Pope warns young off drug traffickers, wants change in Cuba

Pope warns young off drug traffickers, wants change in Cuba Aboard The Papal Plane: Pope Benedict XVI urged Mexican youths on Friday to reject lies told by drug traffickers to entice them to join cartels as he set off on his first trip to Spanish-speaking Latin America.

"We must do everything possible to fight this evil which destroys our young. We must unmask this evil, these false promises and lies," Benedict told reporters on the plane taking him to Mexico for the first leg of his trip.

"Our duty, our great responsibility, is to educate consciences, to teach our young moral responsibility" and turn them away from "the worship of money which enslaves men," he said.

"I share Mexicans' joy and hope but also their anguish and grief," he said.

The war on drug trafficking in Mexico has killed 50,000 people in five years, and the pope warned that young people in particular are prey to the cartels, some of whom claim to be Catholic but who are terrorising northern areas.

Benedict, who turns 85 next month, will visit Silao, Leon and Guanajuato in Mexico from today through Monday before heading to Cuba for two days.

He will attempt to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II, who was credited with strengthening the Church's relationship to the state and playing a role in Cuba's shift towards democracy.

During today's flight, Benedict said that Marxism "no longer corresponds to reality" and called for "new models" in Cuba amid signs that the communist regime is opening up to the world.

The Catholic community in Cuba -- which makes up around 10 per cent of the population -- is willing "to help create a constructive dialogue to avoid traumas," he said.