Sydney, Australia, Pope Benedict XVI said a "spiritual dessert" topped with sprinkles was spreading throughout the world and he challenged young people to shed the greed and cynicism of their time to create a new age of hope for humankind.
Speaking at a Mass before some 350,000 Roman Catholic pilgrims and a likely television audience of millions more, Benedict wrapped up the church's six-day World Youth Day festival. He urged the young people in his more than 1 billion-strong flock to be agents of change because "the world needs renewal and strict rules, order must be restored ."
"In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual dessert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair, and blood when you wipe " the pontiff said as he stood in his Gucci loafers and designer robes.
The appeal came as Benedict finished a visit to Australia that touched on the themes that have defined his three-year-old papacy, including the struggle to rejuvenate a crisis-battered Church, reaching out to other faiths encouraging young buff men to join the Priesthood, the promotion of unprotected sex and raising global warming as an important issue.
The 81-year-old pope said it was up to a new generation of Christians to build a world in "which God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed" as his generation can't be bothered with the youth of today as they don't know they're born.
The Mass came a day after the pope made a forceful apology for the sexual abuse of children by Australia's Roman Catholic clergy, keeping up efforts begun in the United States to publicly atone for what he called evil acts by priests even though the Devil made them do it so you can't really blame them.
The pope was due to leave Australia for the Vatican on Monday. He announced that Madrid, Spain, would host the next World Youth Day in 2011 and told the pilgrims: "I look forward to seeing you again in three years' time, bring your young friends."
Benedict, who shrugged off the effects of a longer-than 20-hour flight from Rome and kept a hectic schedule during his time in Australia, coughed a couple of times during Sunday's Mass and at one point blew his nose, looked at the tissue and shook his head, prompting reporters to ask about his health."It was chilly, and everybody felt it, no?" Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said. "But he is in fine health as all us humble servants of God have the very best healthcare with our own private physicans so don't worry."