top of page

Addresses of Pope John Paul II

Note on the text:

The first speech by Pope John Paul II is perhaps the most important document put on this site for the topic of drugs because it is the speech that Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction, From Despair to Hope, Should Soft Drugs be Legalized?, The Charter for Health Care Workers, and The New Charter for Health Care Workers all cite for their teachings. In other words, every major Church document that addresses drugs refer to this speech. For this reason alone it is worth reading.

Table of Contents

Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Frustrate the Person’s Very Capacity for Communion and Self-Giving

Address to the Representatives of the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

A Very Strict Moral Code is Needed for the Use of and Experimentation with Drugs

Address to a Colloquium on Chemical Dependency

Address to the Members of the Encounter Community

Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Frustrate the Person’s Very Capacity for Communion and Self-Giving[1]

1. I am especially pleased to be present once against at the International Conference for study and reflection which the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers has organized each year since it was instituted to call the attention of Christians and, more generally, all men of good will to central questions of considerable current interest affecting medical science, ethics, and pastoral care in health.

My cordial greeting is addressed, first of all, to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini and the members of his team, to whom this meeting should be credited, and my greeting at the same time goes out to the illustrious guests from different nations, to the scientists, researchers, doctors, sociologists, and theologians who are taking part in this important symposium, devoted to a specific problem which in our days impresses itself with supreme urgency on the attention of society as a whole.

Drugs and alcoholism against life: this is the topic to which your reflection is directed. Quite appropriately, it is preceded and in a sense prefaced by the meaningful phrase of St. Paul: Contra spem in spem (“hope against hope”), as if to claim for those who, following the example of the aged patriarch Abraham, trustingly believe in God’s promises, the right not to abandon hope ever, even when, humanly speaking, such hope might seem empty and groundless. Drug addiction and alcoholism, in view of their intrinsic seriousness and devastating spread, are two phenomena which threaten the human race, shattering—in the individual, in the family environment, and in the social fabric the deepest motives for the hope which, to be such, must be hope in life—hope of life.

2. On careful consideration, indeed, it is easy to discover a twofold connection between these phenomena and despair. On the one hand, at the root of alcohol and drug abuse—though a painful complexity in causes and situations exists—there is usually an existential void due to the absence of values and a lack of self-confidence, of confidence in others and in life in general; on the other hand, the difficulties which are encountered to get out of that situation, once established, aggravate and amplify the sense of despair, and the victims, their families, and the surrounding community are thereby led to an attitude of resignation and surrender.

Over the course of the years, moreover, the alcoholism and drug picture has grown out of all proportion, and today we are faced with insidious social plagues which have spread throughout the world, fostered by huge economic interests, and sometimes political ones as well. While many lives are thus consumed, the powerful drug lords arrogantly abandon themselves to luxury and dissipation. If considered in human terms, the reasons for despair (contra spem) would seem to prevail, especially for the families which, having been marked and directly stricken by the sad phenomenon, do not feel sufficiently assisted and protected. With deep affection I am close to them and share their sorrow; I would like to meet them one by one, to take them some of Christ’s consolation (cf. 2 Cor. 1:5) and spur them to react against the sense of abandonment and the temptation to become discouraged.

Very often, when thinking of the victims of drugs and alcohol—generally young people, though their spread among adults is a source of growing concern—I am led to recall the man in the Gospel parable who, when assaulted by criminals, was robbed and left half dead along the road to Jericho (cf. Luke 10:29-37). In fact, these, too, strike me as a people “on a journey” who are searching for something in which to believe in order to live; they instead run up against the merchants of death, who assault them with the allurement of illusory freedoms and false prospects for happiness. These victims are men and women who, unfortunately, find themselves robbed of the most previous values, profoundly wounded in body and in spirit, violated in the depth of their consciences and offended in their dignity as persons. In these situations, the reasons leading one to abandon all hope might really appear strong.

