Pope, in Brazil, speaks out against liberalization of drug use

Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:09pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Pope Francis took an unequivocal stand on Wednesday against legalization as a means to fight drug addiction and criticized the trend in Latin America to decriminalize narcotics.

In his first public address on the issue, the new pontiff said during visit to a Rio de Janeiro hospital run by Franciscan monks that education was the way to end drug use.

"A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America," Francis said.

Some prominent Latin American leaders are moving towards support for the decriminalization of drugs after decades of violence generated by the unsuccessful war on drug trafficking cartels in the region, the source of the world's cocaine.

Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets in the rain to see Francis arrive at the hospital where he opened a wing that will treat alcoholics and drugs addicts.

The pope received another rapturous welcome earlier in the day at the country's main religious shrine where he urged young people to shun the "ephemeral idols" of money and pleasure and cherish traditional values to help build a better world.

On the third day of his week-long visit for World Youth Day, a biennial Church gathering being celebrated in Rio, Francis landed by helicopter in Aparecida, a shrine of the Virgin Mary that is venerated as the patroness of Brazil, home to the biggest Roman Catholic population in the world.

The shrine 260 kilometers (161 miles) west of Rio is also the site where Francis, then a cardinal in Argentina, cemented his place as a leader of the Church during a 2007 conference attended by Pope Benedict XVI.   Continued...

Pope Francis greets faithful as he arrives at the shrine of the Madonna of Aparecida, who Catholics venerate as the patroness of Brazil, in Aparecida do Norte, Sao Paulo State, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Edison Lopes Jr