On June 29, Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Pa. published a pastoral letter on the opioid crisis. In his diocese in Western Pennsylvania, over 300 opioid-related deaths had ravaged the communities in the previous year.
In his "Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis from Death and Despair to Life and Hope," Bishop Malesic affirmed that in response to the crisis, "we can either sink down into despair or rise up in hope."
"This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town, and even the rural areas of our diocese," he acknowledged. Yet Catholics must choose hope, he added.
"Hope is the certain belief that God will provide what we need to overcome the struggles we are now facing. If we are not guided by hope, we will give up before the battle is won. We must have hope!" he insisted.
And Catholics must give hope to those mired in the despair of addiction, he said. "We accompany them with courageous faith. We offer them the comforting presence and power of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Jesus will provide."
Bishop Malesic exhorted priests, religious, and deacons to "reach out" in Christ's name to those suffering from drug addiction, and "let them know that they are not alone."
Catholics must pray for and with those suffering from addictions, he added.
"With the power of prayer, we can lift up our needs and the needs of those who are addicted to a loving God who is concerned for all of us. We know that prayer, this heartfelt and intimate communication with God, can make a dramatic difference in the life of someone coping with an addiction crisis."
The bishop also announced initiatives the diocese was taking to respond to the crisis, including educational initiatives at the parish level and developing family recovery groups.
Last March, Massachusetts bishops also issued a statement in response to the state's rising drug-overdose crisis, after the rate of overdose deaths had reached record levels there.
"We encourage our sisters and brothers who are suffering addiction or the addiction of loved ones to turn to their faith community for support, counsel and compassion, and we pray that those most affected will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual help that they need," the state's bishops stated.
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Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.