RIO DE JANEIRO -- Visiting with a group of recovering addicts in a Brazilian hospital Wednesday night, Pope Francis criticized the regional push to legalize drugs, saying society must instead tackle root causes of substance abuse such as the lack of education and justice.

Dressed in his simple white cassock and returning to this city from a daylong pilgrimage to one of Catholicism’s most revered shrines, Francis greeted doctors, nuns, nurses and patients, some waiting in wheelchairs in a driving rain.

“The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage,” the pope said, speaking in Portuguese. “A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America.”