At Rio hospital, pope offers drug addicts an embrace and a challenge

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

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.

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