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Pope seeks apology for slave trade

A decade after Pope John Paul II's trip to Africa and request for forgiveness for Christians' role in slavery, the Vatican is urging nations that took part in the slave trade to also consider apologising.

The Vatican released a document Wednesday outlining its positions on some of the issues to be discussed this week at a U.N. conference on race, including whether there should be reparations for those whose ancestors were sold or born into slavery.

Vatican delegates will attend the eight-day conference, which starts today in Durban, South Africa.

In taking up the cause, the Vatican joined Senegal, South Africa and others in supporting the search for a way to make amends. A campaign driven by African activists is asking the conference to endorse proposals for an apology and financial compensation from nations that benefited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The United States and former colonial powers of Europe are at odds with African nations and many advocacy groups on the issue, fearing that such an acknowledgment could lead to huge compensation claims.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said he wants an acknowledgment of the slave trade as a crime against humanity.

"In Europe, they were sold as goods, and that's what's important, and that's what should be considered a crime against humanity," Wade said, citing Catholic priests who once decreed Africans have no souls, "so you can sell them like beasts."

UN World Conference Against Racism