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Pope Makes Appeal to Brazil's Youth

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Pope Makes Appeal to Brazil's Youth


Pope Makes Appeal to Brazil's Youth

Pope Makes Appeal to Brazil's Youth

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Brazil is about to get its first native-born saint. Pope Benedict XVI will canonize 18th-century Franciscan monk Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao at an open-air Mass.

It's the third day of the pontiff's five-day visit to Brazil.

Thursday night, he told tens of thousands of young Catholics who packed a soccer stadium in Sao Paulo to resist ambition for wealth and power and what he called other "snares of evil."

The issue of abortion has been a consistent theme in this papal visit, and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church urged young people to promote life from "its beginning to natural end."

He spoke after a series of performances featuring Christian rock music had pumped up the crowd, which roared with cries of "Bento, Bento, Bento" — Portuguese for Benedict.

As they awaited the pope's late arrival, a priest led thousands in a boisterous chant that proclaimed church doctrine on the one of the most sensitive issues of the day: "Yes to Life ... No to Abortion," intoned members of a crowd estimated at 30,000 to 40,000 people.

The young people paid no heed to the gathering night chill. They seemed blanketed in their enthusiasm for the German successor to the Polish Pope John Paul II — even though many in this region believe John Paul's successor should have come from Latin America, where most of the world's Catholic are concentrated.

But the first sign of the Popemobile as it entered the stadium touched off a euphoric welcome for Benedict.

Over the screams of the crowd, the pope blessed the stadium with words in Portuguese, flanked by cardinals dressed in black and crimson.

Then came one of the few nods of the evening to the traditional music of the church, a bit of Gregorian chant that drew a crowd response.

The pope, dressed in red vestments and seated on an elaborated carved throne, delivered in Portuguese a lengthy address that integrated scriptures with church doctrine,and his own philosophy on the meaning life.

He urged his audience of young people to live a purposeful life.

"Do not let it pass in vain; do not squander it," he said in Portuguese. "Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all with a sense of responsibility."

He told them to be builders of a new society inspired by universal moral values.

But most of all, the pope said, he wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, not allowing themselves to be swept away by hatred or violence.

Remember, he said, excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others.

His warnings against the "proliferation of drugs, violence, and corruption" were expected to sound across the continent.

His condemnation of "the devastation of the Amazon" was especially important to Brazil, where Catholic activists have been working with the landless — at times in ways that put them at odds with the Vatican.

Benedict made only a passing reference to abortion, and made no mention of the church's battle with Brazil over the government's free distribution of condoms to combat AIDS. But the pope did touch on sexual themes with a call for fidelity between spouses and chastity "both within and outside marriage."

For many in Latin America, the 80-year-old Benedict is an enigma, with a reputation as a conservative theologian who has been cloistered in the Vatican.

Carolina Lessi Morcondes, 17, was one of the thousands of invited guests at last night's event. She said that many Catholic Brazilians see the church's opposition to such things as divorce and condoms as too rigid and irrelevant.

"The times are different, society is different, mores are different and the youth is different," she said in Portuguese. "The church is very conservative. Perhaps in certain places the church could change its attitude — because the youth especially are always seeking something new."

Benedict said Thursday night that without its young faces, the church would appear "disfigured."

And he made plain that in the battle to stem the defections of Catholics from the church to other faiths, Rome will need the youth as it own evangelists more than ever.