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Mpls. mayor will meet with Pope Francis at Vatican conference on climate, trafficking

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Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges will meet with Pope Francis next week at the Vatican while there for conferences on climate change and human trafficking.

In a statement, Hodges, who is in her first term, called it "an honor" to have been invited to the July 21-22 conferences in Vatican City.

“I am deeply thankful that Pope Francis is tackling issues of such grave importance not only to Minneapolis but to the world,” she said, adding: "I look forward to learning how Minneapolis can join hands in global efforts around climate change and ending the factors that contribute to 21st century trade in human beings, and to sharing the successes that we as a city have achieved.”

The conferences are organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences under the event Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities, according to the academy's website.

The site refers to both climate change and human trafficking as "tragic emergencies," arguing it takes the "active contribution of local governments" to combat them.

"Mayors and local authorities are called to play their role in ending this crime against humanity and take measures against environmental damage," the site says.

Hodges is one of nine mayors invited to the conferences in Vatican City, the city says. She's the only Midwest representative, and the only female of the group.

About 50 other city leaders from across the globe will be there, the Boston Herald says.

It's said to be the first time both topics will be discussed by the academy.

In June, Pope Francis put out a 184-page papal letter (called an encyclical) that calls climate change a global problem that is causing the earth to "look more and more like an immense pile of filth." He also called on developing nations to limit pollution output while helping poorer nations, NPR reported.

And in February, the pope spoke about the problem of human trafficking, asking world leaders to “remove the causes of this shameful wound … a wound that is unworthy of civil society,” Vatican Radio reported.

A 2013 Washington Post story cited a study that found, as of 2005, human trafficking affected more than 12.3 million people and brought in an annual worldwide profit of $44.3 billion.

You can see a list of all the mayors, governors and state secretaries invited to the conferences here.

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