RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) — Pope Francis addressed a group of recovering drug addicts in a working-class neighborhood of Rio, offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a call to self-determination.
At the Hospital of St. Francis of Assisi, which he called a “shrine of human suffering,” he told patients they were the “flesh of Christ,” like the leper embraced by the institution's patron saint in a crucial step toward his conversion. He also said those struggling with drug dependency deserve the “closeness, affection and love” of all society.
Yet the pope also stressed the necessity of personal will in recovering from addiction.
“To embrace someone is not enough,” Pope Francis said July 24. “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.'
“Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: 'You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensable condition!'”