Pope in Angola Warns against Witchcraft

Luanda, Angola - At a private mass in the capital Luanda, Pope Benedict has told members of Angola's clergy that they should work to convert people who believe in traditional witchcraft.

He said 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 pope criticized suggestions that such evangelism insults other faiths, saying 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."

Nearly two-thirds of Angola's 16 million people are Catholic. Portuguese missionaries there converted the first African to the faith more than 500 years ago.

In remarks following talks with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos late Friday, the pope called for greater press freedoms in Africa and asked African leaders to do more to fight poverty and corruption.

Human rights activists say the benefits of Angola's vast oil and diamond wealth are not being distributed equitably. Pope Benedict said Angolans should "meet one another fearlessly, agreeing to share personal resources, both spiritual and material, for the good of all."

The pontiff said, "do not yield to the law of the strongest." He said Africans must show a determination "born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all."

Angola has made considerable economic gains since the end of a long civil war in 2002.

In a message published in local newspapers Saturday, President dos Santos said the signs of reconstruction are visible and the benefits of peace are felt in the lives of each Angolan.

The pope wraps up his week-long Africa trip with an open-air Mass in Luanda Sunday.