Photo: Pope Francis greets a young man as he meets with patients, family and staff at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24. The pope addressed a group of recovering drug addicts offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a cal l to self-determination. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The attention of the world moves quickly from one event to another. That is the nature of how we live.
Last evening Pope Francis participated in the first encounter of the youth of the world with our new Holy Father. They witnessed to the great Catholic culture and faith of Brazil these last 300 years. They prayed together in the rain. They greeted one another with a happiness and a joy that were palpable and visible.
But we should not forget an event that took place earlier, the visit of Pope Francis to the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital for those struggling to overcome drug addiction. There we all saw the deep compassion Pope Francis has for all who suffer. He became truly father and brother and friend in the short time he was with them. And he gave to us and all the world an example coupled to a message which we ignore at the risk of our own souls and the lives of countless brothers and sisters who are caught up in drug addiction and struggling to regain their lives, a difficult task that demands our active assistance.
The scourge of drugs is not limited to the poor or to Latin America.
The streets of Long Island and the neighborhoods of our towns and villages know too much drug dealing, too much drug use. Some Nassau police officers explained to me that there is a corridor of drug dealing in Nassau County that stretches from the south shore to the north shore.
It is as dangerous and violent as any drug infested part of the city.
Pope Francis made it clear. Liberalization of drug laws is the wrong way to go! He referred to drug dealers as dealers of death. He made certain that we all knew that death dealing through drugs is as heinous an attack on human life as anyone can imagine.
Using the figure of St. Francis of Assisi he asked us to be compassionate and to reach out to those struggling to escape from the clutches go drug addiction. He told us we must take the hand of those who suffer, and show real, concrete concern for their good. We have to correct the underlying weaknesses in our society, lack of education, lack of employment, neighborhoods where hope is lacking and lawlessness reigns. If we have no appreciation for the sacredness of human life, if we are indifferent to human dignity, if we are enslaved by the desire for instantaneous pleasure, power and profit, and if we live by such standards or excuse such actions, then we are guilty of participating in a society that is indifferent to human life and human suffering. We must regain our moral compass and become a people of hope and compassion for others. We saw how it can be done. And we know who he is – a humble servant of God and human life, Pope Francis.