Pope Francis: Drug cartels are ‘traffickers of death’ and ‘murderers’

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Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. 

Vatican City: (By Courtney Mares for CNA) Pope Francis called drug traffickers criminals, murderers, and “traffickers of death” during his general audience on Wednesday.“We cannot ignore the evil intentions and actions of drug dealers and traffickers. They are murderers!” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on June 26.“Drug traffickers are traffickers of death driven by the logic of power and money at any cost,” he added.

The pope dedicated the entirety of his last Wednesday audience before taking a break for the summer to mark the World Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The United Nations’ annual report on drug trafficking, released on June 26, reports that drug use worldwide has increased to 292 million people in the past decade, with cocaine production trafficking reaching an all-time high in 2022. 

The U.N. report also details the increase in overdose deaths due to the emergence of nitazenes — a group of synthetic opioids it describes as “potentially more dangerous than fentanyl.”

Pope Francis lamented the “plague” of drug addiction in many countries, saying that “drugs trample on human dignity.”

“Having known many tragic stories of drug addicts and their families, I am convinced that it is morally necessary to put an end to the production and trafficking of these dangerous substances,” he said.

The pope underlined that “a reduction in drug addiction is not achieved by liberalizing their consumption,” calling the idea “a fantasy.”

Pope Francis also applauded efforts by Catholic ministries around the world who offer assistance and recovery programs to those struggling with addictions, as well as bishops’ conferences who have advocated “just legislation and policies.”

He highlighted the efforts of the Latin American Pastoral Accompaniment and Prevention of Addictions organization known as PLAPA for its work to address alcoholism, drug abuse, and other forms of addiction, such as pornography.

“Let us remember … that every drug addict brings with him a different personal story, which must be listened to, understood, loved and, as far as possible, healed and purified. ... They continue to have, more than ever, a dignity, as people who are children of God. Everyone has dignity,” Francis said.

The U.N. established the World Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in 1987. The theme for this year is “The Evidence Is Clear: Invest in Prevention.”

Quoting St. John Paul II’s 1987 speech against drug trafficking, Francis said: “‘Drug abuse impoverishes every community in which it is present. It diminishes human strength and moral fiber. It undermines estimated values. It destroys the desire to live and contribute to a better society.’”

After his strong words about how drug traffickers “sow violence and death,” Pope Francis offered a prayer for their conversion.

“Let us pray for these criminals who give drugs to young people. They are criminals, they are murderers. We pray for their conversion,” Francis said.

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(Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees. She is the author of “Blessed Carlo Acutis: A Saint in Sneakers” (Ignatius, 2023), https://ignatius.com/carlo-acutis-sscap)

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