BY JOHN HINTON
POPE BENEDICT XVI has used the opportunity of the Catholic Church's first ecofriendly youth rally — where nearly everything used was recyclable — to urge his audience to shun "disposable love".
The 80-year-old Pope told the massed gathering of young people, estimated by organisers at some 300,000, to dare to change the world and search for lasting, meaningful relationships.
The two-day rally, which coincided with the Italian Catholic Church's "Day for Safeguarding Citation" was a new step in the Vatican's vigorous environmental campaign and saw young people sprawled on a vast hillside near the central Adriatic shrine city of Loreto.
It was designed as a precursor to next year's World Youth Day in Sydney. Australia.
A spokesman for Italy's Catholic Church. which organised the event, said it was the first "environmentally friendly" youth rally a break from past gatherings that had left behind tonnes of garbage and scarred the ground.
"The message about caring for the environment will be entrusted not just with words but with the young people's gestures and the things they use," he added.
Everything was planned down to the last detail. The participants' special kit for the gathering included backpacks made of recyclable material, a flashlight operated by a crank instead of batteries and colour-coded trash bags so their personal litter could be easily recycle& Meals were even served on biodegradable plates which, it was calculated, would save eight tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Tens of thousands of prayer books for Sunday's mass were printed on recycled paper and an adequate number of trees will be planted to compensate for the carbon produced at the rally.
In his speech to the young people, who listened to music and heard inspirational stories before he arrived, Pope Benedict told them not only to dream of a better world but to 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.
Rapidly going green. the Vatican has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to convert sunlight into ekctricity, joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its carbon emissions 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.
He has bemoaned the destruction caused by the recent forest fires in Greece and Italy saying the blazes destroyed "humanity's precious environmental patrimony".
His predecessor. Pope John Paul II frequently spoke out about the need to care for God's creation. Loreto was dear to the former pontiff and was the site of his final pilgrimage in September 2004.
The cityisfamousin 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.
Modem 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.