"Pope Benedict XVI Saturday urged Catholics to respond to Christ's call in an open-air mass attended by some 260,000 people to celebrate his first visit to France, before leaving on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
In brilliant morning sunshine, the leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics arrived by "popemobile" at Paris' historic Invalides complex south of the Seine, where 60,000 youths camped out overnight after a candlelit riverside procession.
The 81-year-old pontiff took place at the dais, planted with 12 olive trees as a peace symbol, beside 50 cardinals and bishops and 900 white-robed priests and before a row of French government members including Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
Tens of thousands of people, many of them families with young children, flocked to the square and surrounding streets, cheering and waving flags.
Beamed onto half a dozen giant video screens, the pope appealed in his homily to young people considering a religious vocation, urging them: "Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ!... Dear young and not so young who are listening to me, do not leave Christ's call unanswered."
Benedict gave communion to some 40 people, who kneeled to receive the Catholic sacrament from the pope, as dozens of priests fanned out across the square to officiate for the pilgrims.
The pope, whose visit comes as France faces a freefall in the number of churchgoers despite its deep Christian roots, has received a triumphant welcome with 40,000 people joining a nighttime procession Friday from Notre Dame cathedral to the Invalides."
"Pope Benedict XVI condemned unbridled "pagan" passion for power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague on Saturday, as he led more than a quarter million Catholics at an outdoor Mass in Paris.
Benedict was making his first visit as pontiff to the French capital, renowned for its luxury goods, fashion sense and cultural riches.
"Has not our modern world created its own idols?" Benedict said in his homily, and wondered aloud whether people have "imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity?"
"This is a question that all people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but ask," the pontiff said.
The 260,000 or so people who gathered on the lawns of the Esplanade des Invalides displayed a joyful outpouring of faith for this traditionally Roman Catholic country, which has witnessed a sharp decline in churchgoing in recent years.
Benedict has continued with a campaign started by his predecessor, John Paul II, who worried that the ever-more affluent West was turning consumerism into a kind of religion and ignoring its Christian roots of spiritual values.
Paraphrasing from the New Testament, Benedict decried "insatiable greed" and said "the love of money is the root of all evil."
"Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?" the pope asked.
In his homily, Benedict blasted modern society's thirst for these new "pagan" idols as a "scandal, a real plague."
The pope urged the faithful to "shun the worship of idols. Do not tire of doing good!'"
Listeners welcomed his words.
"It was a vivid call to order about what is essential in life," said Herve Tarcier, a 49-year-old engineer who volunteered at the Mass. "This was exactly the message our society needs.""