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Pope condemns war, tribalism in Africa

March 23, 2009|Associated Press

LUANDA, ANGOLA — Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on Sunday with hundreds of thousands of Angolans and decried the "clouds of evil" over Africa that have spawned war, tribalism and ethnic rivalry that he said condemned poor people to virtual slavery.

The biggest crowd of Benedict's first pilgrimage to Africa turned up in sweltering heat for the open-air service on the outskirts of the capital, Luanda. It was the last major event of his seven-day trip, ending today.

"How true it is that war can destroy everything of value," said Benedict, wearing a pink cape and mopping his brow with a white handkerchief.

Evils in Africa have "reduced the poor to slavery and deprived future generations of the resources needed to create a more solid and just society," he said during the Mass in a tent on a huge vacant lot near a cement factory.

Angolans have been enslaved, subjugated and at war almost nonstop since Portuguese colonizers brought the first Catholic missionaries in 1491. Many of the slaves taken to Brazil came from Angola.

The Roman Catholic Church was an ally of the colonizers who discriminated against the Angolan people until independence from Portugal in 1975, when civil war erupted, in part fueled by the country's oil and diamond wealth.

About 1.5 million died before the war ended in 2002, but its scars are still evident among the many people who lost limbs in one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Before Mass, Benedict offered his condolences to the families of two 20-year-old women trampled to death in a stampede at a Luanda stadium before a youth event he addressed Saturday.

He also wished a speedy recovery to 40 people injured in the crush. Dozens of others collapsed from heat exhaustion. The Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will visit the injured in the hospital, said a Vatican spokesman.

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