Pope leaves his new pet turtle in Angola

It’s been a rough trip to Africa — at least in the headlines — for Pope Benedict XVI, but hey, he got some great souvenirs!  Pygmies from the Baka ethnic group in Cameroon gave Pope Benedict XVI a turtle last week during the Pontiff’s visit. As one blogger muses: No stranger to unusual gifts, Pope ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
587510_090324_pygmypope2.jpg
587510_090324_pygmypope2.jpg
Pope Benedict XVI (centre R) chats with members of a pygmy community in Yaounde, Cameroon, on the third day of his six day visit to Africa on March 20, 2009 before heading to Angola. The Pope urged Angola's oil-rich government to do more to fight poverty as he arrived today on the last stop of an African tour overshadowed by his rejection of condoms in AIDS prevention. "Armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest," the pope said in a nationally televised speech. AFP PHOTO / POOL / OBSEVATORE ROMANO (Photo credit should read obsevatore romano/AFP/Getty Images)

It's been a rough trip to Africa -- at least in the headlines -- for Pope Benedict XVI, but hey, he got some great souvenirs! 

Pygmies from the Baka ethnic group in Cameroon gave Pope Benedict XVI a turtle last week during the Pontiff's visit. As one blogger muses:

No stranger to unusual gifts, Pope Benedict was presented with a tortoise in a basket by a group of Baka Pygmies who gave him an unscheduled send-off from Cameroon last week. I’m not sure whether one can read deep messages into the gift of a tortoise (“It’s a metaphor for Pope Benedict’s approach to the Church, a slow dogged move forward with a heavy protective shell.” “It’s a symbol for…” etc etc etc ad nauseam). At any rate appears that tortoises are quite important to Baka Pygmy culture as a symbol of wisdom—they even have a special dance called the tortoise dance.

It’s been a rough trip to Africa — at least in the headlines — for Pope Benedict XVI, but hey, he got some great souvenirs! 

Pygmies from the Baka ethnic group in Cameroon gave Pope Benedict XVI a turtle last week during the Pontiff’s visit. As one blogger muses:

No stranger to unusual gifts, Pope Benedict was presented with a tortoise in a basket by a group of Baka Pygmies who gave him an unscheduled send-off from Cameroon last week. I’m not sure whether one can read deep messages into the gift of a tortoise (“It’s a metaphor for Pope Benedict’s approach to the Church, a slow dogged move forward with a heavy protective shell.” “It’s a symbol for…” etc etc etc ad nauseam). At any rate appears that tortoises are quite important to Baka Pygmy culture as a symbol of wisdom—they even have a special dance called the tortoise dance.

Vatican officials at first suggested it might find a nice home in the Vatican gardens. But something must have gone wrong with the turtle that was supposed to bring wisdom. After tagging on to the flight from Cameroon to Angola, the turtle (but let’s hope not the wisdom!) was left behind in Luanda.

Father Lombardi told reporters the turtle was “in good hands” with the staff of the nunciature in Angola because it was decided the African turtle should live in an African habitat.

romano/AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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