Sunday, August 21, 2005
Pope says Beware of new age religions....
He said there was "a kind of new explosion of religion" that if pushed too far turned faith into "almost a consumer product".
The huge open-air mass was the culmination of a visit which swung between the spiritual and the political as Benedict made important progress to fulfilling his pledge to build "bridges of friendship" with other faiths.
Benedict was due to return to Rome this evening at the end of what is being seen as a highly successful visit during which he met German Jewish and Muslim leaders.
During his landmark visit to Cologne's synagogue on Friday - only the second ever by a Pope to a Jewish place of worship - he condemned the "unimaginable crime" of the Holocaust in an address to Jewish leaders.
And yesterday he urged Muslim leaders to do more to combat the "cruel fanaticism" of terrorism that aimed to poison ties between Christians and Muslims.
Shortly before his departure, the Pope had time to lament the "dramatic" shortage of new recruits to the priesthood in his homeland, and urged German bishops to do more to get new vocations.
Outlining the problems facing the Church in his homeland, he said "secularism and de-Christianization" continued to rise, while the "influence of Catholic ethics and morals were in constant decline".
But he warned them there could be "no false compromises, no watering down of Gospel" in efforts to attract young people to the Church.
Earlier today, in a 20-minute homily dominated by a staunch defence of the everyday practice of religion against securalism, the Pope warned the multinational crowd of young pilgrims that constructing their faith on a "do-it-yourself" basis would ultimately prove fruitless.
"People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a 'do-it-yourself' basis cannot ultimately help us."
Many in the huge multi-hued crowd, including Asians and Africans as well as Europeans, Latin Americans and Americans, spent the night at the site where the mass was held, a former coal mine on the outskirts of Cologne.
About 700,000 had attended a prayer vigil with Benedict the night before, but the World Youth Day organisers said the numbers had swelled to "more than one million" by today.
Though shy and retiring, and lacking the forceful personality of his predecessor John Paul II who revelled in such occasions, Benedict appears to have turned a corner in his pontificate and embellished his once rather dry appeal to young people with his first foreign trip.
The young crowd gave Benedict a noisy reception under a huge canopy of swirling flags when he arrived aboard his pope mobile, waving and blessing the crowd.
Before beginning the mass, he raised a huge cheer when he said: "I would like to have been able to go through the crowd and greet each and every one of you. That was not possible, but I greet you warmly."
At one point, the Pope cajoled them like a grandfather, gently urging them to "make the effort" to attend Sunday mass.
Benedict urged the young Catholics to keep God at the centre of their lives and underlined the importance of Sunday mass and receiving Holy Communion.
And the huge crowd seemed to appreciate the Pope's gently-delivered message, which sought to convey his own burning enthusiasm for the deeper mysteries of faith and the mass.
"He seemed a lot younger and more vibrant than we had expected," said George Pierce, 17, from the US state of Pennsylvania.