RIO DE JANEIRO, July 25, 2013 ( – During the second full day of World Youth Day activities yesterday, Pope Francis used a visit to a group of recovering drug addicts at a Rio hospital as an opportunity to offer them hope – and political leaders who believe in legalizing drugs a strong critique.

“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,” he said.

Addressing the proposals by some Latin American leaders to decriminalize drugs, Pope Francis said that education, not watering down narcotics laws, was the key to ending drug use.


Speaking in Portuguese, the pope called drug traffickers “dealers of death,” who “follow the logic of money and power at any cost.”

“The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage,” the pope said.

Instead, the Holy Father said, “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,” the Pontiff said while visiting the Hospital of St. Francis of Assisi, located in the run-down Tijuca district of northern Rio de Janeiro, for the inauguration of a new drug rehabilitation wing.

“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,” he said. “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,” he said.

While stressing the need for the personal will to recover from drug addiction, Pope Francis also assured those gathered that they are not alone in their struggle.

He emphasized, “The Church and so many people are close to you.”

He added that he had entrusted every one in the unit to the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary during his visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.

The full text of Pope Francis' address to patients and staff of the Hospital of St. Francis of Assisi is available on the Vatican Radio website here