Pope Greeted With Cheers, Parties in Africa

It is the third day of his visit to Cameroon and Pope Benedict XVI continues to get the warmest and most spontaneous welcome he's ever received on any of the 11 foreign trips he's made since becoming pope in 2005.

It is an even warmer reception than he received when he visited his German homeland, but that's not surprising because this is Africa, where welcomes are traditionally friendly and noisy.

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The people here seem to be especially proud to greet Benedict on his first visit to the African continent as pope. He has only visited Africa once before, in 1987, when as cardinal he traveled to Kinshasa for a theological conference.

Pope's Visit Causes Traffic Jam

An amazing traffic jam was created again this morning as people converged enthusiastically on the soccer stadium in Yaounde, where the pope is saying Mass to a capacity crowd of 40,000 people.

African music and singing filled the air as people jostled for places and this turned into waves of cheering as the Popemobile arrived and did a lap around the stadium. Singing, clapping and traditional African songs drowned out the official choir. The presidential motorcade of Cameroon President Paul Biya was also met with a cheer, but it made no laps around the stadium though his motorcade was the bigger of the two.

Every day of this trip has been filled with enthusiasm from the people of Cameroon. On all the pope's routes through the capital of Cameroon Wednesday people lined the streets cheering, beating drums, waving flags and rattles, dancing and singing.

Some came prepared for the long wait in the sticky heat with food and drink while others bought from the street hawkers who peddled snacks, papal pamphlets and papal visit T-shirts to the crowds.

As is the tradition in African countries for visits from international dignitaries, there's been a rush on the colorful, patterned cotton fabric made specifically for the occasion to mark the historic visit.

The same fabric is used to make a variety of styles of shirts and long dresses and the carefully tailored outfits are being worn with flair to papal ceremonies but are also sported in the streets these days by men, women and children.

The printed fabric has a repeat pattern of beige and brown crosses with blotchy framed portrait photos of the pope and Biya, the papal coat of arms, angels, peace doves and the words "Visit of Pope Benedict XVI March 2009 Cameroon 2009" and "Justice, Reconciliation and Peace."

Church Ceremony Erupts in Singing

During a prayer ceremony in the Basilica Marie Reine des Apotres Wednesday afternoon, the packed church of about 3,500 nuns, priests and Cameroonian Catholics quietly listened to prayers sung mostly in Latin, the president and his wife seated in thrones across from the pontiff.

This was followed by a speech which the pope read partly in French and partly English, which was difficult to understand because of a poor sound system and the pope's accent.

The atmosphere inside the church was subdued, but occasionally the sound of the large crowd left waiting outside in the rain filtered into the church as they happily shrieked and sang through the downpour.

The excitement had been hard to contain apparently because as soon as the final papal blessing had been imparted the whole congregation erupted into applause and cheers as it burst out loudly into a traditional song.

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