Photos: Papal visit to Africa

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  1. Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass in Luanda, Angola, on Sunday, March 22. (Ciro Fusco / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A girl who fainted is carried through the crowd at a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday in Luanda, Angola. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A Angolan soldier on horseback helps control the crowd after Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on Sunday in Angola. (Schalk Van Zuydam / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Onlookers scale a small hill to try to catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday in Angola. The pontiff is on a six-day visit to Africa. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pope Benedict XVI arrives in a procession for Mass at the Cimangola open ground on the outskirts of Luanda, Angola, on Sunday. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A girl reacts as Pope Benedict XVI arrives at a gathering for young people in the city of Luanda, Angola, on Saturday, March 21. (Schalk Van Zuydam / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pope Benedict XVI meets with the faithful during his visit in Luanda, Angola, on Saturday. (L' Osservatore Romano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Thousands gather in Luanda, Angola, Saturday, awaiting an appearance by Pope Benedict XVI. (Ciro Fusco / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pope Benedict XVI watches Angolan dancers performing on the podium of Coqueiros stadium in Luanada on Saturday. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Pope Benedict XVI (in background) looks on as some twenty people representing three generations of the pygmies people present a dance for him, before he leaves the nunciature for Angola. (Osservatore Romano / pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Religious dignitaries wait for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at the airport in Yaounde where flew to Angola for the next stage of his African tour on March 20. (Issouf Sanogo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Nuns from the St. John Community in Cameroon react as the plane carrying Pope Benedict XVI takes off, at the airport in Yaounde, Cameroonon on March 20. Pope Benedict XVI departed for Angola on the second leg of his first papal visit to Africa. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A woman carrying bread rolls on her head walks past a poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Luanda, Angola on March 20. (Themba Hadebe / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pope Benedict XVI is welcomed by Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos as he arrives at Luanda International airport March 20. (Joao Relvas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Priests traditionally dressed attend a mass given by Pope Benedict XVI at the Amadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde on March 19. Pope Benedict XVI held the first giant mass of his Africa tour. (Issouf Sanogo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful as he celebrates a Mass in the Amadou Ahidjo stadium, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Thursday, March 19. (Andrew Medichini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. An African woman wears a cross outside of the Amadou Ahidjo stadium, where Pope Benedict XVI gave mass, in Yaounde on March 19. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A nun waits on the stands of the Amadou Ahidjo stadium for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to celebrates a mass, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Thursday, March 19. (Andrew Medichini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Faithful rejoice as the sun bursts through dark thunder clouds during a heavy rain storm moments after Pope Benedict XVI arrived at the basilica to celebrate Vespers in Cameroon's capital Yaounde on March 18. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Vespers at the Mary Queen of Apostles Basilica in Yaounde, Cameroon on March 18. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Pope Benedict XVI leaves on his popemobile after he celebrated a Vesper ceremony in the "Marie Reigne des Apotres", basilica, in Yaounde , Cameroon on March 18. (Andrew Medichini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Crowds cheer and wave to Pope Benedict XVI as he leaves the airport in Yaounde, Cameroon Tuesday, March 17. The pope arrived to begin his first trip to Africa, the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic church. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. An African clergyman kisses Pope Benedict XVI's ring at the airport in Yaounde, Cameroon Tuesday, March 17. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A Cameroonian woman holds up a cloth patterned with portraits of Pope Benedict XVI and Cameroonian President Paul Biya at the airport in Yaounde on Tuesday, March 17. (Issouf Sanogo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd upon his arrival at Younde airport on March 17, 2009, on the first day of a six-day visit in Africa. Pope Benedict XVI brought the "Christian message of hope" to Africa as he arrived in Cameroon today at the start of his first visit to the world's poorest continent as pontiff. AFP PHOTO/ CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images) (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Sister Virginia Amena grins moments after Pope Benedict XVI shook her hand and gave her his blessing upon his arrival in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, Tuesday, March 17. The pope is seeking support for Africa during the world economic crisis, hoping to encourage peace and help tackle corruption. • Full story: NBC's George Lewis profiles Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., one of the missing soldiers who was killed by insurgents in Iraq. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 3/22/2009 12:43:14 PM ET 2009-03-22T16:43:14

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass 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 Angola's seaside capital, Luanda. It was the last major event of his seven-day trip, which ends Monday.

"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 under a pink altar in a tent on a huge vacant lot near a cement factory.

Church was an ally of the colonizers
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, for example, came from Angola.

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

Some 15,000 died, including missionaries, before the war ended in 2002 but its scars still are evident among the many people who lost limbs in one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

A Marxist revolution also has left scars, though the country's president for 30 years, Eduardo dos Santos, abandoned communism and improved relations with the church from the late 1980s.

Critics say last year's massive election victory was marred by fraud and corruption and that the pope had to be wary of allowing his visit, sponsored by the state, to be seen as legitimizing an authoritarian regime. The bishops in Angola twice have denounced the government for leaving its people mired in poverty while leaders enrich themselves off oil and diamonds.

Since he arrived on Friday from Cameroon, the pope has met with dos Santos and spoken out against corruption in Africa, the continent with the fastest-growing Catholic population in the world.

Women trampled to death
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 on Saturday.

He also wished a speedy recovery to some 40 people injured in the crush. Dozens of others collapsed and were treated at the site for heat exhaustion. The Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will visit the injured in hospital, said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

People carried parasols and stools amid the hooting cars and motorbikes making their way to see the pope. Some men hoisted children onto their shoulders and mothers strapped babies to their backs.

Even before he landed in Africa, the pope provoked protests by telling reporters on his chartered Alitalia jet that condoms were not the answer to Africa's severe AIDS epidemic, suggesting that sexual behavior was the issue.

He condemned sexual violence against women, but also chided the 45 African countries including Angola that have approved abortion in cases of rape or incest or when a mother's life is in danger.

Lombardi quoted local officials saying there were a million people at the Mass. The number could not be independently confirmed.

More on: Pope Benedict   | Angola

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