SÃO PAULO, Brazil, SEPT. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Since Benedict XVI’s visit to a drug rehabilitation center last May, hundreds of young addicts have gone there, hoping to find their way back to a dignified life.
During the Holy Father’s visit to one of the centers known as Fazendas da Esperança, or “Families of Hope,” the lives of many former addicts were changed, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
Maria do Carmo, a 23-year-old former drug addict who stole and occasionally worked as a prostitute to support her habit, related that at first she had no interest in meeting the Pope, describing herself as an “unbeliever.”
She told her friends at the center, “I don’t listen to the Church. I am here to get myself off drugs, not to see someone you call the ‘Pope.'”
Do Carmo went to the meeting after all and, by chance, was seated in the front row. The Pope took her hand and blessed her.
“He looked me straight in the eyes, and it was as though he could see everything in me. I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” she said.
“This meeting converted me,” do Carmo affirmed. “I had the feeling that God was reflected in him. I cannot explain it, but since then everything has changed.”
The site has become a place of pilgrimage, especially the community church consecrated by the Holy Father and dedicated to Brazilian St. Antônio de Santa’Ana Galvão, whom the Pope canonized during his visit.
The Pontiff recently referred to his visit to the center, in a letter he sent to Austrian Catholics. The Holy Father wrote, “In Brazil, in the Fazenda da Esperança, in a way that I will never forget, I encountered young people who had fallen victim to drugs and had therefore lost their joy in life and their faith in the future.
“Discovering God meant for them finding hope again and once more gaining joy in life and in the future. Precisely because faith has deep roots, it can unlock the future and bestow life.”