The Church Does Not Abandon Those Who Fall into the Vortex of Drug Abuse
by Pope Francis
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. Perhaps the activity of the drug trade earns the most money for the market. This is tragic.
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 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 (cf. General Audience, 7 May 2014). But to say this “no”, one has to say “yes” to life, “yes” to love, “yes” to others, “yes” to education, “yes” to sport, “yes” to greater job opportunities. Let’s think about a young person without work. I believe that the number is about 75 million in Europe. I believe, but I’m not sure, I don’t want to say something that isn’t true. Let us think about that young person: the neither-nor. He neither works nor studies. He enters this lack of future, of hope, and the first offer are dependencies, including that of drugs. This... The opportunities for work, education, sport, a healthy life: this is the way of preventing drug use. If we say “yes” to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, there is no room for alcohol abuse and 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). This recovery work is limited, it’s not sufficient. We need to work for prevention. This will do much good.
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.
© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2014
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