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 CNS Story:

POPE-AFRICA Oct-27-2008 (320 words) xxxi

Pope to visit Africa in March to help prepare for October synod

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI announced that he plans to make his first trip to Africa next March, visiting Cameroon and Angola.

The pope will make the trip to help prepare for the Synod of Bishops on Africa, scheduled for October 2009, and to mark the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of Angola.

He announced the trip Oct. 26 at a closing Mass for the Synod of Bishops on the Bible. When he repeated the announcement shortly afterward to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, a wave of applause swept through the crowd.

Sub-Saharan Africa has not hosted a pope since 1998, when Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria.

Pope Benedict said his intention was to meet with representatives from African bishops' conferences in Cameroon and hand-deliver the African synod's "instrumentum laboris," or working document.

The Synod of Bishops will be the second for Africa and is scheduled to take place in Rome. The theme is "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

The first African synod took place at the Vatican in 1994. Ten years later, Pope John Paul said another synod would be held to allow church leaders to address the continent's changing religious, demographic, social and political scenes.

Pope Benedict said he would go from Cameroon to Angola, where he will celebrate the 500th anniversary of that country's evangelization. The Angolan church has been marking different stages of the 500th anniversary for many years, beginning with Pope John Paul's visit there in 1992.

Exact dates for Pope Benedict's trip have not been released. The Vatican's advance team was in Africa in mid-October to firm up preparations.

Pope Benedict has made 10 foreign trips since his election in 2005. So far, the African trip is the only one on his calendar for 2009.


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