Pope's Next Stop In Africa Tour: Angola

Pope Benedict visits Angola on Friday. There are an estimated 10 million Catholics in the southern African country. Earlier this week when the pope arrived in Cameroon, he sparked some controversy when he spoke out against the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. The African continent has the world's fastest-growing Catholic population.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Another place where war and tragedy never seem to end is Africa. Pope Benedict is in Africa this week and today in Angola. The African continent has the world's fastest growing Catholic population and it's crucial to the continued growth of the church. Though the Pope managed to spark something of a controversy when he arrived and immediately spoke out at against the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in Angola's capital of Luanda, where, as you can hear, people are pretty excited. Good morning.

(Soundbite of women singing)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Hello, hello. I don't know whether you can hear the women singing, women with the (unintelligible) wrapped around their waists and bottoms if I may say so.

MONTAGNE: So they're wearing cloths with the pope in it.

(Soundbite of women singing)

QUIST-ARCTON: I can't hear you, Renee. It is them most beautiful bright yellow cloth with a print around, making the border and the pope smiling down on the people of Luanda, on the people of Angola, on the waist of the Catholic women and on the bottoms of the Catholic women. They're singing and dancing and obviously they here to give him a huge welcome.

(Soundbite of women singing)

MONTAGNE: They're pretty well there in Luanda today as the pope approaches the crowds. What's been the reaction generally in Africa to some of the more controversial issues that have come up on this trip?

QUIST-ARCTON: I think apart from welcoming the pope, and this is his first trip to the continent as pontiff. Ordinary Africans are saying, but why has the pope chosen Cameroon and Angola. These are two countries where many people feel that the riches haven't trickled down to the people. And a lot of people are saying also HIV/AIDS, which is ravaging the continent, but the pope right at the start of his visit here said that condoms are not the answer.

MONTAGNE: Is the Pope out here with all this excitement to be in touch with the needs of his African flock?

QUIST-ARCTON: I think you have those who say yes and those who say no. Now his message is especially to the youth. But when you have issues, like the issue of condoms here in Africa - the continent with the fastest growing HIV/AIDS population in the world. I think a lot of youth feel the Pope says don't use condoms. But they feel, hang on, condoms mean safer sex and we will live longer, so you have those sort of controversies that Catholics in Africa are trying to grapple with.

MONTAGNE: What would you say is his, the things that he is trying to emphasize on this trip?

QUIST-ARCTON: He has talked mainly about peace, reconciliation. The fact that Africa is a continent that is still in conflict in some parts. The fact that rebels, militias, and even some conventional armies recruit children to fight their battles. He said no, this must stop. Now that is a message that goes down well here. In Angola, which is a country that not so long ago was in civil war, and around the continent. The fact that the pope is fighting for the youth of the continent, to be able to push forward.

MONTAGNE: Ofeibea, thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reporting from Luanda, Angola, where Pope Benedict spoke earlier today.

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