Dangjin (South Korea) : Pope Francis on Friday warned of a “cancer” of despair in materially obsessed, outwardly affluent societies and urged South Korean Catholics to reject “inhumane economic models” in a stark message to wealthier Asian nations, reports AFP.

In an apparent reference to South Korea’s high suicide rate he also warned 45,000 people at a mass in a World Cup stadium in Daejeon of the “culture of death” that can pervade countries where the quest for rapid growth marginalises the poor and vulnerable.

The message, delivered on the first papal visit to the region in 15 years, was designed to resonate not just with South Koreans, but in other dynamic Asian economies where many are beginning to question the social consequences of rapid growth and rampant consumerism.

“It is almost as though a spiritual desert is beginning to spread through our world. It affects the young too, robbing them of hope and even, in all too many cases, of life itself,” he said. And he returned to the theme later in the day in an address to a gathering of 10,000 young Asian Catholics in Dangjin, when he spoke of the “idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure” and its unacceptably high human cost.

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