by her appointment by Pope Benedict XVI to solely represent the United States as Member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (2012 – 2017).