Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that boys and girls at ever younger ages are in danger of being deceived by adults hawking false models of happiness and leading them down "the dead-end streets of consumerism."

Benedict appealed to young people to be on guard about consumerism just as the Christmas holiday shopping season gears up.

Dec. 8, which the Catholic Church celebrates as the Immaculate Conception of Mary, is a national holiday in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy. Many tourists and Romans were expected to take a break from shopping later in the day to watch the pope pray before a statue of Mary near the Spanish Steps, in the heart of Rome's expensive boutique district.

"I think about today's young people, raised in an environment saturated with messages proposing false models of happiness," Benedict told pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter's Square for his noon blessing on the holiday.

"These boys and girls risk losing hope," he said, because they don't go after the true meaningful things in life.

The pontiff said that "adolescents, youths and even children are easy victims of the corruption of love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism."

Even human bodies become objects, "and this (happens) ever earlier, already in preadolescence," the pope lamented, in apparent reference to early fascination with fashion and physical self-image. "How sad it is when young people lose the marvel, the enchantment, of the most beautiful feelings, the value of respect for one's body," Benedict said.

His predecessor, John Paul II, voiced repeated concern about the lure of consumerism in society.