Pope hits out at consumer culture during Australia trip

Future generations are likely to inherit a planet whose resources have been scarred and squandered to fuel an insatiable consumer culture, the Pope warned yesterday.

Benedict XVI's latest appeal to save the planet came in an address to more than 150,000 young people during his visit to Australia. "Reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our Earth – erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption," he told a cheering crowd at World Youth Day in Sydney.

The 81-year-old Pontiff appeared in good form as he began the official part of his trip after three days of rest. Standing on the outdoor deck of a ferry as other boats blew their horns, he rode across Sydney harbour to the site of his address in the suburb of Barangaroo.

He told the young Roman Catholics, some of whom had come from island nations threatened by rising sea levels or drought-hit nations, that protecting the environment was "of vital importance to humanity". Welcoming the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to the gathering, the Pope said: "It is appropriate to reflect upon the kind of world we are handing on to future generations."

He also praised Australia for apologising for past injustices to Aborigines, saying it was a courageous move to repair race relations. Benedict thanked Aborigines for a traditional welcoming ceremony and acknowledged them as the first people of Australia. "I am deeply moved to stand on your land, knowing the suffering and injustices it has borne, but aware too of the healing and hope that are now at work," he said.

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