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Vatican Halts Heroin Safe House

October 29, 1999

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ The Vatican has rejected plans for a safe house where heroin addicts could inject themselves, drawing criticism Friday from one of its own priests.

The Sisters of Charity, an order of Roman Catholic nuns, were to have set up the safe house in Kings Cross, a Sydney suburb notorious for drug use and prostitution.

The so-called ``shooting gallery″ was intended to provide addicts with a safe environment and clean needles while keeping them off the city’s streets and attempting to wean them off drugs. It had the blessing of the New South Wales state government and police.

But the Vatican reportedly feared the nuns’ involvement would be seen as the condoning of drug use by the Catholic church. Sydney Catholic Archbishop Edward Clancy notified the Sisters of Charity of Australia on Thursday that the Kings Cross proposal was unacceptable.

A prominent Australian Jesuit said the Vatican’s decision will mean increased deaths among intravenous drug users.

Addicts ``are injecting themselves in church toilets and school grounds in unhygienic conditions,″ Father Peter Norden, director of Jesuit Social Services in Melbourne, said Friday.

``Our drug treatment programs in Melbourne are all directed towards moving addicted persons towards rehabilitation and a drug-free lifestyle,″ he said. ``Catholic Church agencies are clearly not intending to give the message that drug addiction can be tolerated.″

The nuns have said they will abide by the Vatican’s order. State authorities, meanwhile, have pledged to go ahead with plans for the shooting gallery. They are looking for other community groups to help run it.

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