3. While aware of this, you and I nevertheless wish to testify that there are reasons to go on hoping and they are much stronger than those against hope (contra spem in spem). Indeed, today, too, as in the Gospel parable, Good Samaritans are not lacking who, with personal sacrifice and sometimes at a risk to themselves, are able to “become the neighbor” of those in difficulty. For this reason, I want to say to the families touched by trial: Do not despair! Rather, pray with me that these Good Samaritans working at public facilities and in volunteer groups will multiply, among private citizens and the leaders of nations, and a united front will thus be formed engaged increasingly not only in prevention and the rehabilitation of drug addicts, but also in denouncing and legally prosecuting those trafficking in death and in demolishing the webs of moral and social disintegration. We are now faced with a phenomenon of terrifying scope and proportions, not only because of the very high number of lives brought to an end, but also because of the worrisome spread of the moral contagion, which for some time now has been reaching the very young as well, as in the case unfortunately, not uncommon of children to become pushers and, along with their peers, consumers themselves. I thus repeat the grieved appeal I addressed several years ago to the different public bodies, both national and international, that they “curb the expansion of the drug market. To this end, the interests of those speculating on that market must first of all be brought to light, the instruments and mechanisms they make use of should then be identified; and, finally, the coordinated, effective dismantling of these ought to begin. In addition, we must work for the integral development of those populations which, in order to subsist, devote themselves to the production of such substances. At the same time, an attempt will be made to promote interconnected service networks working for real prevention of this evil and sustaining the rehabilitation and reintegration of the young people affected by it”.[2]

4. There is certainly a clear difference between resorting to drugs and turning to alcohol: whereas the moderate use of alcohol as a drink does not, in fact, clash with moral prohibitions and only abuse is to be condemned; taking drugs is, on the contrary, always illicit, because it involves an unjustified and irrational renunciation of thinking, willing, and acting as free persons. Moreover, recourse to psychotropic substances by medical prescription to mitigate suffering in carefully determined cases must itself abide by extremely prudent criteria to avoid dangerous forms of habituation and dependence. The task of health authorities, physicians, and the officers of research centers is to work to reduce such risks to a minimum through measures for prevention and information.

Drug addiction and alcoholism are against life. We cannot speak of the “freedom to take drugs” or the “right to drugs,” for the human being has no right to harm himself and neither can nor should ever abdicate the personal dignity which comes to him from God! These phenomena it must always be remembered are not only detrimental to physical and psychic well being, but frustrate the person precisely in his or her capacity for communion and self giving. All of this is particularly serious in the case of the young. Theirs is, in fact, the age which opens to life, the age of the great ideals, the season of sincere, oblational love.

I wish, therefore, to say once more to the young, with grieved solicitude: Beware of the temptation of certain illusory, tragic experiences! Do not surrender to them! Why head into a deadend street? Why renounce the full maturation of your years, accepting an early senescence? Why waste your lives and your energies, which can instead find joyful affirmation in the ideals of honesty, work, sacrifice, purity, and true love?

That’s it: love! For the victims of alcoholism, for the family and social communities which suffer so much on account of this infirmity of their members, the Church in the name of Christ proposes as an answer and an alternative the therapy of love: God is love, and whoever lives in love implements communion with others and with God. “He who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:4). But whoever loves tastes life and remains therein!

Dear brothers and sisters, the phenomena of drugs and alcoholism cannot be combatted nor can effective action be taken for the healing and recovery of their victims unless the human values of love and life are first restored—the only ones capable, especially if illuminated by religious faith, of giving fully meaning to our existence. Society cannot and must not oppose its indifference against the sense of being outsiders which so often afflicts drugs addicts or regard itself as absolved simply because it supports the action of volunteers, which is, indeed, irreplaceable, but unavoidably insufficient alone. Laws are needed! Facilities are needed! Bold action is required!

5. As it is up to the Church, then, to work on a moral and pedagogical level, intervening with great sensitivity in this specific area, so it is up to public institutions to adopt a serious policy aimed at healing situations of personal and social unease, among which the crisis of the family—principle and foundation of human society—unemployment among young people, housing problems, social and health services, and the educational system stand out. In this campaign for prevention, treatment, and recovery the interdisciplinary research to which this Conference has a decisive role to play.

