Pope to kids: beware of love as shown on Internet

Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI cautioned young people Saturday about the presentation of love on the Internet, saying they risk losing respect by pursuing affection being pitched like "merchandise."

"Much love is proposed by the media and Internet, but this isn't love but selfishness," Benedict told some 100,000 Catholic children from throughout Italy.

Catholics sexually abused by clergy as children planned to hold a rally on Sunday. Organizers said earlier in the week that the Vatican refused to allow them to gather in St. Peter's Square, so they will hold it a few hundred yards (meters) away in Rome.

At Saturday's appearance, the pope spoke about the special role educators have for children. But he made no reference to the scandals worldwide that have rocked the Catholic church: priests who systematically abused children in their care, and pastors and bishops who repeatedly tried to cover up the sexual abuse.

Benedict encouraged youths in the square to keep their standards high when searching for love.

"You cannot and should not get used to love that's reduced to merchandise for barter, to consume without respect for oneself and for others, incapable of chastity and purity," the pope said. "This isn't freedom."

Such love provides "the emotion of a moment but won't make you happy, won't make you grow up," he added.

The pope told the children that being among them "rejuvenated" him, and he reminisced a bit about his own childhood. He recalled how when he was a boy he wanted to not only to grow taller in stature but also do something "big" with his life when he grew up.