During a highly emotional encounter with young recovering drug addicts at the “Fazenda da Esperança” (Farm of Hope,) Pope Benedict XVI encouraged victims of addiction around the world to recover the meaning of life.
The Farms of Hope were founded in Brazil to help drug addicts recover through a life of farm work, psychological assistance, contact with nature and an intense Bible-centered spiritual life. Due to its high rate of recovery, the work has spread to the Philippines, Russia, Mexico, Central America, Germany and to some 30 locations in Brazil.
The Pope’s speech was preceded by the highly emotional testimonies of several former addicts, some of whom broke into tears and were not able to continue.
“At some stage in people’s lives,” Pope Benedict said in his speech, “Jesus comes and gently knocks at the hearts of those properly disposed. Perhaps for you, he did this through a friend or a priest, or, who knows, perhaps he arranged a series of coincidences which enabled you to realize that you are loved by God.”
“Through the institution which has welcomed you, the Lord has given you this opportunity for physical and spiritual recovery, so vital for you and your families. In turn, society expects you to spread this precious gift of health among your friends and all the members of the community,” he added.
“You must be Ambassadors of hope! Brazil’s statistics concerning drug abuse and other forms of chemical dependency are very high. The same is true of Latin America in general,” the Pope said.
The Pope then paused to read slowly his remarks: “I urge the drug-dealers to reflect on the grave harm they are inflicting on countless young people and on adults from every level of society: God will call you to account for your deeds.” “Human dignity,” he continued, “cannot be trampled upon in this way. The harm done will receive the same censure that Jesus reserved for those who gave scandal to the ‘little ones’, the favorites of God.”
“Reintegration in society undoubtedly demonstrates the effectiveness of your initiative,” the Pontiff said in reference to the Farms of Hope. However, he added, “It is the conversions, the rediscovery of God and active participation in the life of the Church which attract even greater attention and which confirm the importance of your work. It is not enough to care for the body, we must adorn the soul with the most precious divine gifts acquired through Baptism.”
The Pope then turned his attention to “those many other institutions throughout the world which work to rebuild and renew the lives of these brothers and sisters of ours present in our midst, whom God loves with a preferential love. I am thinking of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well as the sobriety associations working generously in many communities so as to build up the lives of others.”
The Pope finished the meeting by asking members of the Farms of Hope to “offer your prayers, sacrifices, and renunciations on the altar of the Chapel”, for the fruits of the rest of his trip.
“I am counting on your help!” he said in conclusion.