In congratulating you on the efforts and results of this useful scientific colloquium, I also wish to address a word of sincere appreciation to the vast multitude of young and not-so-young people participating in rehabilitation programs and every other initiative directed towards this noble purpose. With the assurance of my fervent prayer and my heartfelt solidarity, I reiterate my invitation for them to look trustingly at life, to believe in the inestimable greatness of the destiny of the human person, who—I love to repeat—is a reflection of the very image of God. In a word, I repeat once again the invitation to hope against all hope: contra spem in spem, and I particularly address it to those who, with admirable generosity and in a Christian spirit, become neighbors to their brothers and sisters in need of help because they have been affected and overwhelmed by these two deplorable phenomena.

The Church, which desires to work in society as the yeast of the Gospel—and this is her duty—is and will continue to be ever at the side of those facing the social plagues of drugs and alcoholism with responsible dedication to encourage and support them with the words and the grace of Christ. He is the light that illuminates man and can lead him to the destination of a more mature and worthy existence.

May the Most Blessed Virgin accompany the generous efforts of all who devote their energies to this arduous and valiant service. Upon them, in the hope of supernatural assistance, I wholeheartedly bestow my Blessing.


[1] Dolentium Hominum, vol 19, p. 7-9. This speech is only in Italian on the Vatican website. URL:

[2] John Paul II, Discorso durante la visita agli opiti del centro Italiano di Solidarieta, Sept. 23, 1989. URL:

Address to the Representatives of the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking[1]

To the Distinguished Representatives at the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

The phenomenon of drug abuse is one of the greatest tragedies plaguing society today, a tragedy of ever-widening proportions that strikes both industrialized and developing countries with devastating effects on individuals, families and the whole social fabric. The fact that the abusers are predominantly young people poses a particular threat to the future stability of society as we advance towards the end of the Second Millennium.

Unfortunately there are indications that this human tragedy is steadily worsening: a) illegal drugs are being produced in ever-increasing quantities; b) illicit drug trafficking which produces immense profits continues unchecked; c) the vastly widespread character of drug abuse which, although concentrated mostly among young people, is also found at every level of modern society, in rural as well as urban areas, among both men and women, among all races and cultures. There is no country which is now immune from this modern scourge, either in the East of the West, in the northern or southern hemispheres, in the poorer or the richer countries.

Many factors contribute to the dramatic increase in drug abuse. Surely a primary one is the breakdown of the family. In addition, there is a steady weakening of traditional ways of life which for generations have passed on cultural values and given meaning to daily existence; there are increasing tensions in human relationships, rising unemployment, sub-human standards of living, fears engendered by the threat of nuclear war and numerous other social factors, not the least of which is a psychological need to escape from the hardships and painful responsibilities of life. But at the root of this evil is the loss of ethical and spiritual values. If it is true that the youth of today are the greatest consumers of hard drugs, then it is legitimate to ask if this is due to the kind of society in which our young people are being reared.

Drug abuse impoverishes every community where it exists. It diminishes human strength and moral fiber. It undermines esteemed values. It destroys the will to live and to contribute to a better society. Drug abuse is indeed a scourge, just as much as a famine, a drought or an epidemic. Every year it reaps an increasing harvest of human lives.

But the modern plague of drug addiction has not gone entirely unchecked or unopposed. We cannot close our eyes to the immensity of the evil inflicted on humanity by this tragic problem; but neither should we fail to see the many efforts, even heroic ones, which are being made to counter it.

The United Nations Organization, as well as other institutions both governmental and non-governmental, have called attention internationally and regionally to the consequences of drug abuse. Conventions have been held, studies have been undertaken and other means have been employed, and the Holy See has been pleased to take an active part in these initiatives.

The continuing growth of the illegal production and sale of drugs makes even more urgent the duty to expand those initiatives which seem now to be achieving concrete and positive results. It is imperative that the criminal activity of drug production and trafficking should be directly opposed and ultimately stopped. In this regard, my encouragement and admiration go to all those countries in which government leaders and citizens are truly committed to combatting the production, sale and misuse of drugs, sometimes paying a very high price, even sacrificing their own physical integrity. And I applaud all those who are working with equal determination to impart preventive education in the home, at school and in places of work. This requires some form of collaboration with agencies at the national and international level.

