Vatican City, 25 July 2013 (VIS) – At 6.30 p.m., local time, Pope Francis arrived at the Hospital Sao Francisco de Assis na Providencia de Deus (St Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital) of the Venerable Third Order of St. Francis, a centre dedicated to drug- or alcohol-dependent patients and which provides free medical and surgical assistance for indigenous peoples. The hospital has approximately five hundred beds and is managed by the eponymous Association, founded in 1985 by Brother Francis. Upon arrival Pope Francis was received by the director of the Association and by the secretary of State for health, and proceeded directly to the chapel where he was welcomed with songs, prayers, greetings and the profound testimony of two patients.
“God has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital”, said the Pope, who went on to speak of the saint's conversion: “the young Francis abandoned the riches and comfort of the world in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others”.
In his address, the Holy Father emphasised that we all have to learn to embrace those in need, as Saint Francis did. “There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many 'dealers of death' there are who follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. 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. 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. 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”.
The Pope continued, “We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. 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! 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! The Church and so many people are close to you. Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives”.
He urged all of those present, “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!”, and continued, “I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love”.
Finally, the Pope thanked all medical professionals and their associates working in the hospital: “Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: 'As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me'”.
He also emphasised to all those “who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties” that “the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. … Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us, by our side”.
At the end of his visit, the Holy Father addressed some words to the young Italians who followed the proceedings live from Maracanazinho, exhorting them to “Trust Christ, listen to him, follow in his footsteps. He never abandons us, not even in the darkest moments of our lives. He is our hope. Tomorrow in Copacabana we will have an opportunity to explore this truth more deeply, in order to shine his light on our lives. See you tomorrow!”