Africans must excise corruption, pope says

Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:34pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella and Henrique Almeida

LUANDA (Reuters) - Pope Benedict urged Africans on Friday to rid their countries of the scourges of corruption and violence and support a free media if they wanted to truly transform the continent.

The pope, on the second and last leg of his first African trip, arrived in the Angolan capital to a tumultuous welcome by tens of thousands of people who broke through police cordons to mob his popemobile as it made its way from the airport.

At a meeting with government authorities and diplomats, Benedict pulled no punches as he went straight to the heart of some of Africa's most pressing problems.

"Armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest and leading them along the path marked with the principles indispensable to every modern civic democracy," he told the leaders and diplomats.

He listed these as "respect and promotion of human rights, transparent governance, an independent judiciary, a free press, civic democracy, a properly functioning network of schools and hospitals and -- most pressing -- a determination born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all."

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.


<p>President of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos speaks to Pope Benedict XVI (L) after the pope arrived in Luanda for the second leg of his trip to Africa March 20, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>