BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The president of the Argentine bishops’ conference expressed sorrow and called for action on addiction after the consumption of contaminated cocaine claimed at least 23 lives and hospitalized dozens more in the low-income suburbs of Buenos Aires.

Bishop Óscar Ojea of San Isidro, conference president, tweeted Feb. 2, “I am deeply moved by the death of young people and adults due to the consumption of adulterated drugs. We pray to God for each one of them, especially for their families and for the entire community that suffers. We also pray for those who are hospitalized in serious condition.”

He later tweeted Feb. 3, “(Illegal drug consumption) has to do with the most profound problems of our society: lack of life and labor options, deep family crises, the enormous deficit of our education system, deep loneliness and the need for affection.”

Ojea concluded, “These are the issues that must be addressed by a ‘better policy’ as Pope Francis proposes in ‘Fratelli Tutti.'”

Officials in Argentina say cocaine sold in Buenos Aires province had been cut with a synthetic opioid; victims responded favorably to an antidote. But Sergio Berni, provincial security minister, said officials were unable to identify the exact substance. He urged anyone who had purchased cocaine to discard it immediately.

Some of the victims have been put on ventilators in hospitals serving regions of Buenos Aires province.

Local media reported Joaquín Aquino, known as “El Paisa,” the accused leader of a drug-dealing gang, was detained.

Priests working in the shanties of Buenos Aires operate drug rehab centers and have spoken out strongly against the decriminalization of marijuana.

In a Feb. 3 statement, the addictions pastoral in the Diocese of Lomas de Zamora noted, “The resources for the prevention and (treatment) of addictions are historically small.” It called for a “joining of forces” between government and groups working with drug addiction “to address it with the necessary seriousness and efficiency.”