Pope decries pop culture as he gives Brazil a saint

Published May 12, 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Pope Benedict XVI castigated popular culture for promoting sexual immorality Friday as he canonized Brazil's first native-born saint before hundreds of thousands of faithful and a sea of flags in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation.

Holding up Friar Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao as a model of rectitude and humility "in an age so full of hedonism, " Benedict said the world needs clear souls and pure minds, adding: "It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage."

Benedict didn't elaborate, but his message for Brazilian Catholics reflected his uneasiness with the impact of popular culture on young people.

Earlier this year, Benedict declared that "any trend to produce programs and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray antisocial behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion."

Brazilian news media said the crowd reached about 1-million although there were large empty spaces on the airfield in South America's largest city.

Galvao's canonization continues a push for saints in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world that began under John Paul II, who sought role models as part of the church's worldwide reach. John Paul canonized more saints than all of his predecessors combined.

"Do you realize how big this is?" asked Herminia Fernandes, who joined the multitude at the airfield for the open-air Mass. "It's huge, this pope is visiting Brazil for the first time and at the same time he is giving us a saint. It's a blessing."

Benedict's trip has so far focused on reinforcing church doctrine on abortion, sexual morality and euthanasia. At a rally Thursday night, he instructed young Catholics to avoid premarital sex, remain faithful once they are married and to promote life from "its beginning to natural end."

He also warned against drug use, violence, corruption and the lures of wealth and power.

The pope headed Friday evening to the shrine city of Aparecida, about 100 miles from Sao Paulo, where he will visit a drug treatment center Saturday and open a conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops on Sunday.

A new saint

Friar Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao

Galvao, who died in 1822, was a Franciscan monk credited by the church with 5, 000 miracle cures. Galvao began a tradition among Brazilian Catholics of handing out tiny rice-paper pills, inscribed with a Latin prayer, to people seeking cures for everything from cancer to kidney stones. Galvao is the first native-born saint from Brazil, home to more than 120-million of the planet's 1.1-billion Catholics, and the 10th to be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.