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Pope's Address to Seminar on 'Narcotics: Problems and Solutions'

“The neediest of our brothers, who seemingly has nothing to give, bears a treasure for us: God’s face, who speaks to us and questions us”

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Today Pope Francis met with the participants in a two-day Seminar organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the theme: “Narcotics: Problems and Solutions for This Worldwide Plague.”
Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address.
Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies:
I greet warmly each one of those present and I am grateful for the words addressed to me by the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Drugs are a wound in our society; a wound that catches many people in its snares. These people are victims who have lost their freedom to fall into this slavery – slavery of a dependence that we could call “chemical.” It’s true that it is a “new form of slavery,” as many others that today scourge man and society in general.
Obviously there is not one cause that leads to drug dependence, but there are many factors that intervene, among others: the absence of family, social pressure, the traffickers’ propaganda, the desire to live new experiences, etc. Each dependent person brings with him a different personal history, he or she must be listened to, understood, loved, and in so far as possible, healed and purified. We cannot fall into the injustice of classifying a drug addict as if he were an object or a piece of junk. Each person must be valued and appreciated in his dignity to be able to be healed. It is the dignity of the person that we have come to find. <Drug addicts> continue to have, and more than ever, their dignity as persons who are children of God.  
And it is not surprising that so many people fall into drug dependence, as worldliness offers us a wide spectrum of possibilities to attain ephemeral happiness, which in the end becomes a poison that corrodes, corrupts and kills. The individual destroys himself and with him all those around him. The initial desire to escape, seeking momentary happiness, is transformed into the devastation of the individual in his totality, with repercussions in all the social strata.
In this connection, it is important to know the extent of the drug problem, which is destructive, it is essentially destructive and, especially the vastness of the production centers and their system of distribution; the networks that make possible a person’s death – not his physical death, but his psychic death, his social death, the rejection of a person. Immense, powerful networks that snare leaders in society, in governments, in the family. We know that the distribution system, even more than the production, is an important part of organized crime, but a challenge is to identify the way to control the circuits of corruption and the forms of money laundering. They are united; they are united. Therefore, there is no other way out than to <break> the chain that goes from the sale of drugs on a small scale to the most sophisticated forms of money laundering, which nest in financial capital and in banks that dedicate themselves to the laundering of dirty money.
A judge in my country began to work <on this problem> in earnest. He had several thousand-border kilometers in his jurisdiction. <He began> to work seriously on the drug problem. In a short while he received a photo of his family in the mail: “Your son goes to this school, your wife does this …,” nothing else – a mafia warning. So when one wants to look for and <identify> the networks of distribution, one meets with the five-letter word: mafia. But seriously, because just as the distribution kills the one who is a slave to drugs, in the end one who wants to destroy this slavery is killed.
It is true that great efforts are necessary to halt the demand for the consumption of drugs and for the implementation of extensive special programs orientated to health, family support and, especially, education, which I consider fundamental. The priority is integral human formation; it gives individuals the possibility of having instruments of discernment, with which they can reject the different offers and help others. This formation is oriented primarily to the vulnerable of society, as children and young people can be, but it is also valuable to extend it to families and to those that suffer some type of marginalization. However, the problem of the prevention of drugs as a program is always impeded by a thousand and one factors of governments’ ineptitude: by a sector of the government here, there and beyond. And successful programs of prevention virtually do not exist. Moreover, once <the problem> has advanced, and is already rooted in the society, it is very difficult. I am thinking of my homeland: 30 years ago it was a country of transit, then of consumption and even some production. <It all happened> in 30 years. This is the progress made thanks to leaders’ commitment to the mafia …
Although prevention is the priority, it is also essential to work for the full and sure rehabilitation of its victims in society, to give joy back to them and <to help them> recover the dignity they lost one day. While this is not ensured, including by the State and its legislation, the recovery will be difficult and victims can be re-victimized.
The neediest of our brothers, who seemingly has nothing to give, bears a treasure for us: God’s face, who speaks to us and questions us. I encourage you to go forward with your work and to concretize, within your possibilities, the happy initiatives you have undertaken at the service of those who suffer most in this field of battle. The struggle is difficult, and when one faces it and begins to work, he always runs the risk of that judge of my homeland of receiving a missive with an insinuation. However, we are defending the human family, we are defending young people <and> children. As they say in the field: defending the offspring, defending the future.” It is not about momentary discipline; it is about projecting ahead.
Thank you very much for what you do.
[Original text: Spanish]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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