Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press
MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI warned Thursday at the start of a visit to crisis-hit Spain that Europe won't be able to emerge from its economic woes unless it realizes that economic policy cannot be guided by a profit-driven mentality alone.
He said the continent must take into account ethical considerations that look out for the common good.
Benedict made the comments as he traveled to Spain's capital for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day, the Catholic festival held once very three years that is expected to draw 1 million young people from 193 countries for a week of bonding, praying and partying in Madrid's streets — normally deserted in August.
Hundreds of thousands of them lined Madrid's main boulevards to welcome the pontiff as he arrived for a four-day visit, a day after a protest against his trip turned violent. The screaming, sun-baked fans threw confetti on his car as he entered Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles for his official welcome ceremony Thursday night.
Benedict urged the crowd flying flags from around the world to root their lives in Christ and resist the temptation to follow secular trends, such as euthanasia and abortion, saying they lead to nothing since they don't lead to God.
"Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves," he warned. "They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences."
He drew laughter and cheers when he briefly donned a straw sombrero presented to him by a young man, then a flower lei by a woman.
As he arrived, Benedict reached out to all young people, saying he understood the desperation many felt because of today's economic uncertainties.
"The economy doesn't function with market self-regulation, but needs an ethical rationale to work for mankind," he told reporters traveling aboard the papal plane. "Man must be at the center of the economy, and the economy cannot be measured only by maximization of profit but rather according to the common good."
Benedict explored the theme more fully in his 2009 encyclical "Charity in Truth," in which he called for a new world financial order guided by ethics, dignity and the search for the common good. While he hasn't given many specific prescriptions since, his banker — Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, head of the Vatican bank — has been penning proposals to fix Europe's debt mess in the Vatican newspaper on a regular basis.
On Thursday, Benedict's call was welcomed by Spaniards, who have seen their economy sputter while the government battles its debt woes. Young Spaniards in particular are growing increasingly frustrated at their grim work prospects amid Spain's nearly 21 percent unemployment rate, a eurozone high.
"It's good to see the pope addressing these issues and giving us Spaniards some direction as to where to go to get out of this crisis, which worries so many young Spaniards," 27-year-old schoolteacher Fernando Sanchez said.
"It's not a realistic message, it's an idealistic one," he said. "But sometimes ideals can become reality. He sets high goals and then we have to see how to achieve them."
This is Benedict's third trip to Spain as pope, cementing its reputation as ground zero in his campaign to reinvigorate the faith in places where Catholicism has fallen by the wayside. Laws passed under Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero allowing gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier abortions have deeply angered the Vatican, which sees the once staunchly Roman Catholic country as a battleground for the future of the faithful in Europe.
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