Pope Benedict XVI announced he will make his first papal pilgrimage to Africa - a continent where the Catholic Church is growing - with visits next year to Cameroon and Angola.
The 81-year-old Benedict gave the surprise news at the end of his homily in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, during a ceremony closing three weeks of discussions by bishops from around the world about the Bible.
Benedict did not give specific dates for the trip, which traditionally are first announced by local Church officials in the host countries. The Vatican usually gives details of papal pilgrimages closer to departure.
"Next March, I intend to go to Cameroon" as part of preparations for an October 2009 bishops' meeting at the Vatican dealing with Africa, Benedict said at the end of his homily.
"From there, God willing, I will go on to Angola, to celebrate solemnly the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country," Benedict said.
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