RIO DE JANEIRO – The legalization of drugs will not reduce the problems of addiction, Pope Francis said Wednesday at a hospital in Brazil dedicated to the rehabilitation of drug users.
"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," the Pope said.
"The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage."
In a speech in Rio de Janeiro to inaugurate a drug-treatment wing at the Saint Francis hospital, the pontiff called drug dealers the "dealers of death" that follow the "logic of power and money at any cost!"
Francis also proposed his own solutions to the drug issue.
"Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future," the Pontiff said. "We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love."
Francis is in Brazil for a seven-day visit that is his first foreign trip as pope.
Before leaving the drug treatment-facility in Brazil he left parting words of hope.
"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 indispensible condition!" Francis then said, "You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone!"
And he promised the Catholic church would be on their side.
"The Church and so many people are close to you," he said. "Look ahead with confidence."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.