LUANDA, Angola — Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the largest gathering of his African pilgrimage Sunday, telling a crowd on the outskirts of this seaside capital that reconciliation on the war-ravaged continent would come only with a "change of heart, a new way of thinking."
The Vatican said as many as 1 million people turned out on the dusty field near a cement factory to hear the pope at the last major event of his seven-day trip, which began Tuesday in Cameroon.
Speaking from a tented pink altar, the pope said evils in Africa had "reduced the poor to slavery and deprived future generations of the resources needed to create a more solid and just society."
"How true it is that war can destroy everything of value," said Benedict, wearing a pink cape and mopping his brow with a white handkerchief kept inside his sleeve.
Before he said Mass, Benedict clasped his hands, as if in prayer, and offered his condolences to the families of two 20-year-old women trampled to death in a stampede at a Luanda stadium before a youth event he addressed on Saturday.
In his final appearance on Sunday's schedule, Benedict made a strong appeal for respect for women's rights in a speech to about 1,000 women in a Luanda church annex.
"It is nearly always the woman who maintains intact human dignity, defends the family and protects cultural and religious values," the pontiff said, lamenting that the importance of family "is not given the consideration it deserves."