But all of this would still not be sufficient if such political, legal and educational efforts were not accompanied by other initiatives, such as making crop substitution a feasible alternative in areas where illicit plant cultivation seems to be the only profitable or viable option available to the farmer. To provide such an alternative requires comprehensive rural development programs, with stable infrastructures, appropriate technology and the fundamental community facilities of health care, education and so forth. Clearly, the problem of drug addiction and illicit trafficking is not unrelated to the question of human development.

Special consideration must also be given to the treatment and rehabilitation of those who have become addicted to drugs or dependent on them in an unhealthy way. This requires the establishment and maintenance of institutions which can meet the specific needs of each individual victim of drug abuse. The great variety of needs represented requires the possibility of a threefold treatment: medical, social and legal. In this, the Church is ready to be of assistance, especially through the centers which she has herself established and by her cooperation with centers which are provided by other agencies.

A key factor in successful rehabilitation, particularly in the case of young people, is the restoration of self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem, which provide fresh motivation based on solid moral and spiritual values. Drug abusers must be helped to re-establish trusting relationships with their family and friends. They must also be helped to resume their work, education or job-training. Families play a vital role in this process, as do educational, social and cultural institutions. Rehabilitation requires team work, and thus each of these should collaborate willingly with families and all concerned.

I assure you that the Church wishes to offer every possible support to the many and varied efforts being made. And I wish to add a word of personal encouragement to you and the Governments and organizations that you represent. The common struggle against the plague of drug abuse and illicit trafficking is motivated by a serious spirit of mission, on behalf of humanity and for the very future of society, a mission whose success demands a mutual commitment and generous response on the part of all.

May God bless your efforts and may this Conference be for the rest of the world a beacon of encouragement and hope.

From the Vatican, 4 June 1987.


[1] URL:

A Very Strict Moral Code is Needed for the Use of and Experimentation with Drugs[1]

1. It is with joy that I greet you, participants in this International Conference, which witnesses once again to the importance the Church accords to the service of the sick, the suffering, and to those who labor in the vast domain—delicate and complex—of health and hygiene. This field of apostolate is an integral part of the mission of the Church

This conference is well representative of the activity of the Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of Health Care Workers, and I am happy to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank its President, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, its Pro-President, Archbishop Fiorenzo Angelini, and their collaborators. In a world where the very understanding of social and health services is evolving considerably, and where it is becoming apparent that they have every more complex implications, it has become indispensable to coordinate and to promote the Church’s presence. This conference is proof of this presence, as are also the other initiatives which have been undertaken or which are in the process of implementation. Among these I would like to mention the vast revision of all the Church’s health establishments; we are thus becoming more aware of the extension and of the capillary ramifications of her presence and service on behalf of the human person, now subject to the particular trial of psycho-physical illness.

2. The choice of the main theme of this conference also seems very appropriate to me. Medicines are in fact the means by which the doctor is not only able to cure diseases, but also to prevent them. A great number of those which, in the past, decimated populations have largely disappeared today; others can be treated far more effectively. Children are more rarely afflicted by the terrible deformation of polio and rickets. Surgery, thanks to an ever more satisfactory contribution of pharmacology, has been able to make extraordinary advances. The average life span has notably increased. All of this we owe above all serums, vaccines, and so many other forms of medication at our disposal today. This applies at least to the developed countries.

Benefits and Problems

3. Nevertheless, if it is true that medicines have brought immense benefits to humanity, they have also raised serious and partially unresolved problems with regard to their development, diffusion, and their use and accessibility to all sick persons, regardless of their class or nationality. The preparation and manufacture of medicines is increasingly complex and costly, and this has obvious economic and social consequences. Medicines can stimulate or impair the function of various organs or tissues, or even mental activity. These characteristics make them useful for increasing resistance to certain diseases or for checking the development of others. It is true that one may occasionally question the opportuneness, for the balance of the human organism, of an excessive consumption of these artificial products, in certain counties and according to the tendency of certain practitioners. But, above all, medicines can also be employed for purposes which are no longer therapeutic, but rather alter the laws of nature to the detriment of the dignity of the human person. It is clear, then, that the development, distribution, and use of medicines should be subject to a particularly strict moral code. Respect for this code is the only way to prevent the demands connected with the production and cost of medicines, in themselves legitimate and important for their distribution, from deflecting them from their meaning and their end.

