Though she’ll accompany her husband Gov. John Bel Edwards to Rome, First Lady Donna Edwards’ travel costs are not being covered by Louisiana taxpayers, a spokesman for the governor’s office tells The Associated Press.
The governor and his wife are leaving today for a weeklong trip to Rome, where Edwards will meet with an order of nuns working to combat human trafficking and talk personally about the effort with Pope Francis.
The Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy are building a shelter in Louisiana for juvenile victims of human trafficking, a facility that will be called Metanoia House. The governor’s office says Edwards and his wife Donna, devout Catholics, want to assist in the effort to stop human trafficking and encourage such collaborations between churches and states.
“One of the greatest honors of a Catholic and Christian is to meet the Holy Father. I am humbled by this opportunity, and I am looking forward to discussing the very real threat that human trafficking imposes on Louisiana,” Edwards says in a statement announcing the trip.
Also traveling with the governor and first lady will be Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, Senate President John Alario and Sen. Ronnie Johns, who has sponsored legislation aimed at fighting trafficking.
Edwards’ office says the Houston to New Orleans corridor is one of the worst human trafficking regions in the country. Louisiana has toughened its efforts to combat trafficking in recent years and has received praise for the effort. The governor’s office said 100 trafficking cases have been investigated by state police since 2014, many of them involving victims under the age of 18.
Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo says the group will return to Louisiana on Jan. 20.