VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI waded deep into U.S. campaign politics Friday, urging visiting U.S. bishops to beef up their teaching about the evils of premarital sex and cohabitation, and denouncing what he called the “powerful” gay marriage lobby in America.

As debate over health care coverage for birth control rages in the United States, Benedict said there was an urgent need for Catholics in America to discover the value of chastity — an essential element of Christian teaching that he said had been subject to unjust “ridicule.”

Benedict has long championed traditional marriage between man and woman, as well as opposition to premarital sex and fidelity within marriage. But his strong comments to visiting U.S. bishops took on particular significance given the culture wars that have erupted in the U.S. this campaign season.

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