Pope Benedict, addressing the biggest crowd of his trip, on Sunday challenged Africans to cast aside the “clouds of evil” of wars, corruption and tribal strife and forge a new path to peace and prosperity.
Reuters reports that on his last full day in Africa he said a Mass for a crowd estimated by police and organisers at some one million people. At its start, he prayed for two women killed in a stadium stampede at one of his events.
“I express my solidarity to their families and friends and my deep pain because this happened while they were coming to see me,” he told the crowd gathered on a sprawling dusty area near the city’s cement factory.
Two women in their early 20s were killed in a stampede to enter the stadium in central Luanda several hours before the pope presided at a youth rally on Saturday. The Vatican said it had been told that up to 40 people were injured.
In his last major message, read from a massive platform covered by a huge canopy to shelter him from the sun, the pope drove home a message he has been sounding for a week — that Africa had to shed its systemic ills.
He said the continent had too often seen “the destructive power of civil strife, the descent into a maelstrom of hatred and revenge, the squandering of the efforts of generations of good people”.
Africa is currently scarred by several conflicts, including those in Congo, Darfur and Somalia.
“Tragically, the clouds of evil have also overshadowed Africa, including this beloved nation of Angola,” he said of the country which ended its own 27-year civil war in 2002.
We think of the evil of war, the murderous fruits of tribalism and ethnic rivalry, the greed which corrupts men’s hearts, enslaves the poor, and robs future generations of the resources they need to create a more equitable and just society, a society truly and authentically African in its genius and values,” he said.
Before delivering his traditional Sunday noon blessing to the crowd, he called Africa “this great continent so filled with hope, yet so thirsty for justice, for peace …”
He made a specific appeal for peace in neighbouring Congo.
“The pope spoke the truth about violence and corruption in Africa,” said a man who gave his first name as Aristotles. “But even with this strong message to our leaders it will be very hard to change things.”
The need to end corruption in Africa as a means to just development has been a recurring theme in the pope’s trip, which started last Tuesday in Cameroon.
Many African countries have huge mineral and hydrocarbon deposits whose value is, in theory, enough to finance infrastructure projects, create jobs and raise living standards.
But critics say senior officials use these resources to enrich themselves, depriving treasuries of much-needed cash.
Angola, for example, ranks 158 out of 180 countries on corruption watchdog Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index.