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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Africans hail conservative Pope
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI is not likely to change church policy
African church leaders have welcomed the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop John Onayekon of Nigeria told the BBC that African Catholics supported his conservative views on social and sexual issues.

However, South Africa's Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he was sad that the new pope was unlikely to end the church's opposition to condoms.

He said this was more important than the fact that the Pope was not African.

"We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/Aids," Archbishop Tutu said.

Not downcast

Critics say the Catholic church's stance is costing lives in African countries ravaged by Aids and campaigners had hoped that a new Pope would adopt a different position.

We in Africa see him as a potential ally of insight and strength in renewed warfare to create a new, safer and fairer world
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki

Although Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze had been thought of as a possible successor to the late Pope John Paul II, the BBC's Anna Borzello in Lagos says few seemed to expect he would become the next Pope.

She says officials at the Catholic secretariat refused to sound downcast, and nor was the traditional ruler in Cardinal Arinze's home village of Eziowelle.

"If our local son had got it, we would have been happy, but we will give our new pope our total support," said Mike Okonkwo-Etusi.

"I don't think European and Americans are prepared to see an African Pope," Father Dominic Wamugunda, a Catholic priest and lecturer in the department of sociology at the University of Nairobi, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

'Racist evil'

As a boy, Pope Benedict XVI was a member of the Hitler Youth in Germany but South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki says this experience will help him fight racism in Africa.

"The new Pope, Benedict XVI, endured being forced into the Nazi army as a teenager in the 1940s. This gave him firsthand knowledge of racist evil, a scourge that is by no means defeated in the world of 2005," he said.

In the 1980s, Cardinal Ratzinger cracked down on Bishops in Latin America who backed liberation theology, which argued the church had a duty to liberate the poor from oppression.

Nevertheless, Mr Mbeki sees "him as a potential ally of insight and strength in renewed warfare to create a new, safer and fairer world."

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has the largest Catholic population in Africa, the National Conference of Bishops welcomed Pope Benedict XVI as "a great sign of continuity in the actions of his predecessor, whose right-hand man he was."


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