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Pope ends Africa trip with giant mass in voodoo heartland

Thomas Morfin Yahoo! News 11/22/2011 02:31
Pope ends Africa trip with giant mass in voodoo heartland - Benedict XVI - Africa - religion - Pope

Pope Benedict XVI ended his second trip to Africa on Sunday with a mass for tens of thousands in the voodoo heartland of Benin and by issuing a grand vision for his Church's future on the continent.

Benedict left the West African nation following a three-day visit that saw him denounce corruption, label AIDS a mainly ethical problem and encourage Africans to seek reconciliation in the face of conflicts.

For Sunday's mass celebrated by Benedict, some 50,000 people filled a stadium in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, a country considered both a heartland of voodoo and a bastion of Catholicism -- and where the two religions often mix.

Officials estimated another 30,000 people watched from outside the stadium, with the pope's mass projected on to giant screens.

Benedict arrived in his popemobile to a joyous welcome from the faithful, many wearing skirts or wraps with his picture. The 84-year-old pope received warm cheers when he took a baby in his arms.

Ahead of his arrival, the crowd applauded each time the sun appeared from behind the clouds, some crying out, "Jesus!"

Benedict told the crowd that they should work toward reconciliation in the face of conflict.

"Dear brothers and sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the holy family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values," he said.

"At a time when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope."

On Saturday, Benedict had signed off on a roadmap for the Roman Catholic Church in Africa at a basilica in the city of Ouidah, a centre of voodoo, with the Temple of Pythons and its 30-odd snakes just across the street.

The document -- an apostolic exhortation called "The Pledge for Africa" containing conclusions from a 2009 synod of African bishops -- includes peace, reconciliation and justice as its main message.

He handed the roadmap over to bishops from throughout the continent on Sunday.