Pope Greeted With Cheers, Parties in Africa

According to the U.S. State Department, Cameroon's corruption level is among the highest in the world, and in his arrival speech at the Yaounde airport Tuesday the pope said that "in face of suffering or violence, poverty or hunger, corruption or abuse of power, a Christian can never remain silent."

Some saw this as directed at the president but the pope has made no further reference to the problem so far.

On the other hand, Cardinal Christian Tumi, Cameroon's only cardinal, in a front-page article in the daily newspaper Le Jour asked Biya not to run in the next elections.

Many Cameroonians have great expectations from the church, which is seen as an important voice demanding greater transparency and democracy in the country.

Biya's opulent life was on show Tuesday when he and his glamorous wife, with her towering hairstyle of long auburn curls, greeted the pope at his presidential palace in grand style.

The large, modern marble-and-metal building is set in luscious gated grounds on top of a hill overlooking the city.

About 100 water jets shot up from the large pool in front of the palace's main steps to form a large triumphant fountain display. More than 30 flags of Cameroon and the Vatican were flying from tall flagpoles positioned around the pool.

The presidential band and choir seated to the side of the entrance performed Italian opera arias, an "Ave Maria" and even an instrumental version of "O'Sole Mio" while waiting for the pope's arrival.

Presidential guards stood to attention in the sun along the red carpet dressed in their white, green and gold braided uniforms, wearing leather boots and ceremonial swords.

There was a lot of commotion when the pope's motorcade arrived, with security guards running to and fro as the president and his wife accompanied the pope inside to one elevator and the papal and presidential entourage waited patiently in a large huddle in the hall for their turn to get into the other elevator.

Two African cardinals, one from Cameroon and one from neighboring Nigeria, are accompanying the pope on this trip and both have abandoned the classic black and red cassocks in favor of heat-reflecting white. Everyone is in white on this trip; the bishops, too. This is a custom in hot countries.

The pope leaves Cameroon Friday to travel to Angola, the second and last stop of his African trip, where another warm welcome and more street parties are expected to greet him.

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