Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Pope urges action to save the planet before it's too late

ECO-FRIENDLY Benedict XVI preached at a rally where prayer books were printed on recycled paper and meals served on biodegradable plates

AGENCIES , LORETO, ITALY

Pope Benedict, leading the Catholic Church's first `eco-friendly' youth rally, yesterday told up to half a million people that world leaders must make courageous decisions to save the planet "before it is too late."

"A decisive `yes' is needed in decisions to safeguard creation as well as a strong commitment to reverse tendencies that risk leading to irreversible situations of degradation," the 80-year old pope said in his homily.

Intentionally wearing green vestments, he spoke to a vast crowd of mostly young people sprawled over a massive hillside near the Adriatic city of Loreto on the day Italy's Catholic Church marks it annual Save Creation Day.

More than 300,000 of them had slept on blankets and in tents or prayed during the night. Organizers said they were joined by some 200,000 more people who arrived from throughout Italy yesterday morning.

delicate equilibriums

"New generations will be entrusted with the future of the planet, which bears clear signs of a type of development that has not always protected nature's delicate equilibriums," the pope said, speaking to the crowd from a massive white stage.

Making one of his strongest environmental appeals to date Benedict said: "Courageous choices that can re-create a strong alliance between man and earth must be made before it is too late."

The two-day rally was a break from past gatherings that left tonnes of garbage.

A participants' kit included backpacks made of recyclable material, a flashlight operated by a crank instead of batteries, and color-coded trash bags so their personal garbage could be easily recycled. Meals were served on biodegradable plates.

prayer books

Tens of thousands of prayer books for yesterday's mass were printed on recycled paper and an adequate number of trees would be planted to compensate for the carbon produced at the event, many in areas of southern Italy devastated by recent brushfires.

Under Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, the Vatican has become progressively "green." It has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference to discuss the ramifications of global warming and climate change.

Last month Benedict said the human race must listen to "the voice of the Earth" or risk destroying its very existence.

At yesterday's mass the pope urged the congregation to eschew pride and consumerism and take care of the environment.

"Go against the current, don't listen to the numerous voices advocating lifestyles based on arrogance, violence, success at all costs and outward appearances and the possession of material things," he said.

The pontiff called on young believers to adopt a "lifestyle that is sober and interdependent, with relations that are sincere and pure and with an interest in the common good."

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