4. During this congress you also considered the problem of experimentation with medicines. In the present state of scientific knowledge, it is not possible to predict with sufficient accuracy the properties and the characteristics of new medical preparations. Before being used in treatment, they must be tested on laboratory animals. In my address in the Study Week on biological experimentation which took place in 1982 at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, I have already pointed out the delicate character of this type of experimentation, stressing that it should be conducted with respect for the animal, not subjecting it to unnecessary suffering. In a second stage, before being made available for general use, medicines should be tested on the human being, on the sick and sometimes even on a person in good health. Clinical experimentation is subject to strict laws and norms which regulate it and aim at offering all possible guarantees. We may at least hope that the day will come when, thanks to the progress of scientific knowledge, the risk and the unknowns in the area of experimentation with medicines will be notably reduced. However, in any event, great prudence is necessary to prevent man from ever becoming a mere object of experimentation, and at all costs avoiding danger to his life, sanity, equilibrium, and health, or worsening his condition.

5. At the same time it is urgent to promote real international collaboration, not only on the normative level, but also to reduce and eliminate the differences among countries.

Among the problems that still remain unsolved, I would like to mention those which concern the situation of certain developing countries. Although access to health care is recognized as a fundamental right of man, large sections of humanity are still deprived of even the most elementary medical care. The problem is one of such dimensions that individual efforts, valuable and irreplaceable as they may be, are insufficient. At the present time, it is absolutely necessary for us to try to work together, and to coordinate, at the international level, policies of aid and thus of concrete initiatives. We know how the World Health Organization is engaged in this, as well as other associations and initiatives which show solidarity without frontiers.

Developed countries have the duty to place their experience, their technology and a part of their economic wealth at the disposal of those that are less so. However, this can be done only with respect for the human dignity of others, without ever wishing to obtrude. The protection of health is closely bound up with the different aspects of life: whether they be social or economic, or related to environment or culture. For this reason it requires a prudent and responsible approach, with open and mutual collaboration. It frequently happens that local traditions offer invaluable points of support which should be taken into account and improved. Christians understand that there is excellent ground for fraternal assistance and for humble and respectful service.

The Church’s Contribution

6. In this context, we cannot forget that there are still medicines which, for almost exclusively commercial reasons, have not been given serious attention and are not benefiting from research and scientific progress. These are often necessary not only for the treatment of certain rare diseases, but also for those which strike millions of people in the poorer tropical zones. In this respect, it is necessary in the first place to discern the objectives and their order of priority, then to see how the economic and political barriers which impede the research, development, and production of such medicines might be overcome.

7. To all those who work in health care and who must confront these difficult and complex problems I would like to reiterate here the encouragement of the Church. Christian doctrine—of this we are convinced—makes a very important contribution to these areas. It offers sure principles to point the way towards solutions which guarantee the dignity of the person, sustain his moral and social progress, and develop solidarity. In this sense, it brings light and hope to those who experience doubts, questions which cause anxiety or discouragement at the sight of the painful condition of the sick and infirm.

On the one hand, the Church shares with the sick their desire for healing and relief and their hope for a fullness of life. She also respects the mystery of their suffering and invites them, above all if they have faith, to situate their trial in the plan of God, in the plan of Redemption, in union with Christ the Savior, who offers them an opportunity for spiritual elevation and offering in love, for the salvation of the world. This is a mystery that can also benefit those who take care of them. I have often had occasion to speak of this to the sick.

