Pope Benedict to Africans: Shun Destructive Market Forces

Posted November 18th, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Pope Benedict has urged Africans to shun what he called destructive market forces as the continent races toward modernization.

The pontiff arrived in Benin's commercial capital of Cotonou on Friday, where he was warmly greeted by thousands of people. Many women wore dresses with the image of the pope's face printed on them. Some people wept as the 84-year-old Roman-Catholic Church leader drove past in his “pope-mobile” on the way to the city's cathedral.

On arrival, the pope spoke of the need for African countries to modernize, but warned of the possible pitfalls of modernization. He urged Africans to avoid what he called an “unconditional surrender” to laws governing markets and finance.

He also warned that tribalism, nationalism and religious tensions can be deadly, and urged Africans to value the dignity of every person, family and life.

The highlight of the three-day trip will be the presentation of the Catholic church's plans for Africa, home to the world's fastest-growing Roman Catholic population.

The pope will formally sign on Saturday an apostolic exhortation — a document calling for peace, justice and reconciliation throughout Africa.

The document is based on recommendations from African church leaders who studied the continent's challenges — including conflict, poverty and corruption. The pope said he chose Benin as the venue to deliver his document because of the country's exemplary peaceful co-existence between Christianity, Islam and traditional religions.

Despite Benin's strong voodoo tradition, the Catholic population in the small West African country has surged to 30 percent in recent years. While in Benin, the pope is also expected to meet with leaders of traditional religions.

This is the pontiff's second trip to Africa. In 2009 he traveled to Cameroon and Angola. That trip was overshadowed by his controversial remarks about condoms. Pope Benedict had said he was opposed to the use of condoms as a way of preventing AIDS, saying it will only make the problem worse. Health officials and activists blasted the remarks as unrealistic and unscientific.