Pope told the crowd of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse

Sydney, July 17, 2008 - Pope Benedict has used his first address at World Youth Day to warn pilgrims of the dangers of sex and violence in the media.

More than 100,000 young people packed into the World Youth Day site in Australia's largest city, Sydney, to hear the Pontiff speak.

The Pope told the crowd of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, which he said threatened to corrode the good in people.

And he asked why violence and sexual exploitation were so often portrayed on television and the internet.

"I ask myself could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation explain that these tragedies portrayed in virtual form are considered merely entertainment," he said.

The Pope was welcomed to the event by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dancers, and a group from the Pacific nation of Tokelau.

The Pontiff expressed his delight at attending a festival with young people from all over the world.

He spoke about the marvel of creation, but also warned of the threat to the earth from global warming:

"Some of you come from island nations whose very existence is threatened by rising water levels also from nations suffering the effects of devastating drought," he said.

Praise for Australian indigenous apology

Earlier, Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Australian government for its apology to the stolen generations.

In February, the prime minster, Kevin Rudd, delivered the apology over the actions of previous governments and agencies, who forcibly removed aboriginal children from their families.

Pope Benedict thanked Mr Rudd after being officially welcomed to Australia at Government House in Sydney.

"Thanks to the Australian government's courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices committed against indigenous people in the past concrete steps are now being taken to achieve reconciliation based on mutual respect," he said.

The Pope also spoke about Australia's commitment to protecting the natural environment and its peace keeping missions in the Pacific.

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