Vatican City, 27 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Pope paid a surprise visit to the San Carlo rehabilitation centre, near Castel Gandolfo, which belongs to the Italian Solidarity Centre, founded by Fr. Mario Picchi to prevent and combat exclusion, especially of those affected by drug abuse. The visit forms part of the Holy Father's "Friday of mercy" programme, in which he performs one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy every Friday throughout the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The San Carlo Community houses 55 people, mostly young, following a rehabilitation programme to free themselves from drug dependency. Francis' visit was unannounced and was a great surprise to all present. He spoke to the guests and staff, listened to their stories and expressed his closeness, urging them not to let themselves be devoured by the "metastasis" of drugs. He embraced them and explained that the path they have undertaken in the centre will offer them a real possibility of starting a new life worthy of a human being. Francis emphasised the need always to trust in the strength of mercy that continues to sustain our pilgrimage and, accompanying us even in our darkest hours, lets us feel the warmth of His presence and clothes man in dignity.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, linked this "Friday of Mercy" to the Pope's recent trip to Mexico, characterised by his strong and unequivocal condemnation of drug trafficking. "It worries me greatly that, seduced by the empty power of the world, they exalt chimeras and don their macabre symbols to trade in death. … I implore you not to underestimate the ethical and anti-civic challenge that drug trafficking represents for young people and for society as a whole, including the Church", said Francis during the trip.
Just a few days after his return to Rome, added Archbishop Fisichella, the Pope has given a visible and concrete sign of the affirmation he made in the Cathedral of Mexico City regarding the need for pastors of the Church not to seek refuge in generic condemnations, but rather to reach out to the human and existential peripheries of the cities and to involve families, schools, institutions, the political community and the forces of order in a serious pastoral project aiming at the prevention of a phenomenon that destroys many lives.