Pope John Paul II, steering clear of Madagascar's political problems, delivered a stern lecture to the youth of the Indian Ocean island Saturday, telling them to avoid "caricatures of love."
"A hearth cannot be fed by the fire of pleasure, which burns quickly like a bunch of dry grass," the pope told 20,000 Roman Catholics gathered in Alarobia stadium."Passing encounters are only caricatures of love that wound hearts and foil the plan of God," John Paul said in French. "In the depth of your being, listen to your conscience that invites you to be pure. It is a serious matter to undertake marriage - it is the foundation of a strong building."
"Respect your body. Do not risk, through lack of thought, illness or accident. Do not let yourself go with the satisfactions, that have no tomorrow, of alcohol and drugs. They will reduce you to slavery," the pope said to tumultuous applause.
The Polish-born pope avoided discussing the delicate political situation on the island off Africa, where five people were killed in anti-government riots just over a week ago.
But one of the youths had sent a written question to the pope before the meeting referring to the country being "in a situation of critical degradation."
John Paul replied "Let us say clearly that it is not my task to analyze all the aspects, nor to propose solutions. Above all it is you, the Malagasy, who should act."
"My proposal is to exhort you to reflect on the meaning of development and the means of achieving it. The development of a country involves the responsibility of all, both the leaders and citizens," he said.
Last week Madagascar was rocked by its worst rioting in seven years when opposition groups accused socialist President Didier Ratsiraka of electoral fraud in a March 12 vote that gave him a third seven-year term. Five people were killed and 74 injured in the weeklong riots.
But opposition groups pledged there will be no political demonstrations during the pope's three-day visit to the former French colony, which won independence in 1960, and the island was calm Saturday.
Vatican-watchers said it would be interesting to see whether John Paul during his visit makes any reference to a toughly worded report the Roman Catholic bishops of Madagascar issued in February in anticipation of the papal visit.
The document committed the church to fighting local corruption and called for a return to conduct "conforming to ancient wisdom and above all to God."