Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pope urges Australian youths to spurn materialism

Pope urges Australian youths to spurn materialism

By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press Writer
Sun Jul 20, 7:29 AM ET

Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday a "spiritual desert" 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."

"In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair," the pontiff said.
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 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."

They must embrace the power of God "to let it break through the curse of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age," he said.

The aim was "a new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deadens our souls and poisons our relationships," he said.

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.

The Mass was delivered at a horse racetrack filled with pilgrims who had camped out overnight.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said 350,000 attended Sunday's Mass. Australian organizers surmised a global television audience of up to 500 million during big World Youth Day events.

The pope flew over the scene early Sunday in a helicopter — dubbed "the holy-copter" by bleary-eyed pilgrims below — to see the assemblage swarmed all over the track in a jumble of sleeping bags, backpacks and other personal items.

He later took a slow drive through the crowd, stopping once to plant a kiss on the forehead of a toddler held up to the popemobile's window. Pilgrims from more than 160 countries gave him a rock-star welcome, waving the flags of their nations, cheering and chanting: "Benedicto! Benedicto!" — the pope's Italian name.

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."

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, prompting reporters to ask about his health.

"It was chilly, and everybody felt it, no?" Lombardi said. "But he is in fine health."
Associated Press Writer Victor L. Simpson in Sydney contributed to this report.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mandela's B-Day message: Rich should help poor

Mandela's B-Day message: Rich should help poor

By CELEAN JACOBSON, Associated Press Writer

Nelson Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday Friday by urging the wealthy to share their prosperity with the less fortunate and by saying he wished he had been able to spend more time with his family during the anti-apartheid struggle.

In an interview at his home in rural southeastern South Africa, the anti-apartheid icon was asked if he had a message for the world.

"There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate who have not been able to conquer poverty," Mandela said.

Accompanied by his wife, Graca Machel, a smiling Mandela walked into his private lounge in the large home he built in Qunu, before sitting in his favorite yellow armchair and addressing a small gathering of reporters from The Associated Press and other outlets for about 15 minutes. It was his first such exchange with journalists in years.

Mandela, sounding and looking vigorous, said he was fortunate to have reached 90, but in the countryside and in the towns "poverty has gripped our people.

"If you are poor, you are not likely to live long," he said. He credited his "behavior" for his own longevity.

At one point, a granddaughter brought in a bowl of flowers and gave Mandela a birthday kiss. He was asked if he wished he had had more time with his family during a life spent fighting apartheid and then leading South Africa as its first black president.

"I am sure for many people that is their wish," he said. "I also have that wish that I spent more time (with my family). But I don't regret it."

Mandela was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid.

He was released in 1990 to lead negotiations that ended decades of racist white rule. He was elected president in South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. After serving one five-year term, he devoted himself to campaigning against poverty, illiteracy and AIDS in Africa. But he has been slowed by age in recent years, cutting back on public appearances and spending more time with his family. He often spends holidays and his birthdays in Qunu.

Wearing one of his signature patterned shirts, this one in shades of green, gold and black, he glanced pensively out a window at the start of the interview.

"This is my property. When I am here, I feel I own something," he said of the rural area 600 miles south of Johannesburg where he spent his youth. In his autobiography, he describes herding cattle in the hills around Qunu as a boy.

Soon after the interview, a group of seven or eight grandchildren crowded around Mandela's chair, sang "Happy Birthday" and kissed him. His legs were propped up on a large stool and covered with a pale yellow blanket. A pile of newspapers sat next to his chair.

The room was full of birthday presents from all over the world — a portrait, a bust, a collection of photography books — all featuring him — from well-known artists.

While Mandela was celebrating quietly in Qunu, events were taking place across the country in his honor.

Two runners holding South African flags circled Robben Island, where Mandela spent most of his 27 years in jail. At nearby Drakenstein prison, known as Victor Verster when Mandela was held their briefly at the end of his term, a prisoners' choir and a band performed for a live broadcast on state television, and prisoners who had created portraits of Mandela handed them over to Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour, who was to pass them on to Mandela.

"We are saying Mr. Mandela is 90 today; he gave a lot back to the country; he united us," said a prisons' spokesman, Mark Solomons.

In Johannesburg, children celebrated with birthday cake at the offices of the foundation Mandela founded after stepping down as president in 1999, and his African National Congress unfurled giant banners featuring his image at its downtown headquarters.

Qunu, meanwhile, had spruced up for the day.

On Thursday, gardeners mowed the lawn leading up to the museum honoring Mandela, a crew added a new layer of tarmac to the road outside his house, and a school choir rehearsed a song it created especially for him.

Mandela helped raise funds so the school could build new classrooms and move out of a dilapidated mud structure.

"He has done a lot for us, specially for the school," said its principal, Mpondomise Ndzambo. "He suffered a lot trying to get this South Africa to be free and fair. I think he is a great man."

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2008 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved