Pope Francis has condemned drug traffickers as "dealers of death" during a visit to a rehabilitation centre in Rio de Janeiro.
The Argentinian Pope spoke out about the effects of "chemical dependency" during an encounter with crack cocaine addicts at the city's St Francis of Assisi Hospital.
Earlier, he had prayed at Brazil's most revered Roman Catholic shrine, a huge basilica devoted to the Virgin Mary in the town of Aparecida.
"How many dealers of death there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost," he said. "The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage."
Francis, the first pontiff from South America, criticised countries in Latin America that had declared that the war on drugs could never be won and that some alternative to total prohibition must be found.
"A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalisation of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America," he said.
Instead, it was necessary to confront the underlying problems of drug use and addiction including "educating young people in the values that build up life in society". (© Daily Telegraph, London)