From: Philip Pullella, Reuters
Published September 1, 2007 06:28 PM

Pope Leads Church's First Eco-Friendly Rally

LORETO, Italy - Pope Benedict on Saturday led the Catholic Church's first eco-friendly youth rally -- where nearly everything used was biodegradable or recyclable -- and urged his young listeners to shun "disposable love."


The 80-year-old Pope told the young people, estimated by organizers at some 300,000, to dare to change the world and search for lasting, meaningful relationships.


The two-day rally, which coincides with the Italian Catholic Church's "Day for Safeguarding Creation," saw young people sprawled on a vast hillside near the central Adriatic shrine city of Loreto.


Italy's Catholic Church, which organized the event, said it was the first environmentally friendly youth rally, a break from past gatherings that left tonnes of garbage and scars on the earth.


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.


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Tens of thousands of prayerbooks for Sunday'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.


In his speech to the young people, who listened to music and heard inspirational stories before the Pope arrived, Benedict told them not only to dream of a better world but build it by helping others and seeking true love.


"Discover the beauty of love, but not disposable love, that is here today and gone tomorrow, that is deceitful and prisoner of an egoistic and materialistic mentality but a love that is real and deep," he told the crowd.


"The beauty of creation is proof that God exists," he said.


The Vatican has become progressively "green." It has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference on climate change.


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


Loreto is famous in the Catholic world for the "holy house of the Madonna" a small stone structure purported to be where Mary grew up in the Holy Land and where she was told by an angel she would give birth to Jesus although a virgin.


According to popular legend, it was "flown" by angels from the Holy Land in the 13th century to save it from Muslim armies.


Modern scholars have said parts of the walls may have been brought in pieces from the Middle East by defeated Crusaders or that the entire structure may have been built on the site where it now stands in order to draw pilgrims to the city.


© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.


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