On the other hand, this immense world of sickness is at the same time a challenge offered to your capacities as doctors, pharmacists and scientists, to see if you can find a scientific and humane solution to the problem of health, in all its different aspects. Recently, while visiting the sick and those who care for them in the cathedral of Saint Jean, in Lyons (Oct. 5, 1986), I encouraged scientific research in this sense and I congratulated all of those who, like the Good Samaritan of the Gospel, are cooperators with God in the defense of lives of their brothers and sisters. Yes, not only has the Church constantly urged forward, in the spirit of the teaching of Jesus, the creation of works of mercy for the sick, but she is also anxious to support technological progress, the spread of knowledge, and their wise use in the service of man. Far from closing itself to the legitimate desires of the contemporary world, Christianity strengthens them, and helps to fulfill them.

May this assurance accompany you always and strengthen your commitment, whatever the area of your activity within the health services! It is God who has given us the intelligence and the heart to better discover and implement whatever supports and develops the life of the human being, the expression of the person: may he affirm you in your research, in your professional service, and may he fill you with his blessings — yourselves, your families and those who are dear to you!


[1] Dolentium Hominum, vol 4, p. 4-7.

Address to a Colloquium on Chemical Dependency[1]

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the international colloquium on chemical dependency. I thank Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, for his words of welcome and for organizing this working meeting. Indeed, it is particularly appropriate to reflect on the serious questions arising from the phenomenon of drugs and on the urgent need for research that will help political and economic leaders, teachers and families tried by the tragedy of chemical dependency.

2. For some years the Holy See has been able to express its ideas on this subject, making pastoral, educational and social proposals. We must unfortunately note that today this phenomenon is reaching every milieu and region of the world. More and more children and adolescents are becoming consumers of toxic substances, often because they were first tried casually or defiantly. Parents and teachers often find themselves unprepared and discouraged. Doctors, as well as health and social services, encounter serious problems when it is a question of helping those who seek their aid to escape the drug scene. It must be recognized that a crack-down on those who use illegal substances is not enough to contain this scourge; in fact, a significant criminal network of trafficking and financing has been organized on an international scale. Most of the time the economic power connected with the production and commercialization of these substances escapes the law and justice.

It is therefore not surprising that a great feeling of helplessness and powerlessness is overrunning society. Some are of the opinion that the production and sale of certain drugs should be legalized. Certain authorities are prepared to do nothing, seeking merely to limit drug consumption by trying to control its effects. Consequently, in school the use of certain drugs is becoming common; this is encouraged by talk that tries to minimize the dangers, especially by distinguishing between soft and hard drugs, which leads to proposals for liberalizing the use of certain substances. This distinction disregards and downplays the risks inherent in taking any toxic product, especially behavioral dependency, which is based on the psychic structures themselves, the blurring of conscience and the loss of one's will and freedom, whatever the drug.

3. The drug phenomenon is a particularly serious evil. Many young people and adults have died or will die as a result, while others find their personal capacities diminished. Young people resort to drugs for many reasons. At critical moments in their growth, chemical dependency is to be considered symptomatic of problems in life, of difficulty in finding a place in society, of a fear of the future and of an escape into an illusory, artificial life. Youth is a time of trial and questioning, of searching for meaning in life and of making future commitments. The increased selling and consumption of drugs show that we are in a world pressed for hope, lacking vigorous human and spiritual prospects. Hence many young people think that all behavior is the same, and do not differentiate between good and evil or acquire a sense of moral limits.

Nevertheless, I value the efforts of parents and teachers to inculcate moral and spiritual values in their children, so that they behave as responsible people. They often do this courageously, but they do not always feel supported, especially when the media spread morally unacceptable messages which serve as cultural standards in all the countries of the world, advocating for example many family models which destroy the normal image of the married couple and disparage family values, or which consider violence and sometimes drugs themselves as signs of personal liberation.

