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 CNS Story:

POPE-REHAB Jul-18-2008 (560 words) xxxi

At rehab center, pope calls recovering addicts 'ambassadors of hope'

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI told a group of young Australians recovering from drug and alcohol abuse that he considers them "ambassadors of hope."

Those who have struggled to overcome addiction and get their lives back on a positive track are the best ones to help others who are lost and suffering, the pope said July 18.

While thousands of young Catholics from around the world were celebrating World Youth Day in Sydney, Pope Benedict stopped to visit a rehabilitation community and support program run by the Sydney Archdiocese's social service agency.

A young man and a young woman publicly shared their stories with the pope, struggling with emotion to speak of their difficult pasts and their joy in finding the program that helps disadvantaged youths, including the homeless and refugees as well as those trying to overcome substance abuse.

The program is called Alive and the pope said the participants, like the people following Moses, had been given the stark choice of choosing life or death.

"They had to turn away from other gods and worship the true God," the pope said.

The false gods competing for people's allegiance today, he said, are associated with the worship of material things, possessive and manipulative forms of love and power.

Material possessions, true love and leadership are all positive, the pope told the young people. But greed, the thought that happiness lies in having things, sexual activity without commitments and controlling others are indications that someone has been following a false god.

"The cult of material possessions, the cult of possessive love and the cult of power often lead people to attempt to 'play God,' to try to seize total control with no regard for the wisdom of the commandments that God has made known to us," the pope said. "This is the path that leads toward death."

But, Pope Benedict said, worshipping the true God, recognizing him as the source of goodness, entrusting oneself to him, opening oneself to his healing power and obeying his commandments are the choices that lead to life.

The pope told the young people, "the choice to abuse drugs or alcohol, to engage in criminal activity or self-harm, may have seemed at the time to offer a way out of a difficult or confusing situation.

"You now know that, instead of bringing life, it brings death," he said.

"I wish to acknowledge your courage in choosing to turn back onto the path of life," Pope Benedict told the young people.

The people Jesus loved most, he said, were those who knew they had messed up and needed his help and his healing.

"Jesus welcomes you with open arms. He offers you unconditional love -- and it is in loving friendship with him that the fullness of life is to be found," the pope said.

Pope Benedict told the young people that human beings were designed by God to love, not with "fleeting, shallow relationships," but loving God and sacrificing to serve others.

"In the power of the Holy Spirit, choose life and choose love, and bear witness before the world to the joy that it brings," he said.

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Visit the Catholic News Service World Youth Day blog at http://cnswyd.wordpress.com.


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