Addresses of Pope Francis on Drugs
Table of Contents
Address to the Participants of the 31st International Drug Enforcement Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to greet you at the conclusion of this International Drug Enforcement Conference. I thank you for your visit and I express my appreciation for your work in combating this most serious and complex problem of our time. It is my hope that these days in Rome will prove profitable for your future efforts. In particular, I trust that you will accomplish the goals which you have set for yourselves: a more effective coordination of anti-narcotics policies, better sharing of relevant information and the development of an operative strategy aimed at fighting the drug trade.
The scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders. As a result, the lives of more and more young people and adolescents are in danger. Faced with this reality, I can only manifest my grief and concern.
Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called “recreational drugs”, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects. Substitute drugs are not an adequate therapy but rather a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon. Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: No to every type of drug use. It is as simple as that. No to any kind of drug use. But to say this “no”, one has to say “yes” to life, “yes” to love, “yes” to others, “yes” to education, “yes” to greater job opportunities. If we say “yes” to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.
The Church, in fidelity to Jesus’ command to go out to all those places where people suffer, thirst, hunger and are imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:31-46), does not abandon those who have fallen into the trap of drug addiction, but goes out to meet them with creative love. She takes them by the hand, thanks to the efforts of countless workers and volunteers, and helps them to rediscover their dignity and to revive those inner strengths, those personal talents, which drug use had buried but can never obliterate, since every man and woman is created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26).
The example of all those young people who are striving to overcome drug dependency and to rebuild their lives can serve as a powerful incentive for all of us to look with confidence to the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I encourage you to carry on your work with constantly renewed hope. To you and your associates I impart my blessing.
 Cf. General Audience, 7 May 2014.
Address to the Participants in the International Conference on “Drugs and Addictions: An Obstacle to Integral Human Development”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to receive you at the conclusion of this International Congress on Drugs and Addictions. I offer all of you a cordial greeting and I thank Cardinal Turkson for his words of introduction to our meeting.
In these days, you have discussed issues and problems linked to the troubling phenomenon of narcotics and other forms of addiction, old and new, which pose an obstacle to integral human development. Communities everywhere are challenged by current social and cultural changes and by pathologies derived from a secularized climate marked by consumerist capitalism, self-sufficiency, a loss of values, an existential void, and a weakening of bonds and relationships. Drug addiction, as has often been pointed out, is an open wound in our society; its victims, once ensnared, exchange their freedom for enslavement to a dependency that we can define as chemical.
Drug use is gravely harmful to health, human life and society, as you well know. All of us are called to combat the production, processing and distribution of drugs worldwide. It is the duty and responsibility of governments courageously to undertake this fight against those who deal in death. Dealers of death: we must not be afraid to use this title. An area of increasing risk is virtual space; on some Internet sites, young people, and not only the young, are lured into a bondage hard to escape, leading to a loss of life’s meaning and, at times, even of life itself. Faced with this disturbing scenario, the Church senses the urgent need to create in today’s world a form of humanism capable of restoring the human person to the center of social, economic and cultural life: a humanism grounded in the “Gospel of Mercy”. There the disciples of Jesus find the inspiration for a pastoral action that can prove truly effective in alleviating, caring for and healing the immense suffering associated with different kinds of addiction present in our world.
The Church, together with local, national and international institutions, and various educational agencies, is concretely engaged in every part of the world in combating the spread of addictions, devoting her resources to prevention, care, rehabilitation and reinsertion, in order to restore dignity to those who have lost it. Fighting addictions calls for a combined effort on the part of various local groups and agencies in enacting social programs promoting health care, family support and especially education. In this regard, I readily support the desire expressed by this Conference for a better coordination of policies aimed at halting the growth of drug abuse and addictions — isolated policies are of no use: it is a human problem, it is a social problem, everything must be interconnected — through the creation of networks of solidarity and closeness to those suffering from these pathologies.
Dear brothers and sisters, I express my deep gratitude for your contribution to these days of study and reflection. I encourage all of you, in your various sectors, to pursue your commitment to increasing awareness and offering support to those who have emerged from the tunnel of drug addiction and various addictions. They need our help and accompaniment, so that they in turn will be able to ease the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters in difficulty.
I entrust your efforts and your worthy initiatives to the intercession of Our Lady, Health of the Infirm. I ask you, please, to remember me in your prayers. To all of you, and to your families and communities, I cordially impart my blessing. Thank you.
Address to the Participants in the Meeting Sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on “Narcotics: Problems and Solutions to this Global Issue”
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I cordially greet each of you and I thank the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for his kind words.
Drugs have inflicted a deep wound on our society and ensnared many people in their web. Many victims have lost their freedom and have been enslaved to them; enslaved by an addiction we could call “chemical”. This is undoubtedly a “new form of slavery” alongside several others that afflict individuals and society in general today.
