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BY Jim Cosgrove
VATICAN CITY—In the Synod's old chamber within the walls of the Vatican, an important meeting called “Ecclesiastical Convention On Drugs” took place last month.
It was not the first time the Holy See had addressed the problem, but this time the proceedings generated a great deal of news. “This meeting has approved a more energetic and resolved commitment from the Holy See to confront the problem of drugs,” Bishop Jean-Marie Musivi Mpendawatu, an official of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers and coordinator of the drug convention, told the Register,
In fact, after years of uneasy relations between the Holy See and agencies of the United Nations, Dr. Giorgio Giacomelli, Executive Director of the U.N.'s International Program to Control Drugs, officially asked the Holy See for help from the Church to solve one of the most serious problems facing humanity at the end of the millennium.
In a letter to John Paul II, Giacomelli asserted that police forces and the international system of justice aren't able to adequately address the widespread problem. He then called on the Church to help spread the values which might prevent a new generation of drug users.
What can the Church contribute in a battle against multinational drug rings and organized crime? “We do not intend to involve ourselves with [trying to stop] the production and sale of drugs, but to concentrate on the aid we can give to addicts,” Bishop Javier Lozano Barragàn, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers explained. “It is not just a matter of operating in the field of recovery as different priests have already done. The Holy Father wants the Church to find other means such as education and the formation of young people in the acquisition of strong values as indicated in the Gospel.”
Added Msgr. Mario Zenari, permanent representative of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations in Vienna: “In the struggle against drugs the Church offers all the moral and pedagogical forces to win what has been called the ‘Third World War.'
“Actually, what is being discussed in the United Nations is not just [blocking production and sale] but an awareness that the problem should be confronted. The Church's specific mission is to succeed in renewing its pledge, giving advice to pastors, educators, parishes, and dioceses, and to act for prevention. But it is in young pastors that the Catechism needs to give this religio-spiritual input to give back meaning to life.
“As Paul VI said in his first visit to the United Nations, ‘The Church is expert in humanity,’ and therefore our mission is to reinforce and defend the meaning and the values of the culture of life against the culture of death,” Msgr. Zenari added.
This great pledge of the Church to confront drugs worries some parts of the Catholic community, however, who fear an increase of social preoccupations will take away from the overarching mission of propagating the faith. Some critical voices suggest that the Church should occupy itself less with social issues and more with evangelization and preaching.
Father José Redrado OH, Secretary of the Pontifical Council of Pastors for Health Care responded: “One cannot contrast the propagation of the faith to human promotion and the pledge of the Church for social issues. The Gospel is full of men and women who lived on the earth within a social and human context not always favorable to the harmonious and sane growth of personalities. With regard to drugs, the correlation between psycho-physiological discomfort and social and familial settings is even more evident. “Therefore,” he added, “evangelization and the social pledge are two sides of the same coin for every true believer.” (Antonio Gaspari)