FROM A ROME CORRESPONDENT
THE POPE is being kept closely informed of the drugs problem at his own request, and some Vatican observers believe he may soon issue a major statement on the subject.
A special department of the Vatican Secretariat of State has been in operation for some time. compiling the latest information and statis tics.
Archbishop Benelli, Under Secretary of State, keeps the Pope informd of the situation at frequent intervals, say the observers.
Although the Pope has briefly alluded to drugs in recent speeches, he has not devoted an entire talk to the issue. but his intense study of the problem points to that possibility. One Vatican observer said this week: "It seems that Pope Paul has long been aware of the growing problem. Ile is thought to have spoken to President Johnson about drug use in the United States when the President called at the Vatican.
"When President Nixon visited the Pope in the Vatican. the drug problem was reportedly on the agenda.
"Last January, when Archbishop Benelli called on President Nixon at the White House, it is a certainty the two statesmen talked about drugs and
what to do about them.
-While in San Francisco on that same tour, Archbishop Benelli asked to tour the Haight-Ashbury district. a famed hippie section of the hay area, and was visibly shaken by what he saw."
Shortly after Archbishop Benelli returned to the Vatican, the special desk on documentation of the drug problem was opened in the Secretariat of State.
The Pope spoke of the problem again with Henry Cabot Lodge, special envoy of President Nixon to the Holy See, when he made his first formal visit to the Vatican in July.