Pope lauds parish-based drug rehab: ‘This is the path to take’
No less than Pope Francis has given his blessing to the Archdiocese of Manila’s parish-based rehabilitation program for drug surrenderers, Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said on Saturday.
“[Pope Francis’] eyes twinkled and he said, ‘That’s the way to go. This is the path to take. Continue that,’” Tagle said, quoting the Pope whom he met during a recent visit to Rome.
The prelate led the first anniversary celebration of Sanlakbay, the community-based drug rehabilitation program launched last year at the height of the war against illegal drugs.
So far, 132 former drug dependents from 12 Manila parishes had completed the six-month program, which consists of spiritual and values formation, counseling sessions, skills training, and exposure to sports, arts and culture.
Tagle and police officials led by Director Oscar Albayalde, head of the National Capital Region Police Office, and Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, head of the Manila Police District, handed out certificates to the latest batch of 52 “graduates.”
The Pope’s encouragement should spur the Sanlakbay volunteers and the drug surrenderers to make sure that the program succeeds, Tagle said.
The prelate also appealed to the government to believe in the possibility of change for former drug addicts. Drug addiction is a fake god and there is always hope, he said.
“We try to give life to the dead. I hope that the living will not be killed off,” Tagle said.
To the reformed addicts, he said: “You are the symbol of hope. No one can ever say that you are a hopeless case.”
At one point during the program, Tagle turned teary-eyed and hugged George, a recovering addict who pleaded that people “bear with us a little more.”
The prelate said that the drug surrenderers are not mere numbers but people with lives, families, rights, and dreams.
“Each person is important. We will love you and not because we are just bearing with you with a heavy heart. Don’t ever think that we are just putting up with you. You are important,” he said.
A video clip shown during the event featured three drug surrenderers, including Kathleen, a young mother.
“I told the psychiatrist that I used marijuana upon waking up, upon eating, taking a bath, and going to work. I neglected my job and my children, and no longer went home,” Kathleen said.
“I never thought that I would change to be like this, that I would be able to talk openly about my life as a Christian,” she added.
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