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Pope Says Mass in Luanda


Pope Benedict is in Angola where he held an open-air Mass for more than one-million people. The pontiff expressed his "deep sorrow" at the deaths of two people killed in a stampede at the entrance of a stadium where he spoke late Saturday.

The two young women died in hospital from injuries suffered when they got caught up in the crush of people trying to enter a stadium hours before the pope held a youth rally. As many as 40 others were inured in Saturday's stampede in central Luanda.

Pope Benedict prayed for the inured and the two young women who died, telling Sunday's huge open-air Mass that he trusts "Jesus will embrace them in his kingdom." He said he was deeply pained by the loss because the women died coming to see him.

The Mass was the largest event of this week-long trip to Africa. Many women wore brightly-colored cloth decorated with pictures of the pope. The pontiff wiped sweat from his brow with a handkerchief on a day when health workers treated several hundred of those in attendance for heat stroke.

Pope Benedict denounced what he called "the clouds of evil" over Africa that have brought war and ethnic rivalry, reducing the poor to slavery and depriving "future generations of the resources needed to create a more solid and just society."

He spoke of Angola's own long civil war that ended just six years ago, saying the destructive power of civil strife and the descent into a storm of hatred and revenge squanders the efforts of generations of good people.

The pope said Angolans have received power from the Holy Spirit to be the builders of a better tomorrow for their country and said he came to Africa to preach "this message of forgiveness, hope and new life in Christ."

During this trip, which began in Cameroon, the pope has spoken of the need to fight corruption and injustice. He denounced the belief in traditional witchcraft, saying those who live in fear of spirits and threatening powers are disoriented and bewildered and end up condemning street children and the elderly as sorcerers.

The pontiff urged Catholics to help convert those confused by witchcraft, criticizing suggestions that such evangelism insults other faiths. He said Catholics do no injustice to anyone by presenting Christ as an opportunity of finding what he called "their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life."

Last week as he began his trip to Africa, Pope Benedict angered many AIDS activists when he rejected the use of condoms to fight the disease, saying condoms aggravate the problem.

The United Nations estimates that 22 million Africans have the virus that leads to AIDS. Three-quarters of the world's AIDS deaths in 2007 were in sub-Saharan Africa where most health official recommend condoms as a way to prevent its spread.

The International AIDS Society condemned the pope's remarks as outrageous and insulting, warning they could lead to greater infection. A Vatican spokesman said developing an ideology of confidence in condoms fails to focus on personal responsibility.

Pope Benedict returns to Rome on Monday.

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