Pope John Paul II arrived in this central African nation Thursday to begin a weeklong tour of the continent.
"My thoughts go to all the peoples of Africa," the pope said on arrival. "I can assure them that the Catholic Church respects them in the diversity of their cultural and religious traditions."
Today the pontiff will unveil a blueprint for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa in the 21st century.
Church officials expect the "Apostolic Exhortation," the pope's thoughts on the work of an special African synod at the Vatican last year, to be tough on social injustice and defense of human rights.
The officials say the pope will concentrate on the issue of making the church more responsive to the specific needs of African Catholics, moving away from the Eurocentric approach of the early missionary years.
Returning to a continent scarred by ethnic massacres and civil war in Rwanda and elsewhere since his last visit, John Paul said: "I cannot forget the sorrows and conflicts which are wounding many countries. I fervently hope that all Africans will find peace and know how to practice reconciliation, that human rights for all will be guaranteed with justice and respect for each individual."
The 75-year-old pontiff will also visit South Africa and Kenya.
The Catholic Church counts nearly 100-million of Africa's 700-million people among its ranks, but other religions _ Islamic, Protestant denominations and a host of Christian-inspired groups _ are also flourishing.