4. The fear of the future and of adult commitments which can be observed in the young makes them particularly vulnerable. Often they are not encouraged to struggle for a good, upright life; they have the tendency to withdraw into themselves. One can no longer minimize the devastating effect of unemployment to which young people fall prey in proportions unworthy of a society that wishes to respect human dignity. The forces of death then urge them to abandon themselves to drugs, to violence, sometimes even to the point of suicide. Behind what can appear as fascination with a sort of self-destruction, we must see in these young people a call for help and a deep thirst for life, which should be taken into account, so that the world will radically modify what it offers and its ways of life. Too many young people are left to themselves and do not benefit from an attentive presence, a stable home, normal schooling or a social and educational framework that arouses a moral and intellectual effort in them and helps them to steel their will and master their emotions.

5. The struggle against the scourge of chemical dependency is everyone’s business, each according to his own responsibility. I first urge husbands and wives to develop stable conjugal and family relations, based on a love that is exclusive, lasting and faithful. They will thus create the best conditions for a peaceful home life, offering their children the emotional security and self-confidence they need for their spiritual and psychological growth. It is also important that parents, who have the primary responsibility for their children, and, with them, the whole adult community, be constantly concerned about the education of youth. I therefore invite everyone who has an educational role to intensify their efforts with young people who need to form their conscience, develop their interior life and create positive relationships and constructive dialogue with their brothers and sisters; they will help them become free and responsible for their lives. Young people who have a structured personality, a sound moral and human formation and harmonious and trusting relationships with their peers and with adults will be more likely to resist the enticements of those who spread drugs.

6. I invite the civil authorities, the economic decision-makers and all who have social responsibility to continue and intensify their efforts to improve anti-drug abuse legislation at every level and to oppose all forms of drug culture and trafficking, sources of wealth scandalously acquired by exploiting the frailty of defenceless persons. I encourage the public authorities, parents, teachers, health-care professionals and Christian communities to be jointly and increasingly involved in the work of prevention among young people and adults. Wise and accurate medical information must be given especially to young people, stressing the harmful effects of drugs on the physical, intellectual, psychological, social and moral levels. I am aware of the tireless devotion and patience of those who care for and attend to persons ensnared in drugs, and their families. I invite the parents whose child has a chemical dependency never to despair, to stay in communication with him, to show him their affection and to encourage his contacts with structures that can care for him. A family’s warm attention is a great support for the interior struggle and for the progress of detoxification.

7. I salute the tireless and patient pastoral commitment of priests, religious and lay persons in the world of drugs; they support parents and are keen to welcome and listen to young people, to understand their radical questions in order to help them escape the spiral of drugs and become free and happy adults. The Church’s mission is to transmit the word of the Gospel that opens us to God's life and enables us to discover Christ, the Word of Life who offers a path of human and spiritual growth. Following the example of her Lord and in solidarity with her brothers and sisters in humanity, the Church comes to the aid of the lowliest and the weakest, caring for those who are wounded, fortifying those who are sick, seeking the personal growth of each one.

At the end of our meeting, I salute the mission undertaken by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers in carefully following the human and spiritual problems posed by drug dependency and by all health-care and social issues, in order to offer solutions for situations that are gravely harmful to men and women, our brothers and sisters. Likewise, in conjunction with the Pastors of the particular Churches, with the faithful and the competent services involved in supporting those with a chemical dependency and their families, the Council is called to offer its support to local initiatives.

I entrust you and your activity to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; I also beseech her for the young people who are in the grip of drugs, and for their loved ones. May she surround them with her motherly concern! May she guide the world’s young people to an ever more harmonious life! May the Holy Spirit go with you and give you the necessary courage for your work on behalf of youth! I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, to your collaborators and to the members of your families.


[1] URL:

Address to the Members of the Encounter Community[1]

Dear Friends of the "Encounter Community"!

1. Welcome! I am pleased to receive you at this special audience and I greet you all with affection.

My thoughts turn first of all to the community's founder, dear Fr Pierino Gelmini, to whom I extend my cordial congratulations on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, which he recently celebrated, and I thank him for the kind words he has just addressed to me on your behalf.

With him I greet the Bishops present, the priests, staff and volunteers who carry out their generous work in your community. I also greet the many authorities of every rank and level from various countries who have wished to honor us with their appreciated presence today. To each one I extend my respectful greetings. With the same sentiments I greet the parents, friends, relatives and support groups who have not wanted to miss this important Jubilee event.

