Pope Benedict says Africa is the world's spiritual center but is threatened by materialism and religious fundamentalism.

Benedict today opened a special meeting of bishops on Africa as a Congolese choir — with bongo drums, electric guitars and swaying singers — filled St. Peter's Basilica with African hymns.

The three-week synod will discuss the church's problems in Africa.

Benedict says Africa has been afflicted by the "toxic spiritual garbage" exported by developed countries. He says "colonialism — while finished in the political sphere — hasn't really ended," putting Africa at risk for increasing religious fundamentalism.

The pope says groups claiming to be from religious backgrounds are "teaching and working not with love and respect for freedom, but with intolerance and violence."

He urged the Catholic Church in Africa to be a voice of reconciliation, justice and peace.