Pope John Paul II ended his third trip through Africa today with a plea for Moslems and Christians to put aside their differences and to work together to create a better, and more just, world.
Speaking in a sports stadium filled with tens of thousands of Moslem youths in Casablanca, Morocco, the pope stressed the need for young people, no matter what their religion, to direct their energies toward creating a world of peace and freedom, according to news agency reports.
Ending his 12-day tour of seven African nations -- his 27th international trip since assuming the papacy seven years ago -- the pope sought to emphasize similarities rather than differences between the Moslem and Christian religions.
It was a counterpoint to a trip that began in Togo, south of the Sahara, with the pope admonishing his priests to be more active in countering advances of a resurgent Islamic religious revolution in the northern half of their country.
Although the pope repeatedly has offered the hand of friendship and understanding to those of other religions in the countries he visited, he made it plain to his own church officials that he hopes for a renewed evangelical effort on their part in the African continent. The Roman Catholic Church has made its largest world gains in Africa in recent times.
Like all his previous trips, however, the pope's self-defined mission remained multidimensional and varied. As he has everywhere he has traveled since becoming pope in 1978, he used his visits to inspire believers to greater faith, to give greater direction to his priests and bishops, to show the cross across the land personally, to counsel and lecture the world on the need for peace, justice and socioeconomic welfare and, as his aides openly admit, to strengthen his papal authority over a far-flung, often disparate, church.
Exhorting his priests and bishops to begin a second evangelization in Africa, he also preached against birth control, polygamy, corruption and violations of such basic human rights as political freedom and social justice.
Traveling on the African continent as white-ruled South Africa erupted in violent protests, the pope also pointedly condemned "every kind of discrimination," saying "racial separation is inadmissible."
His criticism of the "unjust situation" in South Africa, however, did not prevent him from implied criticism of unnamed black African governments that do not adhere to "strict rectitude in the exercise of public administration" or distribute their nations' resources fairly.
As he has before, the pope also blamed many of the world's ills -- and the ever-present threat to peace -- on competition in the world by major powers.
In stops in Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Zaire, Kenya and finally Morocco, the most widely traveled pope in history repeatedly alternated his message between these broader international concerns and the emphasis on the theological purity he seeks to reinstill among the Roman Catholic faithful.
Although obviously tired as he made his final brief stop in Morocco this afternoon before returning to Rome late tonight, the pope made it clear that he has little intention of slackening the pace of his travels. Vatican officials said he is planning a visit to tiny Liechtenstein next month and trips to India, South America and Australia next year.
Meanwhile, the military government of Burundi in east central Africa has arrested the country's senior Roman Catholic bishop for defying restrictions on daylight worship services, U.S. and Burundian diplomats said.
David Lambert, information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna of Gitega and other priests in his diocese were arrested during the past few weeks after defying a ban on holding religious services between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
[Lambert also said the government is forcing foreign missionaries, including Americans, Belgians and Spaniards, to leave Burundi in an effort to reduce western influence on the church.]