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Pope celebrates Mass in Angola, preaches reconciliation

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  • NEW: Pope expresses "deep sorrow" at deaths in stampede at his Saturday event
  • About 1 million gather in civil war-torn Angola to hear Pope Benedict XVI
  • Mass was in English and Portuguese, the language of former colonial rulers
  • Benedict, who has been in Africa since Tuesday, returns to Rome on Monday
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(CNN) -- An estimated 1 million people turned out to hear Pope Benedict XVI preach a Mass in Angola on Sunday, the last major event of his first trip to Africa.

Girls wait to see the pope at an outdoor service, the pontiff's last major event of his first trip to Africa.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass in Angola, where he told Angolans on Sunday to "trust in God's promises."

He spoke of the need for reconciliation in a country that endured a brutal civil war lasting nearly three decades.

"Look to the future with hope, trust in God's promises and live in his truth. In this way you will build something that will stand and endure ... a lasting heritage of reconciliation, justice and peace," Benedict said in English to polite applause.

The service's Bible reading's "vivid description of the destruction wrought by war echoes the personal experiences of so many people in this country amid the terrible ravages of the civil war," Benedict said in the Mass, which was broadcast by TPA, a CNN affiliate in Angola.

"How true it is that war can destroy everything of value: families, whole communities, the fruit of men's labor."

Benedict also expressed "deep sorrow" at the death of two women killed in a stampede at one of his events in Angola on Saturday, papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, earlier led a Vatican delegation to the hospitals where the bodies of two dead women are being kept, Lombardi said. They prayed over the dead bodies and met with the family of the one victim who has been identified, a catechism teacher in a parish in Luanda whose last class was Saturday morning.

Midway through the Mass, a long line of worshippers brought offerings to the pontiff, as an electric organ and guitar played a joyous tune over the sound of percussion instruments and a choir, members of which were wearing matching white baseball caps. Women carried local produce on their heads in wide baskets or tall jugs, many dancing to the music as they waited to meet the pope.

The 81-year-old pontiff mopped his face with a white handkerchief several times during the outdoor service, while many worshippers sought shelter from the sun under umbrellas.

The pope spoke in English and Portuguese, the language of Angola's former colonial rulers, during the hour-long service, while local clergy read short passages in tribal languages.

Benedict has been in Africa since Tuesday. He returns to Rome on Monday.

Africa is the last continent that Benedict had left to visit, and one he could not avoid, said David Gibson, a biographer of the pope.

"He knows he has to do this. He knows Africa is the future of the [Roman Catholic] Church, as it is for all of Christianity," said Gibson. Christianity, like Islam, is on the rise in Africa and Latin America, even as the northern hemisphere tends to become more secular.

One in five of the world's Christians lives in Africa -- up from fewer than one in 50 in 1900, said Brian Grim, an editor of the World Religion Database.

So Benedict is making the visit, although travel "is not his cup of tea," Gibson said, in contrast to his predecessor. "John Paul II loved the travel and loved the different cultures. Benedict is a European through and through."

But Benedict understands that travel has become an essential part of a pope's duties, said Gibson, the author of "The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World."

The trip opened with controversy, with the pope reiterating the Vatican's opposition to artificial birth control Tuesday while flying to Cameroon, the first stop on his journey.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit harder by AIDS and HIV than any other region of the world, according to the United Nations and World Health Organization. There has been fierce debate between those who advocate the use of condoms to help stop the spread of the epidemic and those who oppose it.

Gibson said this week's visit may be Benedict's only trip to Africa.

"Knowing that the pope is older, he cannot travel as much -- he does not like to travel -- makes these trips more poignant. He may never come back to Africa again."

CNN's Hada Messia in Rome contributed to this report.

All About Pope Benedict XVIAngolaWorld Health OrganizationPope John Paul II

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