Clearly there is no single cause of drug addiction. Rather, there are many factors that contribute to it, among which are the absence of a family, social pressures, the propaganda of drug dealers, and the desire for new experiences. Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified. We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed. The dignity of the person is what we are called to seek out. They continue to possess, more than ever, a dignity as children of God.
It should come as no surprise that so many people fall into drug addiction because worldliness offers us a wide range of opportunities to enjoy passing pleasures, which in the end are nothing but poisons that corrode, corrupt and kill. Step-by-step, a person begins to destroy himself and to destroy everything around him. The initial desire to flee, to seek out a moment of happiness, is transformed into the destruction of the entire person, with repercussions at every level of society.
For this reason, it is important to acknowledge the problem of drugs — that they are destroyers, they are essentially destroyers — and, above all, how widespread are their centers of production and how broad their systems of distribution; the networks that cause the death of a person: not a physical death, but a psychic, social death. It amounts to “throwing away” a person. These vast networks involve people who hold positions of responsibility in society, in governments and in families. We know that distribution systems, even more than systems of production, are an important component of organized crime. The challenge is precisely that of finding ways to control the circuits of corruption and forms of money-laundering. There is no other way of doing this than retracing the chain that connects small-scale drug trade and the most sophisticated money laundering schemes embedded in financial capital and banks dedicated to money-laundering.
A magistrate I knew back home had started to take this seriously. He had thousands of kilometers of borderlands under his jurisdiction. He applied himself seriously to addressing the drug problem. Within a short time he received a photograph of his family in the mail: “Your son goes to this school, your wife does this, etc.”, and nothing more. It was a threat from the mafia. Indeed, whenever we want to shed light on and retrace the web of drug distribution, we always arrive at these five letters: m-a-f-i-a. Seriously. Because as distribution destroys the person enslaved to drugs, [drug] consumption kills the person who seeks to destroy this form of slavery.
There is no doubt that curbing the demand for drugs requires great effort and the implementation of social programs oriented toward health, family support, and particularly toward education, which I consider fundamental. Integral human formation is a priority; it gives people the opportunity to have tools of discernment, so that they can reject the various offers and help others. This formation is directed principally toward the most vulnerable in society such as children and young people, but it is also good to extend it to families and to those who suffer some kind of marginalization. Nevertheless, the issue of drug prevention programs is continually thwarted by numerous aspects of governmental ineptitude, by some governmental sector here or another one there. There are practically no drug prevention programs that really work. Once drugs have taken a foothold, once they are rooted in society, everything becomes very difficult. I think of my homeland: 30 years ago it was a transit country [for drugs]; then it became a place of consumption, and indeed a place of some production. All this in just 30 years. That is what comes about when the mafia gets involved with people who hold public office....
Even though drug prevention is a priority, it is also fundamental that we work for a full and certain rehabilitation of drug victims in our society; to give joy back to them so that they can regain the dignity that one day they lost. Until this can be guaranteed, also by the State and its legislation, recovery will be difficult for victims and they might again be victimized.
The neediest of our brothers, who seem to have nothing to give, hold a treasure for us: the face of God who speaks to us and challenges us. I encourage you to move forward with your work and to implement, to the best of your ability, the successful initiatives you have launched at the service of those who suffer most on this battlefield. It is a tough battle. Whenever someone puts himself to the task and begins this work, he runs the same risk as the magistrate I knew in my homeland who received a threatening letter. But we are defending the whole human family; we are defending young people and children. As the saying goes, “in defending the young pups, we are defending the future”. It is not only an issue that affects us here and now, but an issue with deep implications for the future.
Thank you for all you do.
Address during the Visit to St. Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital
Dear Archbishop Tempesta, brother Bishops,
Members of the Venerable Third Order of Saint Francis of Penance,
Doctors, Nurses, and Health Care Workers,
Dear Young People and Family Members, good night!
God has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital. The conversion of your patron saint is well known: the young Francis abandoned riches and comfort in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in his own life. It was when Francis embraced a leper. This suffering brother was the “mediator of light ... for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. Today, in this place where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ, and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.
To embrace, to embrace – we all have to learn to embrace the one in need, as Saint Francis did. There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many “dealers of death” there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future. We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love.
To embrace someone is not enough, however. We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensable condition! You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you. Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!
In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted by robbers and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! How often we say: it’s not my problem! How often we turn the other way and pretend not to see! Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). Dear friends, I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love. The Saint Francis Association and the Network for the Treatment of Drug Addiction show how to reach out to those in difficulty because in them we see the face of Christ, because in these persons, the flesh of Christ suffers. Thanks are due to all the medical professionals and their associates who work here. Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
And I wish to repeat to all of you who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties: the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. This morning, in the Shrine of Aparecida, I entrusted each of you to her heart. Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us. I leave you in her hands, while with great affection I bless all of you. Thank you.
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Primavera by Sandro Botticelli