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Cardinal Tagle welcomes drug users to church rehab program

Churchmen hope initiative will keep vulnerable Filipino addicts safe from vigilante groups

Cardinal Tagle welcomes drug users to church rehab program

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila says the archdiocese will also help families and communities of drug dependents. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has welcomed drug addicts who responded to the Philippine government's call to surrender to a church-run rehabilitation program.

"We welcome you with all our hearts and we pray that your humility to surrender and the decision to have a new life be blessed by God," the cardinal said on Sept. 15, in an address to drug addicts in Manila.

"We are here for you. We love you. Let us not waste life, it is important, and it has to be protected and nurtured," he said.

He announced that Manila Archdiocese has opened several community-based rehabilitation programs for drug dependents in parishes.

"We will also help the families, the neighborhood, and if you are Catholics, the parish," said Cardinal Tagle.

He said the archdiocese will also provide livelihood projects and skills formation the will be "beneficial for everyone to use their God-given skills and talent." 

Father Roberto Dela Cruz, head of the Restorative Justice Ministry of the archdiocese, said the programs "will make sure that every drug reformist will not be alone on his journey."

"The church will ensure reformists are guided along the way of rehabilitation, with the help of the government and other concerned agencies," said the priest.

Father Dela Cruz said urban poor communities that have no access to health care and drug rehabilitation centers are being prioritized.

Father Tony Navarette, who started the rehabilitation initiative in the San Roque de Manila Parish on Sept. 13, said it is a "positive start" for the archdiocese to address the illegal drugs problem.

"The church failed to address the issue before. We failed to be a companion to these people, that’s why we are now trying all that we can do, given the urgency of the need," said Father Navarette.

Nardy Sabino, spokesman of the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response, expressed hope that the church’s efforts will keep drug offenders safe from vigilante groups.

At least 3140 people are thought to have been killed since the anti-drugs war kicked off on July 1.

The Philippines has about 50 public and private rehabilitation centers all over the country that can only accommodate a few hundred drug addicts.

As of Sept. 15, some 710,961 drug users and peddlers had surrendered to the police.

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