Pope calls for stepped-up evangelization of Africa

Pope calls for stepped-up evangelization of AfricaLuanda - Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday called for the further evangelization of the African continent on the second day of his first visit to Angola.

Five hundred years after Catholic missionaries began converting people in present-day Angola to Christianity - the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to be evangelized - many people still lacked direction and feared unholy spirits and powers, he told a mass attended by local bishops and priests in Luanda's Sao Paulo church.

The pope said it was the church's task to give people "every opportunity to achieve eternal life."

Africa is the continent where the Catholic Church is growing fastest, according to Vatican figures.

Around 55 per cent of people in the oil-rich former Portuguese colony of Angola, which emerged from a devastating 27-civil war in 2002, are Catholic.

Angola's is also a very young population, with over half of the population under 18 years. Benedict later met with thousands of young people at an outdoor ceremony in Dos Coquieros sports stadium.

There, he called on them to show "courage and faith in God" as the country recovers from 27 years of civil war, observing as he did so that the "social culture" of the times was not conducive to living according to "the word of God".

Already in Cameroon during the first part of his Africa tour, Benedict had warned of the "tyranny of materialism".

In his stadium address Saturday, Benedict told the assembled youth that "the dynamic force of the future is with you" and that "renewal comes from you."

The festive mood that surrounded Benedict's arrival in Angola the previous day was marred by a later commotion during his courtesy visit with President Eduardo dos Santos.

The foreign media were barred from the meeting. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he would be seeking an explanation from the Angolan ambassador to the Holy See.

Benedict arrived from Cameroon, where the start of his first Africa trip as pontiff was overshadowed by his controversial remarks about the role of condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention.

He said condom use was not the answer to preventing the spread of the pandemic in Africa and could actually aggravate the situation - a position blasted by the health fraternity as damaging to their efforts to contain the spread of infections. (dpa)