Pope urges Angola to build peace, do more for poor

Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:21am EDT
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By Henrique Almeida and Philip Pullella

LUANDA (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, making his first visit to Africa, Friday urged Angolans, still recovering from nearly three decades of civil war in their oil-rich country, to build peace and understanding between peoples.

The Pope, on the second and last stop of his tour, spoke shortly after landing at Luanda airport, where he was greeted by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, his government and members of the Catholic Church.

Millions more are expected to turn out over the next three days in the overwhelmingly Catholic capital Luanda.

"Dear Angolans, your land is abundant and your nation is mighty. Make use of these advantages to build peace and understanding between peoples," the Pope said.

"To this end, I ask you: do not yield to the law of the strongest! God has enabled human beings to fly, over and above their natural tendencies, on the wings of reason and faith."

While flying over the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, the Pope also sent a message of reconciliation to that country and its leader, President Joseph Kabila.

His predecessor, John Paul II, visited Angola in 1992 during a lull in fighting between the ruling MPLA and UNITA rebels. The fighting resumed after UNITA rejected the results of an election.

The war, which claimed over half a million lives and displaced millions, ended in 2002. Since then the former Portuguese colony's economy has been growing rapidly on the back of record oil and diamond exports.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI gestures from the doorway of his plane as he prepares to leave the airport in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, March 20, 2009. The pope left Cameroon on Friday en route for Angola. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>