"Church, Drugs, and Drug Addiction," a manual which took five years to complete, was written in response to a request of John Paul II. It offers criteria for the care of drug addicts.
The manual was commissioned in 1997 during a world meeting held in the Vatican, said Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, when presenting the volume to the press.
The United Nations considers drug addiction "a threat that can endanger the future of entire populations," he said.
Indeed, 200 million people worldwide consume drugs regularly, said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls, citing U.N. data.
"The Pope speaks of three particular actions to implement pastoral care capable of addressing the drug problem: prevention, treatment and repression," Archbishop Lozano said.
"The manual addresses the first two: prevention and treatment," he added. "Repression is not addressed." Rather, the Holy Father refers to it "by saying that we all must struggle against the production, elaboration and distribution of drugs in the world," the archbishop said.
"It is a particular duty of governments to courageously face this struggle against the traffickers of death," Archbishop Lozano said, quoting past papal addresses.
One chapter of the manual, entitled "No to the Liberalization of Drugs," confirms a Vatican stance. John Paul II repeatedly has affirmed that "drugs are not overcome by drugs; drugs are an evil and, in the face of evil, no concessions are admissible."
In response to journalists´ questions, Archbishop Lozano said that the liberalization of drugs to solve the problem simply exacerbates it.
French psychoanalyst Tony Anatrella, one of the principal writers of the document, explained that young people take recourse to drugs to fill a cultural and spiritual void.
Indeed, the manual´s first chapter, entitled "To Be Free," shows how the first challenge posed by drugs is the lack of values of the prevailing culture.
The book cover, by artist Irio Fantini, depicts Christ rescuing drug addicts from the mire of addiction. Jesus wears a red cape, symbol of his redeeming blood. His face illuminates their new way of life.
The book has been published in Italian, Spanish and French. It will be on sale in English within a few weeks.