After celebrating Mass yesterday morning at Brazil's Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Pope Francis then visited those recovering from drug addiction and chemical dependency at Rio's St. Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital, a facility which specializes in treating people struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol, Catholic News Agency has reported.
He reminded his listeners that the saint for whom the hospital is named, and whose name Francis took as pope, had a life-changing encounter with a man suffering from leprosy. “This brother, suffering and an outcast, was the 'mediator of light ... for Saint Francis of Assisi,' because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ,” the Pope said.
“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,” the Vicar of Christ said during his visit to the facility yesterday. The St. Francis hospital not only treats those who come who are struggling with chemical dependency, but the Catholic facility is free to the indigent poor. Two of the patients at the hospital shared their personal testimonies and presented the Pontiff with special gifts.
As part of his remarks, Francis called the hospital a "particular shrine of human suffering" and said that, modelling after St. Francis of Assisi, we must learn to embrace those who are in need, saying that Francis understood that "true joy and riches come in following Christ and serving others."
In words which some may find surprisingly strong, the Pope argued against moves in various parts of the world to liberalize drug laws and de-criminalize the use of illicit drugs, saying that doing so will not achieve the desired end of an actual "reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction,”as proponents often believe. The Holy Father said that selfishness often prevails in society, and that as a result, those who are struggling with chemical dependency do not receive the love, care, and attention which are required. “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,” said the Holy Father. “We must hold the hand of the one in need,of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency … 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.'”
The Pope encouraged those struggling with chemical dependency but who have not had the courage to seek help. “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.”
“To all of you, I repeat: 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!”