But I embrace you with very special affection, dear young people who live in the "Encounter Community" centers and have set out on the path to spiritual and physical rebirth after the sad experience of drugs.

2. You have come on pilgrimage from many cities and nations to cross the threshold of the Holy Door; you have come to meet Christ and resolutely reaffirm your intention to walk with him towards a more peaceful and responsible future. Many of you have brought with you the walking stick you carved during the penitential season of Lent. It is a sign that recalls the spiritual support to lighten the effort of the journey. For you it symbolizes the interior pilgrimage you have undertaken, which must lead you to an ever richer life of faith, hope and love.

The Pope loves you and accompanies you with his prayers and constant remembrance. I gladly take this occasion to repeat to those of you here and to everyone in every part of the world who is involved in the struggle against drugs and for life:  the Church is with you and walks beside you!

3. Dear young people, your spiritual family is called the "Encounter Community" because it arose from an important meeting in Piazza Navona 37 years ago. It seeks to offer those who have ended up in the blind alley of drugs the possibility of finding the path of hope. The centers where you reside are a great help in this effort of personal recovery. They are places of brotherhood, where everyone is offered a second chance not to squander the precious gift of life.

Those of you who have been through the sad experience of drugs know quite well how it leads to loneliness, withdrawal and, at times, deep despair. In view of this tragedy, which affects the human person and his physical life itself, and represents a disturbing phenomenon in contemporary society, the Church has said repeatedly that drugs are never a solution. She intends to reaffirm this conviction forcefully in the face of opinions favoring the liberalization of narcotics or, at least, their partial legalization on the grounds that free access to these substances will help to limit or reduce their harm to individuals and to society.

4. Drugs are not fought with drugs. Those who unfortunately have found themselves caught in the tentacles of narcotics testify that this experience is an escape from themselves and from reality.

Drugs are often the consequence of an inner emptiness: they are a refusal, a renouncement and a loss of direction which often leads to despair. This is why drugs are not overcome by drugs, but an extensive work of prevention is needed to replace the culture of death with the culture of life. Young people and their families must be offered concrete reasons for commitment and must be given effective support with their daily problems.

Dear friends, you have discovered the true alternative to the many drugs that stupefy the human person in a community which, rather than proposing technical solutions, offers a process of human and spiritual rebirth. Fortunately there are many other structures in the world like yours, where many of your friends have had the good fortune to escape from the bottomless pit of drugs. I would like to offer my encouragement and cordial greeting to everyone who works in this sector.

They are a valuable presence which supports families tried by difficult hardships. The Church is grateful to all who render this skilled and unselfish service to life and human dignity.

5. Dear friends, I thank you for the two gifts that Fr Pierino has presented to me in your name:  the opening of new centers in New York and Kazakhstan, and this beautiful statue of the risen Christ.

The risen Jesus shows you all that in him you can face the future with renewed confidence. He leads you to the heavenly Father's loving embrace. His mercy spurs you to continue on the path you have taken so that, reborn to life, you can make your contribution as protagonists to building a society free from every kind of drug. Take back to your communities the serenity I see on your faces today. May you always show the courage to rise again when you fall and to return quickly to the right path, even when this demands sacrifice and self-denial. Christ, the physician of souls, is your friend. He is the only Redeemer.

May Mary, whom you honor with the significant title of "Our Lady of the Smile", support you with her motherly intercession. May she welcome all who have died in recent years, victims of drugs and their consequences, and be close to the families scarred by this tragedy. May she accompany you all with her powerful protection.

With these sentiments, I assure you of my prayer and willingly impart a special Blessing to each of you and to your loved ones.


[1] URL:

Documents on Drugs

Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction, Chapter 1

From Despair to Hope

Should Soft Drugs be Legalized

Excerpts from Church Documents

Addresses of Pope John Paul II

Addresses of Pope Francis

Messages of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

Final Statement

The Virgin and Child (The Madonna of the Book) by Sandro Botticelli
Wikimedia Commons

bottom of page