Pope Benedict Celebrates Mass Before Thousands on Final Day in Benin

Posted November 20th, 2011 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Pope Benedict celebrated mass before tens of thousands of jubilant Roman Catholics in Benin Sunday.

A crowd of more than 30,000 faithful, many dressed in colorful robes and dresses danced in praise at a stadium in Benin's largest city, Cotonou.

The mass capped his three day visit to the small West African country.

On Saturday, the pontiff signed a document reflecting recommendations to African church leaders who in 2009 studied the continent's challenges — including conflict, poverty and corruption.

On his first trip to Africa in 2009, the pope stirred controversy when he suggested to reporters on his plane that condoms aggravate the AIDS problem. He has since seemed to back off from that position, and has not even mentioned condoms during this visit.

The pope also had a message of compassion for African leaders. Earlier Saturday, he urged them not to rob their people of hope.

In a reference to corruption and good governance, Pope 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.”

Despite Benin's strong voodoo tradition, the Catholic population in the small West African country has surged to 30 percent in recent years.

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