Pope Urges Benin Leaders to Respect the Hopes of the People

Posted November 19th, 2011 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
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Pope Benedict XVI appealed to African leaders on Saturday, his second day in Benin, to stop robbing their people of hope.

Benedict told political and religious leaders at the presidential palace in Benin's commercial capital of Cotonou not to cut off the people “from their future by mutilating their present.”

The highlight of the pontiff's three-day trip will come later Saturday, when he presents the Catholic Church's plans for Africa, home to the world's fastest-growing Roman Catholic population.

The pope will also formally sign 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.

Pope Benedict was warmly greeted by thousands of people on his arrival in Cotonou on Friday. Many women wore dresses with the image of the 84-year-old pontiff's face printed on them.

This is the pope's second trip to Africa. In 2009, he traveled to Cameroon and Angola.