Pope Benedict Departs for African Visit

Posted November 18th, 2011 at 8:00 am (UTC-5)
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Pope Benedict has departed Rome for a three-day visit to the West African nation of Benin, where he is expected to urge African nations to work towards peace, justice and reconciliation.

The 84-year-old pontiff is scheduled to arrive Friday in the economic capital of Cotonou, where he will meet with cathedral officials before greeting citizens throughout the city in his “pope-mobile.”

At least 30 percent of Benin's population is Catholic, and the continent has the fastest-growing Catholic population in the world.

During the trip, Pope Benedict is expected to sign a proclamation of the church's plans for Africa. The document is based on conclusions reached by a group of African bishops who met in 2009 to discuss challenges in Africa including conflict, corruption and poverty.

Benedict will also meet with traditional religious leaders, including practitioners of voodoo.

This will be the second time the pontiff has traveled to Africa. During a 2009 trip to Cameroon and Angola, the pontiff said he was opposed to the use of condoms as a way of preventing AIDS, sparking a firestorm of criticism.

Benedict said distributing condoms only increased the AIDS problem, and he said teaching abstinence and fidelity is the only way to combat the disease.

Health officials and activists said the pope's remarks were unrealistic and unscientific.

Separately, the Vatican announced Thursday it was taking legal action against Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton, who released an advertisement showing Pope Benedict kissing a notable Egyptian Islamic leader.

The Vatican called the picture of the pope kissing Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb a “totally unacceptable” show of “grave disrespect.”

The photo was one of a series of artificially created pictures in a campaign named “Unhate.”

Benetton said the campaign was meant “solely to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms.”