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Vatican publishes manual on pastoral ministry for drug users

The Vatican has published a manual offering advice for pastoral care workers dealing with the consequences of drug abuse.

Catholic World News reports that the 200-page work -- titled Church, Drugs, and Drug Dependency -- was presented to the press by Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care. The product of a two-year study, it was published in Italian, French, English, and Spanish.

Pope John Paul II had commissioned the manual from the Pontifical Council in 1997, saying that some such resource must be prepared to ease the "anguish" of bishops and priests who must counsel the victims of drug dependency. The manual is addressed to these pastors, and also to parents, educators, and political leaders who are called to join in the struggle against drug abuse.

Archbishop Barragan remarked to reporters that Pope John Paul has made at least 80 statements on the problem of drug abuse since the beginning of his pontificate. He said that the Vatican manual follows the Pope's analysis in dividing the issue into three related questions: the treatment of drug addicts, the education that will discourage drug use, and the prevention of drug trafficking. However, the manual confines itself to the first two of these three questions, explaining that the suppression of drug traffic is a function of government.

The Vatican document does make a few pointed comments on legal issues surrounding drug abuse, however. The manual emphasizes that the Church will never cease to oppose the legalization of recreational drug use. And the Pontifical Council insists that political leaders have a grave responsibility to curb trade in illegal drugs.