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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

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Pope Benedict is in Brazil. And today he canonizes Brazil's first native saint. Last night, the pontiff told tens of thousands of young Catholics who packed the soccer stadium in Sao Paolo, he told them to resist ambition for wealth and power and what he called other snares of evil. The pope also urged people to promote life, quote, "from its beginning to its natural end."

From Sao Paolo, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE McCARTHY: Pope Benedict's encounter with the youth of Latin America was more like a jamboree than a mass. In the run-up to the pope's late arrival, there were performances aplenty to keep the momentum building; bands raved with Christian rock while the human wave rolled through the bleachers to the cries of Bento, Bento, Portuguese for Benedict.

(Soundbite of crowd)

McCARTHY: A priest led thousands in a boisterous chant that proclaimed church doctrine on one of the most sensitive issues of the day.

(Soundbite of crowd)

McCARTHY: Yes to life, no to abortion, intoned the crowd - estimated between 30,000 and 40,000. They paid no heed to the gathering night chill, blanketed, it seemed, in their enthusiasm for the successor of John Paul II - a successor many in this region believed should have come from Latin America, where most of the world's Catholics are concentrated. But the first sign of the PopeMobile peeking its way under a portico as it entered the stadium touched off a euphoric welcome for the German-born Benedict.

(Soundbite of crowd)

McCARTHY: The pope's first words, a blessing, the sign of the cross, which he made flanked by his cardinals dressed in black and crimson, then one of the few nods of the evening to the traditional music of the church.

(Soundbite of music)

McCARTHY: The pope, dressed in red vestments and seated on an elaborately carved throne, delivered, in Portuguese, a lengthy address that integrated scriptures with church doctrine and his own philosophy on the meaning of existence, urging his audience of young people to live a purposeful life.

Pope BENEDICT XVI: (Speaking foreign language)

McCARTHY: Don't let it pass in vain. Do not squander it, he said. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility; the builders of a new society, he said, inspired by universal moral values.

Pope BENEDICT XVI: (Speaking foreign language)

McCARTHY: But most of all, the pope said he wanted 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 one's self and others. Benedict made only 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 touched 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 cloistered in the Vatican. Seventeen-year-old Carolina Lesimo-Condish(ph), one of the thousands of invited guests last night, said that many Catholic Brazilians see the church's opposition to such things as divorce and condoms as rigid and irrelevant.

Ms. CAROLINA LESIMO-CONDISH (Brazilian): (Through translator) The times are different. Society is different, mores are different, and the youth is different. And the church is very conservative. Perhaps in certain places the church could change its attitude because the youth, especially, are always seeking something new.

McCARTHY: Benedict said last night that without its young face 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 such as evangelicals, Rome will need the youth as its own evangelists more than ever.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Sao Paolo.

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