Pope Benedict led more than 250,000 followers in an open-air mass in Paris Saturday to celebrate his first visit to France. In his message to the faithful, the pope condemned the world's love of money and power, comparing it to worshipping false idols. Sabina Castelfranco has this VOA report from Paris.
Under a bright sun and clear blue skies, tens of thousands of young and old followers waved yellow and white flags and welcomed the pope on the Esplanade des Invalides.
The pope made his way through the crowd in his bulletproof pope-mobile and then celebrated a large open-air mass. The turnout was larger than expected for a country that has seen a steep decline in the number of churchgoers.
In his homily, the pope urged the faithful to shun the false idols of power and money.
"An idol is a delusion, because it turns its worshipper away from reality and places him in the kingdom of mere appearances," he said.
Pope Benedict also spoke to the faithful about the importance of attending mass and the need for priestly vocations.
The pope urged the crowd not to be afraid to give their lives to Jesus Christ. He said nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the church.
Like other secular European nations, France has been suffering from a steady decline in the number of churchgoers and priests. Recent polls indicate that while the majority of French are born into Roman Catholic families, only about 50 percent of French consider themselves Catholic - and only about a quarter of them are observant.
The pope is on a four-day visit to Paris. He was to travel on to the Catholic shrine of Lourdes in the south of the France, which this year is marking the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary.