Pope Benedict led about 800,000 in prayer on Friday at an exuberant mass in Sao Paulo where he canonized Brazil's first native-born saint.

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The pope used the occasion to denounce what he called an age of hedonism and he condemned popular culture for promoting sexual immorality and violence, which he said was attacking the dignity of human beings.

NPR's Julie McCarthy is covering the pope's visit to Brazil and has this report.

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JULIE McCARTHY: The gleaming white robes of the cardinals billowed in the cool breeze, the pungent scented incense rose from the sun-bathed altar. This was Benedict's 10th canonization mass since becoming pope. But it was the first-ever homegrown saint for Brazil and the novelty drew huge crowds to the airfield that was the site of the mass in this - the world's largest Catholic country. There was great anticipation, too, over German Pope Benedict delivering the mass in Portuguese.

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Pope BENEDICT XVI: (Speaking in Portuguese)

McCARTHY: The service combines solemnity with folksiness that at times had the ring of a political rally.

Pope BENEDICT XVI: (Speaking in Portuguese)

McCARTHY: Perhaps it's a sign that in style the Church is loosening up, but in substance, Pope Benedict made plain here this week that the Orthodox dogma of the Church that he has helped shape in the past two decades is unchanging. In upholding the dogma, he extolled Friar Galvao, the 18th-century Franciscan -now Saint Galvao - as a zealous, wise and prudent dispenser of charity and counselor to the sick and poor. A fine example to follow, the pope said.

Pope BENEDICT XVI: (Speaking in Portuguese)

McCARTHY: The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure, he said. And continued, it is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage.

But the pope picked a rough crowd to make the case against permissiveness(ph). Scantily clad is the norm here, as is premarital sex. Many people are divorced on their second marriage. The public approves of the government distributing millions of condoms to combat AIDS. And the pope's denunciation of abortion and contraception, along with the call for chastity, met with ridicule among some of the very youth who filled a soccer stadium to honor him Thursday.

This retired math teacher and mother was enthralled to be at the mass said by the pope for Brazil's new saint. But Alarish Farias(ph) said she would not be heeding the pontiff's call on matters of sexuality.

Ms. ALARISH FARIAS (Resident, Sao Paulo, Brazil): (Through translator) I have taught adolescent children in my own life but the conflict is within my own home. Because, although, I want to follow what the pope says, I, you know, I don't want my children getting AIDS. I don't want them to have an early pregnancy. So although, I agree with everything the pope says, in my own personal life, we make exceptions when there is a conflict.

McCARTHY: A conflict that looks like to widen as the head of the Roman Catholic Church prepares to push back against what he calls relativism, in order to uphold fundamental doctrines of the Church.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Sao Paulo.

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