In a formal address in Sydney, Australia, to tens of thousands of young Roman Catholics, pope Benedict XVI (photo, from news.sky.com) attacked popular culture and consumerism. He also warned that natural resources were being squandered.
The pontiff, 81, is visiting the city for World Youth Day, a six-day gathering of young Catholics from across the globe. Security is tight for the visit.
Also expected to apologise for decades of sexual abuse of children by priests, the pope earlier met top leaders and praised the Australian government for apoligising to the country’s indigenous people, for past injustices.
A “courageous decision” is what he called the apology, saying it had offered hope to other disadvantaged people around the world.
The Pope travelled by boat across Sydney Harbour to the site of his address in the suburb of Barangaroo.
“Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises”, he told the crowd.
He added that there were numerous signs that something was amiss in modern society. He hit out at television and the internet for promoting sex and violence as entertainment, and highlighted drug and alcohol abuse as examples of modern woes.
“I ask myself, could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation explain that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely entertainment?” he said.
Then the pope called for greater protection of the environment for future generations.
He spoke of “scars which mark the surface of our earth – erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption”.
Later on Thursday, the pope will travel by car through the streets of Sydney.
He will stay in Australia until Sunday, when he will preside over an open-air Mass at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse in front of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
Rows over alleged cover-ups of abuse overshadowed the run-up to his visit, his ninth outside Italy.
Early on Thursday, while speaking to local radio, Kevin Rudd, Australia’s prime minister, said that enormous damage had been caused to victims and their families by abuse by the clergy. Then he called on the Church to respond to each individual case.